Here are a few strategies for handling the stress caused by diabetes:
Express your emotions
Emotions like anger, sadness, fear, discouragement, shame and guilt can arise immediately after a diabetes diagnosis and again later, when you realize that you must learn to live with diabetes. Expressing these emotions is the first step to taking care of yourself and getting some perspective on your situation.
Get informed about the disease and its treatment
When you are well informed about the disease, you can make informed decisions and gain a sense of control over the disease.
Get rid of false beliefs and irrational ideas
Exposing and correcting irrational beliefs and thoughts will help you reduce the stress caused by things that are not reality based. Don’t hesitate to ask a health professional questions in order to separate fact from fiction.
Monitor your blood glucose (sugar) levels frequently
During a stressful period, it is recommended that you take frequent blood glucose readings. This will tell you how the stress is impacting your blood glucose levels and help you make the necessary adjustments (diet, physical activity and medication). It is possible and even normal that your blood glucose levels will rise when you are stressed.
Be prepared for difficult situations
Being prepared for stress reduces its impact. For example, when you plan a restaurant meal or a trip, it is better not to wait until the last minute to make preparations.
Ask for support
In stressful situations, people often feel alone. Asking for help breaks the feeling of isolation and puts you in touch with people able to understand and help you. You can join a self-help group or consult a health care professional. For example, you could meet with a dietitian to get a personalized meal plan that will help you manage your diet and reduce the stress associated with this aspect of your life.
Apply a proven problem-solving method
By developing your ability to solve problems, you will learn to follow a structured and rational process when faced with a problematic situation. This will help reduce the stress caused by a situation without an immediately obvious solution. Problem solving generally follows these steps:
- Identify the stressful problem
- Identify possible solutions
- Evaluate each solution
- Choose the most appropriate solution
- Apply the solution
- Evaluate the impact of the solution
Take up a hobby or other enjoyable activity
Boredom can be a source of stress. A hobby or fun recreational activities can boost your energy levels, give you a goal, let you pursue your interests, give you a feeling of accomplishment and help develop your potential and talents.
Learn to relax
Daily activities, whether related to diabetes treatment or not, are often a source of stress. Learning to relax will help you ease the tensions caused by everyday life. Mastering a relaxation technique will help you sleep better and be less tense: meditation, yoga, tai-chi, relaxation breaks, etc.
The goal of proper stress management is the elimination of negative stress. Some “positive” stress is still necessary to boost performance and endurance.
Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals
Scientific review: Dr. Alain Janelle, Psychologist
Tremblay Louise, M. Ed., Nurse. (Autumn 1997). “Stress et diabète,” Plein Soleil, Diabète Québec, pp.33-34.
July 2014 (updated on July 2018)
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