May is Mental Health Awareness Month and an important time to increase public awareness about causes of mental stress.
We feel stress from many different places. Sometimes it is an event, such as a family member passing away, but more often it is just from daily stressors such as money, work and so on. And the symptoms of stress can affect not only your mind, but also your physical health.
If you live with diabetes, it can be added source of stress—and in turn, stress can make diabetes more difficult to manage. The ongoing and endless list of things you need to think about can feel overwhelming: constantly checking your blood glucose, knowing exactly what you are eating, remembering to inject insulin or take your medications—not to mention the unexpected swings in your blood glucose levels at the most inopportune times.
Stress can affect your blood glucose levels in two ways:
- While under stress, you may not take good care of yourself. You may drink more alcohol or exercise less. You may also forget, or not have time, to check their glucose levels or plan healthy meals.
- Stress hormones may also alter your blood glucose levels to run high.
This understandable sense of burden or defeat that may affects your life with diabetes even has a name: diabetes distress.
Diabetes distress is real and different from depression. It can even cause conflict with your loved ones and impact your relationships with your diabetes health care team. If a family member, a friend or your doctor constantly asks how you are feeling, it can cause frustration and lead to tension between you.
Researchers have developed a Diabetes Distress Scale (DDS) to measure the distress that arises from the emotional and social effects of living with diabetes, day-to-day diabetes management and more. Click here to read the full study.
There are many ways to avoid and fight stress. Here are our top tips:
- Get Active – Start moving and set your mind concentrated on something else. Physical activity includes anything that gets you moving, such as walking, dancing or working in the yard. Regular physical activity is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes. Being active can also improve mood and stress levels.
- Build a Support Network – Whether you find a support group online or find one locally in your area, speaking with others living with diabetes or going through similar situations can be helpful. To contact your local Association office for questions about support groups, please click here.
- Set SMART Goals – Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness and personal growth, and set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals. Examples could be making your own healthy lunch three days a week or taking a 30-minute walk every day.
- Cope with Your Thoughts – When you notice a bad thought, think of something that makes you happy or proud instead. Try to memorize a poem, prayer or quote, or leave a sticky note on your mirror with the quote. It may also help to call a trusted friend who is a good listener. Three members of our Diabetes Forecast Reader Panel share their experiences with diabetes distress and how they coped.
If you need help with any stress-related issues, including diabetes distress, ask a member of your diabetes care team for assistance. Sometimes stress can be so severe that you feel too overwhelmed and it interrupts your daily functioning. This is when counseling or therapy may be of help. You may learn new ways of coping, develop a new perspective or find new ways of changing your behavior.
Please remember that you are not alone. If you’d like to speak with someone about additional resources, please call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).