How to manage diabetes stress

minute read
March 13, 2023
A type 1 diabetic experiencing stress, holding her head in her hands.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - Liza Summer

Imagine, you’re a happy-go-lucky person, living your life carefree, when you’re suddenly told you have a chronic illness. One you’ll have to manage for your entire life from now on.

That was me in 2019 when I was diagnosed with diabetes.

To say this was a troubling development would be an understatement.

As a casual kind of person, managing blood glucose did not come naturally to me. It was a tricky job and took a lot of effort. After fooling around a bit, I realised I needed proper training and guidance to help me manage. Other diabetic sufferers get depression or anxiety from trying to manage their levels. I got extreme stress.

After some crying and feeling sorry for myself, I got to grips with the task at hand by following a few simple steps.

(Note: I didn’t do all of these at once. It was a very gradual process for me.)

I reflected on myself and my situation

It was important to remember that I was in control. I kept reminding myself that my future was in my own hands, and I needed to study and learn what I needed so I could fight. I listened to success stories and motivated myself.

I told myself: Diabetes can be combated with a clean and active lifestyle, and there are now many food options available for diabetics – This wasn’t the case just a few years ago. There are facilities, programs and technologies available now (like CGMs) that can help me stay on track and discover what works for me and what doesn’t.

I got proper physical and mental medical advice

I quickly realised it was important to regularly visit my endocrinologist and keep track of my physical condition – When I knew I was taking good care of my physical health and getting better, I instantly felt my mental health improve as well.

Sometimes, I felt stressed about the outcomes of my hospital and clinical visits. And I realised it was also important to make an appointment with a mental health specialist too – This didn’t occur to me immediately, and it took me a while to recognise how much I needed it.

Just as a physical illness requires medication, you may also need medication to help control your mental stress. If I could visit a diabetes coach to manage my physical health, why couldn’t I also go to a mental health clinic? It was just as important.

I took my medication regularly

As well as seeing my doctors regularly, I quickly worked out it was crucial to stick to my medication schedule and not miss my prescribed medicines or insulin shots.

When I maintained a routine, it helped me physically and I felt better mentally.

When I missed any of my medicines I often felt tired and mentally exhausted.

So now I make sure to take my medicines regularly and never skip them.

I stayed physically active

Another realisation I made was that staying physically active is vital. It keeps my blood glucose level in control and helps me feel refreshed.

When my blood glucose level is not controlled, it reflects in my behaviour – I get irritable, tired and dizzy.

By staying physically active, I feel good.

So I take 10,000 steps a day and go for brisk walks after every meal. And even working a desk job, I make sure to get up every hour, take a walk around the office, and avoid slipping into a sedentary lifestyle.

I reached out to friends, family and support groups

As well as my doctors, I also learned to reach out to friends and family for support. Reaching out to people who understood me helped get advice and support tailored to me. And it also helped me realise very early on that I wasn’t the odd one out – There were other diabetics all around me.

Maybe someone you know is going through the same situation as you and needs a buddy too – Never assume you’re alone.

So now I reach out whenever I get the chance, and I join internet groups where people openly interact with each other and share what’s on their minds. By doing this, I’ve made diabetic friends at my workplace, in my private life, and online.

Final thoughts

It took me time and effort to manage the complications of my diabetes. But I believe diabetics are fighters, and you just need to stay focused on maintaining a health-focused lifestyle.

Remember, keeping your glucose level in control will also help you control your stress.

And that’s what I strive to do every day, balancing my diabetes and my stress.

Profile photo of Hira Tayyab, a type 1 diabetic.
Hira Tayyab

Hira has been a diabetes fighter since 2019. She was diagnosed at the age of 25, but is very positive about her life ahead. She has trekked, camped, and taken multi-day road trips with her condition, and continues to live a normal life. She's made her career in Software Project Management and aims to simultaneously study, work, freelance and manage a fulfilling personal life.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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