Let’s be honest – between monitoring your blood glucose, worrying about complications, and constantly having to count carbs or kilojoules, being diagnosed with diabetes can give you a LOT of reasons for diabetes for feeling stressed out. Having diabetes can also increase the pressures of dealing with other life stresses. Situations that you found manageable in the past may now feel overwhelming and part of a barrage of demands on your life. In addition to taking its toll on your emotional wellbeing, stress can also have a negative impact on your blood glucose levels, as well as affecting your immune system and contributing to weight gain. The good news is, the more experienced you become at living with diabetes, the less intrusion the condition will ultimately make in your life. Professor Kay Wilhelm, a consultant psychiatrist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, says diabetes can also become an effective tool for improving your life. Try these experts’ tips for managing your stress and feeling in control of your health and happiness until diabetes becomes your new normal.
1. DON’T focus on the negative
Try to stop thinking of diabetes as a burden and instead see it as a licence to take care of yourself – for example, as a catalyst for making healthy changes to your eating or exercise habits, or for getting rid of excess kilos. Making this mental shift can greatly reduce your stress and make sense of everything you do to maintain good health.
2. DO keep up with your care team
Between worrying about whether you’re still allowed to enjoy that biscuit with your evening cuppa, to anxiety over whether you’re supposed to be feeling so tired after being put on metformin, there are a lot of everyday niggles that come with living with diabetes. To help you stay on top of your management and get answers to your questions, it’s vital to have an experienced and caring team of healthcare professionals around you. And speak with your GP about developing a GP Management Plan for these experts so that you can claim rebates from Medicare. Prof Wilhelm suggests keeping a list of questions to ask your healthcare providers. ‘Writing down things that you want to discuss trains you to be an informed consumer, to be engaged in your care, not just waiting for people to tell you things,’ she says. This is vital to feeling you’re managing your diabetes and to being less stressed.
3. DON’T underestimate the power of sleep
Consistently suffering a poor night’s sleep can impair your ability to deal with life’s challenges and your ability to differentiate stresses from tasks that simply need to be done. A sleep deficit can also weaken your immune system and trigger the desire to eat more than you need. Prof Wilhelm offers these strategies for sleeping tight - before bedtime, write down the things you need to do the following day so that you don’t lie awake obsessing over them. And write down the things that brought you pleasure as well – it’s important that you celebrate your victories. Go back to your childhood and try to remember what helped you sleep when you were young. Was it reading a few pages of a book? Praying? Letting your imagination take you somewhere lovely? Use that to inspire a bit of shut-eye. Another trick is to set your alarm for the same time every day and get up when it goes off – your sleep will adjust itself accordingly, says Prof Wilhelm.If your schedule allows, exercise with the morning light. ‘This helps you to reset your sleep-wake cycle in a way that helps you sleep,’ she says.
4. DO talk about it
Whether you’re sharing your triumphs and trials with good friends and family, a health professional, or both, the very act of talking can be immensely stress-relieving. Listening and appreciating the challenges other people face also helps to put your own challenges in perspective. So get chatting!