Contributor: Tom Lang
Diabetes can affect you emotionally as well as physically. It's important to understand that it's normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed, angry, depressed, anxious, frightened, worried, frustrated, sad, stressed, burned out, embarrassed, ashamed, discouraged, or any combination of these emotions. That's understandable because managing diabetes can feel like a full-time job. But, stress and emotional issues can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. And feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious may cause you to forget to take your medication and check your blood sugars. This is why managing your emotional wellness is an important part of managing your diabetes.
HERE ARE SOME KEYS TO BETTER EMOTIONAL WELLNESS:
- Assemble your team: It's important to remember that managing diabetes is a team effort, and you are not alone on this journey. Your doctor, diabetes educator, nutritionist, psychologist, therapist, other healthcare provider, partner or family, close friends, and resources (like DiabetesSisters!) can be counted on for support when needed. They are crucial to your emotional wellness and help you to feel better, physically and emotionally. Don't be afraid to ask your medical team questions about anything you need help understanding.
- Never stop learning: Information gives you the power to make intelligent decisions about your health. Your diabetes management may change as your body changes over the years. Diabetes treatments are also changing as new devices and drugs become available, so stay informed. Talk with your healthcare team regularly.
- Write your Daily Plan: Having a written plan makes it physically and emotionally easier to stay on track. Organizing your day into small, manageable tasks makes it easier to achieve your goals! Be sure to include:
- when to take your medications
- times to check your blood sugar
- times for exercise - making time for physical activities you enjoy daily can lower depression, anxiety, and stress. Even five minutes at a time throughout the day helps!
- healthy meal and snack ideas - some healthy foods can boost your mood, so do some research online.
- “time out” to relax and destress or listen to relaxing music
- Talk often with friends and family: They may want to help but sometimes don't know how. Let them schedule a doctor's appointment for you if you don't feel up to it or go with you to an appointment for support. They can help pick up medications, cook some meals for you, or do other tasks. Let them know how you feel and how they can help you.
- Don't try to be Superwoman: Diabetes requires much time and effort, so know your limits and stay within them.
- Choose how you react to challenging situations: Life throws challenges at everyone, but you can learn how to control your responses to stressful situations. This is an extremely valuable skill that can help you at home, at work, and in many other situations. Community centers and hospitals usually offer classes on stress management, anger management, time management, behavioral change, meditation, and other helpful courses.
- Support one another: Being with other supportive people who have diabetes can provide you with a sense of comfort and confidence. Support groups are available online, at your local hospital, and elsewhere.
- No Blame Games: No one’s perfect, so go easy on yourself if you go off track.
- Practice daily gratitude: Think, or even better, write daily about anything you’re thankful for. This simple action can improve your mood and your emotional wellness.
- Reward yourself: Reward yourself when you achieve your diabetes and emotional wellness goals with healthy ways to treat yourself so it doesn’t feel like work all the time. Rewards may include going to a movie, buying a book, game, or puzzle, or anything else that’s healthy and that you enjoy!
Tom Lang has worked as a research assistant at the pharmaceutical giant Hoechst in Germany and at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Trained as a biologist, he lives on the West Coast with his wife, Cate, and their rescued dog, Te amo. Tom has coached over 1,000 women and men with prediabetes and diabetes and has helped two family members with diabetes.