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Managing Stress with Diabetes

By Sue Ridder, BSN, RN, CDE October 25, 2021 Posted in: Diabetes Care

Diabetes is a disease best managed by a mix of diet, exercise, and often medications. I have type 1 diabetes. In any given week, my best plans to get all of those things right doesn't always come together. SO many things influence my ability to stay the course. It can be frustrating when I have meal prepped and then have to work late or have a car issue that prevents me from enjoying the dinner I had planned. However, that is real life. Getting home late can also mean that the medication I normally take at 5 p.m. doesn't get taken until 8 p.m. Everyone has these same challenges. The difference is that stress by itself can cause a rise in blood sugar. Add that onto picking up comfort food in the drive through on the way home and I now have a higher blood sugar to deal with.

How Common is Stress with Diabetes?

30% of people dealing with diabetes are also dealing with depression and the incidence of depression is twice as high for people with diabetes. This can mean even less energy to stay focused on self-care and adapting to stressful situations. Finding ways to deal with stress and express our emotions will help us stay in control of our diabetes.

Get Support to Manage Stress

  • Talk to your provider, first of all, and let them know if the medication is overwhelming or your plan right now is more than you can handle. If you find that you're sleeping too much or not able to sleep at all, your provider can be there to help you.
  • Find support people around you too, maybe you have a friend that has diabetes, or maybe you just have someone really positive in your life that you can talk to about what's going on. Sometimes it just feels better to be able to say out loud the things that are involved in our heads in making all of our daily decisions.

Other Ways to Manage Your Stress

How do you deal with stress? What helps you feel calm when life is tossing you around? I LOVE music. I listen to music coming and going from work. It is a great way for me to transition from work to home life while leaving the stress behind.

Try these, or other fun options, to help alleviate stress:

  • Go for a walk by yourself
  • Put on your favorite podcast
  • Get lost in a good book
  • Sit on your deck and just listen to the noise of traffic
  • Maybe it's playing a game on your phone

Find the things that help to distract you and get you out of the moment of feeling like this is a lot, so you can put your brain back to the spot where I'm in control of this.

Meal Prep

Although meal prep doesn't solve every problem for me, it decreases the risk of my food choices going off track. Having at least a few healthy things available helps. I keep fresh fruit and cut up veggies in the fridge. If I'm running late, I know I can make a PB&J and grab a handful of grapes for a meal. That will serve me better than sitting in a drive through lane and eating empty calories and carbohydrates that will leave me hungry in an hour. Sometimes it's not the big stuff but the small stuff.

Don't be Afraid to Reach Out

Diabetes fatigue is real. Trying to manage everything can feel like a full time job. It can take a mental toll. If you feel you aren't finding joy or happiness in things you used to enjoy or that you are struggling with your emotions, seek help. Your provider is there for more than treating your diabetes or strep throat. Your mental health affects your physical health. If you are struggling to get out of bed, it's unlikely that you are making a healthy meal or going for a walk at the end of the day. Doctors, PA's, APRN's are all trained to deal with the whole body. Let them be a resource and help you find hope again. Find a friend or family member that you can talk to, someone that will be able to listen without judgement or try to solve your problems. It can be a relief to just feel heard.

CHI Health also offers support groups for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you are interested in getting involved, please email me: [email protected]. Chronic illness can be tough. Let your support people and care team help manage it. You can do it!

Sue Ridder, BSN, RN, CDE
Sue Ridder, BSN, RN, CDE

Sue Ridder, BSN, RN, CDE has been with CHI Health since 2005 and spent part of her nursing career as a psych RN. Currently Sue works in the primary care clinics to provide diabetes education to patients and their loved ones in their medical home. Her true passion is helping people to identify and use their strengths to set and achieve their wellness goals.

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