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Written by Gabrielle Schmid, RD, CDE

Take a moment to think about you how feel towards your diabetes… Do you feel empowered? Capable? Sad? Overwhelmed? Anxious? All of the above, depending on the day? The demands of managing T1D are constant, with no breaks, no vacations. Nevertheless, by acknowledging how you feel about your diabetes, you can feel more in charge of, and take steps toward living well with this disease.

Stress is a normal part of life. It is inevitable that you will sometimes feel stressed about managing the highs and lows of blood sugar, but feeling stuck in your negative emotions can put you at higher risk of depression and other health problems. In fact, 1 in 2 people living with T1D experience diabetes distress or depression (1). It is no surprise that this disease is a challenge. However, how you choose to live with the challenge is key to your success and development of a healthy relationship with your T1D.

Think of your emotions as a tunnel. In order to feel relief from an emotion, you must move through the tunnel to get to the end of that emotion. Movement and exercise, breathing and meditation are examples of strategies that can help you move along the tunnel. In other words, engaging in these strategies can help you complete the stress cycle (2).

But how can we tackle diabetes-specific stress? To answer this question, think about if and how diabetes fits in your life. Do you allow yourself permission to spend time being proactive for your diabetes management, or are you often reactive? T1D is unpredictable in many ways, but your behaviours can be predictable. If you successfully engage in healthy behaviour(s), do not let the blood sugar outcome otherwise deter you from your success! Keep in mind all that you do for your diabetes and give yourself credit for the choices you are making for yourself (i.e., taking your insulin every day, choosing to make a healthy meal, scheduling a diabetes appointment). Building on your strengths can help set your mind on a healthy track and increase your confidence in your diabetes management.

Another way to help you gain more control over your mind is to keep a thought journal. Thought journals intend to balance your thinking by comparing the evidence for and against your initial (potentially unhelpful) thought (e.g., “I can’t do anything right to control my diabetes!”). If you jot down the evidence that does support this thought (e.g., I did forget to take my insulin with a meal twice this week) along with the evidence that does not support this thought (e.g., I remembered to take my insulin with all the other meals), you can combine your thought process and may feel a sense of relief with a more balanced thought (e.g., “Managing my diabetes takes a lot of effort and I don’t get it right 100% of the time, but I do a good job most of the time.”).

Certainly, the surge in diabetes technology can decrease the day-to-day burden of diabetes management, but it does not eliminate the burden of hundreds of decisions per day that come with living with T1D. Instead of fixating on that high blood sugar, remind yourself that diabetes often has a mind of its own. Spend less time fixating on the undesired outcome, and more time celebrating your daily accomplishments!

Feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and/or anxious about your diabetes? Your LMC team is here for you. Reach out to your diabetes educator today or visit our website to book an appointment www.LMC.ca 

References:

1. Vallis, M., et al. Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs Second Study (Dawn2): Understanding Diabetes-Related Psychosocial Outcomes for Canadians with Diabetes. Can J of Diabetes 2016; 40 (3): 234-241.

2. Brown, B (Host). (2020, October 14). Unlocking Us With Brené Brown [Brené with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle] Available at: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-emily-and-amelia-nagoski-on-burnout-and-how-to-complete-the-stress-cycle/