A lot of people living with diabetes may sometimes become overwhelmed and stressed out. From checking blood sugars, watching your diet, making time for exercise, taking medications, appointments with healthcare providers, the fear of complications, or simply whether you are doing the right thing. The list of things to know and do may seem unending. It may seem that diabetes is taking over who you are. You can’t take a break from being a diabetic. All this can place a huge emotional toll on people living with diabetes.
These mixture of emotions was first described by two psychologists and is called diabetes distress. Diabetes distress is not just depression, although research has shown that there is a higher incidence of depression in people living with diabetes. And these feelings may not be the same thing for everybody. Every person living with a chronic illness- such as type 2 diabetes-experiences it a different way.
The important thing is to pay attention to your feelings. If you are feeling overwhelmed then it may be time to speak with your healthcare provider. It is important that you have a healthcare provider who has empathy and is able to validate your feelings. Your healthcare provider should not brush off your feelings or simply suggest that you start taking medications for depression.
Not all sad feelings associated with living with a chronic illness such as diabetes is because someone is depressed.
In addition to speaking with your healthcare provider it is also a good idea to learn some ways to cope with these feelings.
Here are five simple strategies that you can learn to overcome some the feelings related to diabetes distress. You may also find that you can apply these to any area of your life.
Identify the breakdown
What is a breakdown? I’m not describing a nervous breakdown here, although to some people it may feel that way. A breakdown is an emotional response that happens when things do not go as planned. For instance let’s just say that your goal was to get your A1C less than 7% at the next visit to your healthcare provider. But this did not happen.
So, you have not reached the goal you set for yourself. State in one simple sentence what it is that you say should have happened.
For instance you could simply say, “My A1C is not less than 7%’. In this example, not getting your A1c less than 7% is the breakdown.
Identify the upset
Write out your thoughts, feelings and emotions. For some people this may be a good time to journal. Even if journaling is not your thing, simply take out a sheet of paper and write. Try not to be judgmental about what it is that you are writing down. Just take the time to write these all down.
So going back to our example, about the A1C you could write something like “I feel upset, and discouraged, because I did not get my A1C to less than 7% as I promised myself”
Upsets can keep us stuck. This is because we become judgmental about ourselves. We let this judgement mean something about us that may not be true. I suggest you keep writing your feelings down until you feel like you are no longer judging yourself. Some people may begin to feel more compassion toward themselves. This is not the same thing as making excuses.
Write out the facts surrounding this breakdown
How would a news reporter describe this breakdown? Try doing this in one sentence. So back to the situation here, “I did not get my A1C to my goal of less than 7%”
If you cannot summarize the facts of the situation in one sentence then you may still be feeling upset. If that’s the case then circle back to the upset and continue writing until you begin to feel compassion for yourself.
What you are committed to next?
Now it is time to commit to reaching your goal. It is okay to commit over and over again. Don’t feel that because you failed to reach your goal before, that you will never reach your goal. If Thomas Edison had felt that way, we would not have had the lightbulb.
When we commit to something we have the power to create something better. What are you committed to? It may be time to look at a bigger picture than simply getting your A1C less than 7%. It may be living a powerful life and thriving despite having type 2 diabetes!
Write whatever you are committed to out as a statement. For instance our goal of achieving an A1C of less than 7% may be transformed into a statement that says “I am committed to getting my A1C to less than 7% so that I can experience vibrant health and serve to inspire other people living with diabetes to reach their goals!”
Ready, set ACTION!
After completing these steps you will be inspired to get into action. There is no time like NOW to get into action. Remember what you are committed to. Do not be discouraged.
You may notice that you can use these strategies to not only deal with setbacks when it comes to living with diabetes but all aspects of your life.
So get curious and see how many other areas of your life you can get past overwhelm, feeling stuck and back into action.
To your health and wellbeing,