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Diabetes and Mental Health: Nurturing Your Emotional Well-Being

When it comes to managing diabetes, there’s more to the story than just monitoring blood sugar levels and administering insulin. Mental health plays an important role, too.

Not only does stress affect blood sugar, but your mental state can significantly impact your ability to manage your diabetes. Diabetes isn’t a hands-off disease: It takes monitoring blood sugar constantly, making the right dietary choices, and staying active to keep it under control. And it can be harder to find the motivation for those tasks when you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression.

Here are some ways mental health and diabetes are connected and how you can stay healthy mentally and physically with the disease.

Talk with Your Healthcare Team

When you meet with your doctor or diabetes educator, they might ask you about your mental health or what’s going on in your life. It’s a great way to put some context around the blood sugar levels they’re seeing on your continuous glucose monitor (CGM). If your levels are higher than normal, but you haven’t been able to exercise because you’re dealing with the loss of a job or a death in the family, for example, they won’t need to look harder to find the reason for those levels.

But if your doctor doesn’t ask, it’s best to bring up the topic. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or stress that impacts your ability to effectively manage your diabetes, let them know. Not only can they point you to mental health resources, but they can also offer strategies to help make managing your diabetes less of a mental load.

Don’t Be Embarrassed to Seek Out Mental Health Support

Seek Out Mental Health SupportDespite a change toward acceptance of discussing mental health issues, there’s still a stigma, especially among older Americans. This stigma can be a giant roadblock for some patients, who may be hesitant to open up about what’s really going on with them until the issue gets even worse.

But the reality is, life’s challenges affect us all differently. Dealing with mental health struggles doesn’t make you defective; it makes you human.

Ignoring your mental health struggles, however, can lead you to feel isolated, which can worsen your anxiety, stress, or depression. And when you have diabetes, that also puts your physical health in jeopardy.

Discussing your mental health with a healthcare professional is the first step to feeling better.

And remember, healthcare providers aren’t just there to prescribe medication and monitor blood glucose levels. Their job is to help you feel better in whatever way they can. And while they may not have the training necessary to provide mental healthcare, they can point you to someone who can.

Resources for Mental Health and Diabetes

American Diabetes Association (ADA) — Offers a Mental Health Provider Directory.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) — Offers a wide range of mental health resources.

International Diabetes Federation (IDF) — Offers resources on both physical and mental health in diabetes care.

Diabetes Daily Forum — An online support group to discuss diabetes challenges.

Beyond Type 1 — A platform that offers support groups, including mental health discussions for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) — These programs, often available through hospitals and health centers, include components on coping and emotional well-being. Contact local healthcare providers for programs near you.

Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms

When it comes to managing diabetes, addressing stress is just as important as diet and exercise. Stress can significantly impact blood sugar levels, making it harder to manage diabetes effectively.

Everyone has their unique way of coping, but there are some universally helpful strategies that can make a difference. It’s best to try a few and see what works for you. Some options include:

Embrace Physical Activity

Physical activity is a win-win. Not only does it help in maintaining a healthy body weight and improving insulin sensitivity, but it also serves as a powerful stress reliever. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators. Regular physical activity like a brisk walk, a bike ride, or a yoga session can help lower stress levels and manage blood sugar more effectively.

Try Meditation and Mindfulness

Don’t underestimate the power of taking a moment to breathe and center yourself. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been shown to significantly reduce stress levels. By focusing on the present, acknowledging thoughts and feelings without judgment, and practicing gratitude, many people find a sense of calm and clarity. These moments of reflection help you keep stress at bay and maintain focus on your health goals.

Related Reading: Sleep and Diabetes

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, the weight of managing a chronic condition on top of life’s usual stressors can be overwhelming.

If it feels like too much, there’s no shame in getting help.

Consulting with a mental health professional can provide the support and tools necessary to navigate tough times more effectively. Therapists can help identify underlying issues contributing to stress and work with you to develop strategies to address them, improving your overall mental well-being and making it easier to manage your diabetes. You can even see a therapist from the comfort of your own home using services like BetterHelp or Talkspace.

Talk With Family and Friends

Not everyone is ready to talk to a mental health professional. And that’s OK. Sharing your feelings with family and friends can help, too. You might find that just talking about your problems releases some stress and helps you feel better.

Family and friends can also act as a crucial support system to help you manage your diabetes when that becomes hard to do on your own. They can help you remember medication, attend medical appointments, and motivate you to exercise. And just being around them can help reduce feelings of isolation and help combat the stress and anxiety that often accompany diabetes.

Find Community Support

Some people find it easier to unburden themselves with people who aren’t particularly close to them. Maybe your family and friends don’t have the background they need to understand your specific struggles, or you aren’t comfortable sharing them because of stigma.

Whatever the reason, you have options.

Support groups, diabetes education programs, and community health initiatives are great platforms for you to share your experiences, gain knowledge, and feel like you’re part of a community that understands your struggles. The best part is that you’ll meet people who have been in your shoes, making it easier to open up to them and, eventually, to others.

Reflect on the Positive

Positive thinking isn’t a cure-all, but practicing gratitude and reflecting on what truly matters does have benefits. It can help shift focus from what’s stressful in your life to what’s good in your life. And participating in activities that bring you joy, connecting with loved ones, or simply spending time in nature can rejuvenate you and reduce stress, which makes managing your diabetes easier.

Diabetes and Mental Health: Support Matters

Managing diabetes requires more than just medical intervention. The support of healthcare providers, loved ones, and the community is crucial in navigating the physical and mental challenges of the disease. The first step is opening about your struggles and asking for help. It’s important for your physical and mental health today and for years to come.

Want to learn more about how a CGM can help you manage your diabetes? We’ve created a helpful guide that helps you choose the best one for you.

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This information, including, but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained in this document, is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services of any kind. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and you should never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this document. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Neither Total Medical Supply nor its employees make any representations, express or implied, with respect to the information provided herein or to its use.

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