Diabetes and emotional wellness: The balancing act

Type 1 Diabetes Blog

Diabetes and emotional wellness: The balancing act

I would describe myself as a stressful person. My brain is always overworking and even when I think I am relaxing, I am actually silently stressing. The problem with being a stressful person is that it affects my diabetes. I remember my doctor telling me when I was first diagnosed that “you’ll need to keep your stress levels down.” I was 16 and trust me, my stress levels were only going to rise as I got older.

Stress can affect our bodies differently. For some diabetics it can increase their frequency of hypos. For others such as myself, it can send blood sugars sky high and make them stubborn. I often find situations where I know my blood sugars are going to rise because I feel anxious or stressed- for example, every time I go through airport security, my blood sugar rises; the longer the airport security process, the higher it goes. This happens every single time. Since I travel frequently, I can find this frustrating.

I try to tell myself to relax and breathe, and I put things in place to try and reduce my stress. For example, I have a doctors letter at hand for any queries or questions and if I am in a non-English speaking country, then I have that letter translated to the correct language. Even though the process of airport security is the same all throughout the world, I still get anxious about it. Maybe I’m worried whether the staff will be nice to me, or argue with me. 99% of the time I have hassle-free experiences at the airport, so I know all my anxiety is for nothing, but I guess telling yourself to calm down is easier said than done.

The frustrating thing about emotions and diabetes is that every emotion seems to impact my blood sugars - whether that’s feeling stressed, feeling sad, or even rushes of adrenaline. I often find when I am going through periods of sadness and struggle that my blood sugars struggle too. It’s as if my body slows down with me, which I certainly don’t need it to do. Sometimes I struggle with my emotional well-being simply because diabetes is stressful and it's a force that takes over your life. Some days I can feel overwhelmed, especially when I am traveling and have no doctors or immediate support network near me, but it’s on the brighter days that make you see how strong you were in the darker ones and that’s an amazing feeling.

I often encourage others around me to practice self-talk. Our relationship with our mind dictates our whole being and impacts on how we deal with different struggles that our diabetes brings into our lives. By attempting to minimise your stress levels and ensuring you can talk about any issues including diabetes struggles, is the key to having a healthy life. Often we feel ashamed when our blood sugars aren’t perfect or we feel like we’ve failed, but this certainly not the case. There is no such thing as a perfect diabetic, we are all just trying our best and it’s okay to not be okay with your diabetes. You’re not the only one.

Accepting the feeling of weakness is something difficult, but it's okay to feel weak. It doesn't make you a bad person, it just makes you a human being. Keeping a diary is a great way of monitoring my mind alongside my diabetes. When I monitor both my blood sugars and thoughts via paper, it's easier to notice patterns and find solutions to help these patterns or problems. I often find that if my blood sugars are erratic, my mind tends to be also. It's amazing how they can both interlink and connect. If your blood sugars aren't great, then your mind often doesn't feel great, but if you don't feel great within yourself, then this often impacts your blood sugars. It's a balancing act and an extremely difficult one. Unfortunately, life will always bring you stress and there's no shame in feeling sad, low or vulnerable. Just remember to talk to each other, love yourself, and appreciate all the effort and hard work you do every single day to help yourself and your diabetes.