The sun is out in London, summer holidays are around the corner and everyone is happy right? Hmmmmmmm… maybe?! Or maybe a little nervous and apprehensive about being beach (or even local pool) ready. Maybe this is a familiar fear – because let’s be honest, stoma or not, many women struggle with self-confidence when it comes to wearing swimwear in public. But you may have felt since having a stoma, and a bag permanently attached to your stomach, that your fears have INTENSIFIED and multiplied.

Although I’m from the UK, when I first had stoma surgery I was living in Bangkok. Our apartment block had a swimming pool which was a hub of activity for all the young families. Not only did the pool keep me and my little ones cool but it was a brilliant way for me to meet other parents with young kids. And, because I love swimming so much, a great place for me to exercise too.

Fast forward a few months and coming home from hospital(post-accident, post-emergency stoma surgery) the pool became one of my biggest challenges. It felt like a constant reminder of how much my life and my body had changed. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into the pool with my kids on my own. My pelvis had been shattered and I was still very much healing – and of course I was worried about my bag blowing up, blowing off, leaking. And don’t get me started on my poor bladder that had been squashed in the process – it all filled me with dread.

I hadn’t been introduced to Tapping at this point to help me calm my anxieties – how that would have helped my overly-controlling approach – but driven by sheer determination to swim with my kids again I tested out every tiny step that would get me back in the pool… at night-time, when no one else could see me!

I tested getting into the pool and what my bag would do. I tested swimming with it and what I could feel and would it stay on! I tested out the loos by the pool and assessed how smelly they would get and if that smell would travel to the poolside. It didn’t! I tested getting out and how my bag looked, and my bladder held up. What a few months ago had felt like the most natural and fun thing to do daily, suddenly felt sooooo incredibly intense because my mind was in overdrive. Nothing felt easy and nothing felt safe. But I did it. I kept going back as swimming helped me calm my body and my mind, and slowly I built up my confidence to then start swimming in the daytime, around other people. 

I remember the first time I went back in the pool with my kids. The best bit was I could pick them up in the water because they were weightless. And my kids were SO happy. Mummy! You are in the water!!! That alone was priceless!!!! And then they carried on like normal and I just smiled to myself, allowing myself to enjoy my moment of success!

Ok, so you are probably thinking. I don’t have a pool to practice in! But there are other less stressful ways that can help you feel more comfortable and in control.

Here are some of my favourite Bags of Calm tips to manage summer stress and beyond:

Stop, breathe and ground yourself

With your feet on the ground or an awareness of your body being supported by your chair or bed, place your hand on your heart and take a moment to just focus on your breath. Don’t force your breath, just accept it as it is. By focusing on your inhale and exhale you can bring yourself in to the present moment which will help you come back into your body, rather than staying stuck in your thoughts.

Tap on feelings of stress and anxiety

Emotional Freedom Techniques (otherwise known as Tapping) is often described as an emotional acupuncture. There are no needles involved but we gently tap with two fingers some of the points used in acupuncture, to send calming signals to the oldest part of your brain so that your body knows it is safe. We add words too. This helps to release stress and anxiety, so you feel calmer and more in control.

Move your body

Stand up and have a shake, change your posture, wiggle your fingers and toes, go for a walk, exercise, try some Donna Energy Medicine movements, do some yoga or pilates, whatever helps you to move your body. Movement will help to decrease muscle tension, release endorphins that make us feel good, and helps emotions move through our body. You will feel less stuck and you will be able to think more clearly. 

Offer yourself compassion

It is so easy when we are struggling to turn in on ourselves and to beat ourselves up for the things we feel we SHOULD be doing. How about trying to be kind to yourself instead. Speaking to yourself like you would a dear friend takes practice but it is so worth it. The more compassionate we can be to ourselves the less tension, stress and anxiety we will feel. 

Talk it through

When we are struggling we can feel so alone. Talk to someone you feel comfortable with and who you can trust. If you feel that you don’t have that in your life right now – or you feelembarrassed to talk about your stoma with someone who doesn’t have one – join the Bags of Calm community and chat with other women who live with a stoma. Or book a one-to-one with me. This is exactly why Bags of Calm exists. You don’t need to do this on your own.

Now you can get prepared!

Once you have calmed your mind and body with the above techniques you will find you can think so much more clearly about what you need to help yourself feel safe and prepared for whatever you want to do. In the Bags of Calm groupwomen share tips of things that have worked or not worked for them so that’s incredibly helpful too.

Remember, at Bags of Calm we work on calming the mind and the body, not to look great on the outside but so we feelgreat on the inside. Then you will be ready to get on with living your life with ease: stoma, bag & all. 

For more information about how I can support you please message me for a free zoom call.

Looking forward to chatting with you,

Lara x


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