When you’re worried, frightened or angry about living with diabetes, the stress you feel can cause your blood sugar levels to run higher. Stress also indirectly affects diabetes by making it more difficult to for you to remember your medications and blood sugar checks. It may interfere with making healthy lifestyle choices that help control your diabetes.
Laura Smith, PhD, clinical psychologist for the USF Diabetes Center, offers the following suggestions for how to better manage some of the most stressful aspects of diabetes:
• Diabetes can be unpredictable. Even when you do everything right – take your medications as directed, maintain a healthy diet and exercise – your blood sugar can end up out of range. When you’re doing your best and still at times not getting the results you want, try focusing on the big picture. Highs and lows will happen, but it’s more important to look at trends over time.
• Loved ones don’t always know the best way to help. Because they worry about you, they may nag, argue or become overprotective when they believe you’re not taking care of yourself. Talk to family and friends about the sources of your stress. Discuss how they can support you, rather than telling them what not to do. Ask them to join you in making healthier food and exercise choices, to gently remind you to check your blood sugar or take your medication, or to listen when you need to express your feelings of frustration or anxiety about diabetes.
• You dread visiting the doctor, especially when you’re not meeting your goals. If your blood sugar is out of range or you haven’t been managing your diabetes well, you may worry that the doctor will become upset. Remember that the doctor’s job is to help, not evaluate, you. Be honest about what’s working and what hasn’t been going well. Work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.
• You worry about complications. It’s normal to worry about the long-range complications of diabetes, like eye, kidney, cardiovascular and nerve disease. But, remember that complications are caused by poorly managed diabetes. If you take good care of your diabetes, you will drastically reduce the chances of complications. Even if you get off track occasionally, taking steps to improve your blood sugar can prevent or delay health problems.
Living with diabetes is challenging, but turning the stresses into positive challenges rather than dwelling on the negative can help. You can also minimize the impact of stress by exercising, seeking social support, taking a little time each day to engage in an activity you enjoy, and learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation.
– USF Health-
USF Health is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida’s colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. Ranked 34th in federal research expenditures for public universities by the National Science Foundation, the University of South Florida is a high impact global research university dedicated to student success.