Learning you have a chronic disease is a shock, and you may feel a bit overwhelmed at first. Here are a few suggestions about what to do next--so you can put your mind at ease.

Learn as much as you can about the disease. Find out what is normal and what you should expect when you have Crohn's. Make a list of questions to prepare for your doctor appointments.

Follow instructions. Take medicines as prescribed and heed your physician's advice and recommendations.

Pay attention to your diet. Crohn's patients are at risk for malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies due to intestinal inflammation, so pay careful attention to your diet. If you don't know yet which foods aggravate you, keep a food journal to identify which foods trigger symptoms. Consider working with a nutrition professional familiar with Crohn's disease to develop a balanced diet that includes adequate calories, vitamins and nutrients.

Count to 10. Learn to manage your stress. The high incidence of Crohn's disease in the United States and other industrialized countries leads medical experts to link lifestyle factors, such as stress and diet, to the disease. Acute stress directly affects your body's pro-inflammatory response, triggering symptoms or making them worse.

Consider joining a support group. Your family and friends want to support and help you. But there's nothing like talking with others who have been there and know what you're going through. Other Crohn's patients are a great source of tips and suggestions for managing and coping with the disease.

Sleep on it. The symptoms of Crohn's disease may disrupt your sleep. However, a good night's sleep does much more than keep you from being cranky the next day. Sleep is good for the immune system so it actually helps you manage the disease-emotionally and physically. Develop your own bedtime rituals to signal to your body that it's time to sleep, and avoid heavy exercise and alcohol in the evening.

Get up and move. Research shows that light to moderate exercise reduces stress, symptoms and flare-ups. It also reduces your risk for developing other diseases. Check with your physician before engaging in intensive sports or activities.

If you smoke, quit. Smokers are at higher risk for developing Crohn's disease, develop a more aggressive case of the disease and are more likely to develop other serious diseases such as cancer.