Newswise — Life can be overwhelming, and for people with diabetes the challenge is even bigger and the list of daily to-dos far longer: Make careful food choices! Stay active! Monitor blood sugar! Take your medications on time!, etc. Sometimes it’s just too much. The result? Diabetes distress.
When you’re distressed, you may not pay close attention to your medications or diet, which drives your blood sugar up. As a result, you don’t feel well and are at risk for developing complications. Even when you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, the unpredictability in blood sugar, daily schedules and life can make diabetes management frustrating.
“It’s completely natural to get overwhelmed and feel like giving up,” said certified diabetes educator Nicole Bereolos, PhD, MPH. “So when diabetes distress strikes, it’s important to recognize the signs and seek help.”
Thankfully, support is available. The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) offers mental health resources to help the more than 30 million Americans with diabetes manage the distress, anger, stress and depression that can sometimes accompany the condition. If you are dealing with the weight of diabetes, here are the top five tips for coping with diabetes distress:
- Get an assessment – The first step is to figure out which of the many daily challenges you find most distressing right now. Do you feel as though you are failing in your diabetes routine? That your doctor isn’t giving you clear directions or that your family isn’t supportive? Fill out this diabetes distress questionnaire, which can help you focus on the biggest problems so you can make progress. - Consult a pro – Diabetes educators have the training and skills to help you figure out what is most troublesome and work with you to develop a plan to ease the distress, feel good about yourself and take charge of the disease. - Seek support – Other people who are coping with diabetes can offer moral support and ideas for easing distress that have worked for them. So get together with a friend or acquaintance with diabetes. Ask your diabetes educator or doctor for a recommendation, or check out the local hospital for a support group. You can also turn to someone who is supportive and understands your feelings, even if he or she doesn’t have diabetes. - Have a heart-to-heart – The support of your healthcare team, family and friends is vital. Let them know how you feel and if you have concerns about how they act towards you. Do you feel they judge you or are watching your behavior? Let them know what they can do instead to help you achieve your goals. - Don’t be so hard on yourself – Almost no one gets diabetes right all of the time. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get the numbers you want. Plan a reasonable break from the routine and ask someone to help you, but do it intentionally, not out of anger.
When it comes to managing diabetes, realize that distress is natural. Then seek out the support you need. Find a diabetes educator near you who can help start the process by visiting www.diabeteseducator.org, and refer to AADE’s free online Mental Health Resources to better understand your feelings and how to manage them.