7 Ways to Beat Stress When You Have Diabetes
Stress triggers can be all around us – at work, at home, or when thinking about finances or health. Experiencing stress when you have diabetes can be particularly challenging, as it can have a knock-on effect on how you manage your condition.
Here are seven ways to help you tackle stress when you have diabetes.
1. Understand the impact of stress on your blood glucose levels
Stress can affect blood glucose, or BG, levels in different ways. Pay closer attention to the relationship between the two and you’ll be able to stay on top of your diabetes management during stressful times.
• To find out how stress is affecting your glucose levels, try keeping a stress diary and rating how stressed you’re feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. Now record your glucose level next to this. After a couple of weeks, see if you can spot a pattern – for example, high stress levels accompanied by high or low BG levels.
• If you use insulin, speak to your diabetes team about adjusting basal insulin levels if you think stress is affecting your BG.
2. Try a relaxation technique
We’ve all experienced negative thoughts that can take over our minds and cloud our thinking. This is where mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is simply being aware of everything around and inside you. By concentrating on the present and turning your attention to your thoughts, emotions and surroundings, you can become more aware of them.
This in itself can be relaxing, but you’ll also learn to become aware of negative beliefs. By practicing regularly, you can learn to spot the patterns of negative thought and realise that they are just ideas (often incorrect or unhelpful ones at that!) and need not take over your whole life.
You can practice mindfulness in a quiet space at home, when eating, or when out walking. Make it part of your daily routine and you may begin to avoid the ‘trap’ of negative thinking.
3. Get moving
Research shows that physical activity can significantly alleviate high levels of anxiety and depression1. Particularly useful are exercises that are rhythmic, aerobic, involve large muscle groups and vary in intensity. So walking, jogging, swimming and cycling are all suitable. A 15-30 minute session three times a week is ideal. Set realistic health goals to help you deal with the stress rather than a vague desire.
Vague: ‘I need to exercise more to cope with the stress.’
Realistic: ‘I will walk for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6pm.’
But, if like so many people, you struggle to find the time, don’t forget that even daily activities such as mopping the house, washing the windows or pushing the lawn mower count as moderate aerobic activities. Always check with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise routine.
4. Sign up for therapy
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your current situation, it might be time to look for external help such as a talking therapy. There are many types of talking therapies where a trained therapist can help you to work through your issues and find positive ways to deal with your challenges. Some popular talking therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling. Although they differ in their methods, both aim to give you a better understanding of your thoughts and emotions and help you find the best way to overcome challenging situations.
5. Discover a new hobby
Some people find that a new leisure activity can help them cope with trying times. A new hobby can help you relax by taking your mind off your current situation. Creative hobbies such as arts or crafts can help you express yourself visually when it’s hard to put your feelings into words. Volunteering or community work is another way to build up your resilience and make a difference to somebody else’s life, too. Helping someone who is facing a worse situation can also help you see your own problems from a different point of view.
6. Talk about it
Sometimes just sharing your feelings with loved ones or friends can help relieve some of the strain. Talking about your situation with someone you know and trust can also help you find practical solutions. If you don’t feel like you can open up to anyone in your life, visiting an online forum where other people are also in the same situation as you can really help. Posting an anonymous question or comment is not as daunting as having a face-to-face chat and you can get to hear suggestions and helpful ideas from people who are in the same boat as you.
7. Find your coping method
How you react to pressure also depends on your own coping style. This is your unique way of responding to the stressful triggers in your life. If you think you are struggling, it might be time to explore a different coping style. There are two common ways of approaching stress:
• Problem-solving. In this approach, you try to find productive ways of solving the problem you are facing and thereby reduce your stress levels.
• Acceptance. If the problem is beyond your control and there is not much you can do to influence the outcome, it may be time to accept the situation and not see it as a stress trigger.
Pullquote: ‘If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your current situation, it might be time to look for external help such as a talking therapy’