It’s no secret that your mental state and your diabetes might impact one another. If something is off whack with you emotionally, your diabetes can also be affected.
It’s important to be aware of the fact that people with diabetes are more prone to experiencing anxiety and depression, which is why it’s so important to check in with yourself as often as you check blood sugar.¹
How Stress Spikes Blood Sugar
Feeling anxious and overwhelmed can affect your blood sugar. That doesn’t mean that every stressful traffic jam will make your diabetes worse, but it does mean that failing to minimize ongoing stress can cause your body to release hormones that interfere with insulin performance.² Unsurprisingly, a subsequent rise in blood sugar can make you feel nervous. It’s a vicious cycle!
Don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider about ongoing feelings of stress or anxiety. You may be feeling particularly on edge due to worst-case scenario medical worries, or uncertainty about medication and testing equipment. Talking through these concerns can help you feel more in control of the situation.
Your primary care physician, specialist, or pharmacist may also be able to point you in the right direction. There are programs out there that can help with the cost of insulin, supplies and other medical necessities, things that are often identified as major sources of anxiety for people with diabetes.³
If your medical team doesn’t already offer a counselor, ask your doctor for a recommendation. Consider therapy, which will provide you with an environment where you can open up about your worries and anger concerning diabetes, or about other aspects of your life, which can be enormously helpful. Your team can also recommend medications that help with anxiety and don’t interfere with your other prescriptions.
Finally, try out enjoyable stress-busting activities. Sure, running is considered a great mood booster, but if you’re not such a fan, putting on your running shoes won’t help you out too much when it comes to reducing your stress. Think about a blend of active and relaxing activities, like walking and yoga, or playing tennis and having a massage, that will physically de-stress you.
Sooner or later, everyone with diabetes is going to experience a low moment, whether it’s anger about a diagnosis, or fatigue from what seems like an endless cycle of testing and therapy. It’s hard not to feel resentful about all the things you have to deal with as a person with diabetes, as well as the things you’re giving up.
On the other hand, your depression and irritability may not directly stem from your condition, but from other factors in your life. You may simply be prone to anxiety, depression or anger issues.
It’s important to recognize that your mind can be a crazy place. It can set traps for itself when it comes to your health. If you start to struggle with your self-esteem, you’re less likely to believe that your health is worth fighting for. Or you may turn to junk food and alcohol for comfort.
In situations like these, a counselor or life coach can help you determine when self-sabotage moments are most likely to occur, and devise a plan to get you back to living a healthy lifestyle.
Sometimes forget to check your blood sugar? Do you check, but not note your results anywhere? Are you having “cheat” days more often than healthy days when it comes to your meals?
Learning how to organize your grocery shopping and your monitoring and medication system can help get you through difficult days. Devising a simple plan will help you massively when it comes to taking care of these issues.
Struggling to break unhealthy habits? It’s important that you talk to someone that can help you get back on track. Discuss where your mind is at with a therapist. Opening up may make more of a difference than you think.
● Get off the denial train. Sooner or later, denying the reality of your condition happens to most people with diabetes. Often, it’s just after diagnosis. It might also creep up on you when you want to just go out and party, or consider an exotic trip to a place that doesn’t have access to medical providers. The sooner you stop denying that diabetes is a part of your life, the more quickly you and your medical team can make a plan that helps you get back in control.⁴
● Trust the team. Studies show that your state of mind may affect how you interact with your healthcare providers. One crucial component of diabetes that sets it apart from many other chronic conditions is the amount of self-care needed to keep it under control. Not trusting or listening to your medical team can negatively impact your ability to monitor your blood sugar levels, administer insulin or adjust your diet when you're on your own.⁵
● Learn to cope with disinformation. There’s no question that too many people associate diabetes with overindulging in sweets — and too few know the difference between the different types of diabetes. Your medical team may have tips for how to educate the people in your life that matter to you. Tune out that misinformation and let’s get educated!⁶
● Know your triggers. Because stress can have a dramatic impact on your health, it helps to be aware of potential triggers. Whether you’re a student worried about exams, you’re an adult caring for aging parents, or are simply overwhelmed by current events, your anxiety can have a big physical impact. Make efforts to practice deep breathing techniques, stock up on healthy snacks, or just get together with supportive friends. These steps help put a barrier between you and your triggers.⁷
All of the information in this article is based on the following sources:
1. Kruse, J., Schmitz, N., Thefeld, W., 2003. The Association Between Diabetes and Mental Disorders. Diabetes Care, [online]. Available at: https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/6/1841.
2. Mayo Clinic, 2020. Diabetes: Diagnosis and Treatment. [webpage] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371 451 [Accessed 18/01/21].
3. Daly, M.J., Hartz, A.J., Xu, Y., Levy, B.T., James, P.A., Merchant, M.L., Garrett, R.E., 2009. An Assessment of Attitudes, Behaviors, and Outcomes of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, [online]. Available at: https://www.jabfm.org/content/22/3/280.
4. American Diabetes Association, 2020. Understanding Diabetes and Mental Health. [webpage] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/mental-health [Accessed 18/01/21].
5. Rodrigues, F.F.L., Zanetti, M.L., SantosIII, M.A., MartinsIV, T.A., SousaV, V.D., Teixeira, C.R.S., 2009. Knowledge and attitude: important components in diabetes education. SciELO, [online]. Available at: https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0104-11692009000400006&ln g=en&tlng=en.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. 10 Tips for Coping With Diabetes Distress. [webpage] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/diabetes-distress/ten-tips-coping-diabetes-distre ss.html [Accessed 18/01/21].
7. Cleveland Clinic, 2021. Diabetes: Stress and Depression. [webpage] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14891-diabetes-stress--depression [Accessed 18/01/21].
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Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.