In recent years, the complexities of the relationship between stress and diabetes have become well known and researched. The link between diabetes and stress has been found. One never forgets the moment of a diabetes diagnosis; a somber and profound memory that hounds for a lifetime, to say the least. While the physical impact of diabetes is well documented, the disease also wreaks havoc on emotional health. Your diabetes diagnosis can be devastating, as you grieve for lost health, and at the same time, try to come to terms with a restricted lifestyle, fear of developing complications, and the uncertainty of starting insulin therapy.
All of this can be completely overwhelming, adding a huge emotional weight which can sometimes manifest as anxiety and depression. Add to that the stress of learning how to manage diabetes and live a healthy life despite it, and things don’t look too good for your emotional wellbeing. Truth is, stress and diabetes are closely linked, as your feelings will affect both your quality of life and diabetes management.
Coping With A Diabetes Diagnosis
If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, chances are that you’re going through a bevy of emotions. One of the hardest things to come to terms with is the fact that diabetes is a life-long condition. Even if you’re only prediabetic or your blood sugar levels are only slightly elevated and you still have time to reverse diabetes by eating right, exercising right, losing weight, etc., you still have to deal with the challenging emotions that accompany managing a potentially serious medical condition and making positive changes to your lifestyle.
It is completely natural to feel low after your diagnosis. In fact, the link between diabetes and depression is well documented. With the right support system and diabetes management plan, you will find yourself adjusting to your new way of life with ease. But for now, be kind to yourself, be patient, and give yourself the time you need to assimilate and process your emotions.
A word of caution – This is also the time that you are at most risk of falling prey to diabetes burnout. Diabetes burnout is the term given to the state of disillusion, frustration and somewhat submission to the condition of diabetes. It’s often characterized by the patient’s complete disregard for their blood sugar levels. They can miss doctor appointments, avoid taking insulin injections or diabetic medication, find comfort in unhealthy eating habits and neglect the doctor’s instructions on starting a new exercise/weight loss regimen.
The outcome: You can potentially worsen your diabetes and increase risk of accompanying complications. This self-destructive behavior can be potentially dangerous if left unchecked for a prolonged period of time. This is particularly true for teens recently diagnosed with diabetes. Seek help immediately if you or your family members suspect that you could be grappling with diabetes burnout.
5 Stages of Grief
While it’s true that each person responds differently to diabetes diagnosis, be aware that there is no right or wrong way to react. You may actually not at all be scared of the idea of coping with diabetes and changing your day-to-day life for the better, or, you might find that your life has been turned upside down completely.
Most commonly, these are the 5 stages of guilt that accompany a diabetes diagnosis:
- Stage 1: Denial
- Stage 2: Anger
- Stage 3: Bargaining
- Stage 4: Depression
- Stage 5: Acceptance
Do you recognize any of these descriptions in your emotions towards diabetes? Also, be warned that it’s not necessary you will experience all of these emotions towards diabetes, or experience them in this particular order only.
For some who find the diagnosis especially challenging because it may mean their life is actually turned upside down or their diagnosis has a direct impact on their career choices, it’s possible to fluctuate between these different stages for many years. You could be stuck at denial, or between anger, bargaining and depression, perhaps with small amounts of acceptance along the way.
Learning to Deal With Diabetes and Emotions
While it’s very important to identify and accept your emotions related to diabetes, it’s just as important to learn to deal with them. The daily tasks of diabetes management can be a huge challenge – juggling medication, learning to give yourself insulin injections, understanding blood glucose monitoring, and regular clinic visits can put people with diabetes at real risk of developing difficulties with low mood.
So, how to deal with these emotions and mood swings?
Be honest about your health and tell your family, friends, medical care team exactly how you’re feeling. Hiding the truth will do you no favors at the moment.
Take time to process. Access the information you need and managing your diabetes will automatically become easier.
Learn to take ownership of your condition. Understand your new responsibilities as a diabetic and the part YOU play in managing your diabetes.
Make yourself accountable. Put your agreed care plan into practice and set goals for yourself. You need to be able to chart your progress and identify your successes in order to feel like you’re taking back control of your life.
Diabetes And Depression
Diabetic patients are twice as likely to experience depression. Not only are diabetics more prone to depression, studies have revealed that Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a risk factor for the onset of depression. To worsen things, doctors believe that people with both diabetes and depression are far more likely to have poorer blood glucose management.
Although depression doesn’t just go away by itself, it can be successfully treated. Antidepressants may be helpful, but research indicates that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, either alone or in combination with antidepressant medication, is very effective in tackling the symptoms of depression. There are fantastic supplements that can help you to overcome depression and eating the right diet can also be huge help in moving the needle in the right direction as well.
Stress And Diabetes
Stress, whether physical, mental or emotional, has been proven to contribute towards changes in blood sugar levels. While stress can affect diabetes control both directly and indirectly, it can also be caused by various diabetic factors such as:
- being diagnosed with diabetes
- adjusting to a diabetes treatment regimen
- dealing with psychosocial pressures of the disease
Constant stress and frustration stemming from prolonged battles with blood glucose regulation can also wear people down, causing them to neglect their diabetes care. Stress and low blood sugar form a vicious circle, if left unchecked.
So, What Can You Do?
- Fight fear with knowledge. Learn more about the benefits of good diabetes care by speaking with a medical expert or enroll in a diabetes education program.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor his/her honest opinion on what exactly your real odds for developing diabetes-related complications might be, and what you can do to improve your prognosis.
- Read diabetes journals and magazines to stay informed about how to avoid or slow down complications.
- Try natural supplements to help you live a better life with diabetes. These are gentler on your system and can also improve your overall sense of well-being.
- If you are anxious about hypoglycemia, talk to your doctor about medication/insulin therapy changes that can help.
Being a diabetic doesn’t mean you must resign yourself to becoming a slave to your emotions. Mindfulness may very well be the key to living a healthier, happier life with diabetes.
Mindfulness has proved to be effective in supporting diabetes management. This technique teaches you to become aware of moment-by-moment thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in a non-judgemental way. As a coping technique, it works wonders to help a diabetic patient come to terms with the prognosis of his/her disease while also enhancing mental and physical wellbeing. Several meditation techniques, including mindfulness, are proven to work wonders with type 2 diabetes. You can pick what works best for you. Here’s to a happier you, on your journey back to vibrant health.