In 2021, more than 537 million people worldwide were living with diabetes and this number is expected to grow exponentially by 2045. Although there are several types of diabetes with different treatment methods and outcomes, all people with diabetes can have their mental health significantly affected by their condition. In this article, we are going to discuss how diabetes affects your emotional, psychological, and social well-being and share some tips for lowering stress and maintaining a positive attitude.
Ways Diabetes Affects Your Mental Health
Receiving the initial diagnosis of diabetes mellitus causes a lot of distress to a person or their caregivers. It can take a lot of time the accept the diagnosis as this is something that completely changes your life and your perspective. One second you consider yourself healthy and the next you have a chronic condition for the rest of your life. Remember this – diabetes affects millions of people around the world and despite it being a challenging undertaking, they manage it and live a happy and fulfilling life. If they can do it, so can you!
Don’t be shy to seek help! It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about your questions and concerns as they can provide you with additional resources and education materials. They can even set you up with counseling or support groups with people who have also been diagnosed recently. This is where you could comfortably disclose your condition to others without judgment.
Adapting to this whole new lifestyle may take a toll on your mental health. There are a bunch of new things you have to learn and think about now. From getting used to diabetes technology like pumps, pens, glucometers, CGMs, mobile apps, etc., to understanding how different foods affect your blood sugar levels – what to eat, how often, and which insulin or medication fits your needs best? It’s important to understand how your medications work and their side effects, which can be overwhelming.
Moreover, new dietary choices and exercise are very intimidating. They can cause a lot of worry in situations, like eating dinner at a restaurant or going to a family cookout. It might seem that you finally got the hang of things but there is always something else that pops up. Then you have to add it to the list of things you have to keep in mind, like possible complications or clinician check-ups. With all of this anxiety, just remember to take baby steps.
Feeling left out can be overwhelming and many people who live with long-term health conditions often feel lonely and misunderstood. Thanks to the digital age, communication options haven’t been wider, which is an amazing opportunity for people seeking support. When it comes to diabetes, talking to people who also have the condition is key, as they understand you in a way nobody else can. After all, they live through the same ups and downs just as you – an experience a friend or spouse without diabetes, cannot understand completely.
Support groups, online forums, therapy sessions, even YouTube channels, and social media influencers are all places where you can find relief, encouragement, and most importantly – a sense of belonging.
The Connection Between Blood Sugar and Mental Well-being
Unfortunately, diabetes often leads to depression symptoms like sadness, restlessness, lack of energy, and trouble concentrating. As changes in blood sugar can cause similar symptoms, it’s important to maintain and record proper blood glucose levels. This will help you determine the cause of your problems and act accordingly.
Diabetes amplifies mood swings by sudden changes in blood glucose levels. Signs of it include irritability, anxiety, or feeling uncomfortable. Furthermore, did you know that women with gestational diabetes (developed during pregnancy) are more likely to have postpartum depression? Some studies suggest that the link between the two conditions is due to inflammation, which plays a role in both gestational diabetes and postpartum depression.
However, with the correct blood sugar management, healthy lifestyle choices, and support from family, friends, and peers, these problems are more likely to be resolved. While the worry about other health complications potentially arising – shouldn’t be ignored, it’s important to try finding a balanced approach to diabetes management and gain as much as possible from the available resources.
Tips to Improve Your Mental Health
Now that we’ve discussed several ways how diabetes can affect your psychological well-being, let’s go over some great tips to improve your mental health and positivity.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
It’s important to maintain your blood sugar levels within the range that your doctor outlines. As we discussed before, sudden changes in blood sugar levels can cause mood swings or hyper- and hypoglycemic episodes. So, eat a healthy, balanced diet to prevent mental health changes. If you’re not sure where to start, the American Diabetes Association is a great resource for diet guidelines and meal options.
- Start Exercising
Exercise is an important aspect of maintaining blood glucose levels in range, as well as lowering your Hemoglobin A1C. Also, exercise is proven to reduce stress and improve your emotional state. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine! You don’t have to participate in vigorous exercise. It can be as simple as walking, riding a bicycle, or practicing yoga, which will decrease stress levels as well.
- Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can have a major impact on your physical and mental health. Try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep per night. Some great tips that help with falling asleep are limiting exposure to blue light from phones or other screens close to your bedtime as well as limiting caffeine intake during the day. If you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your health care provider for advice.
- Increase Your Knowledge
Learning more about diabetes can help you maintain a positive attitude and practice proper diabetes self-management. By understanding more about diabetes and blood sugar control, you will be able to make necessary lifestyle changes. You may even join a diabetes education group or teach others about diabetes and everything surrounding this complex condition.
- Find a new hobby
Sometimes what we need is a distraction. A chronic condition like diabetes can be overpowering one’s thoughts, so finding the time to “get lost” in something enjoyable, can help distract your mind and make you feel more relaxed.
To sum up, diabetes is a challenge for your body not only physically but also mentally, which is why it’s important to pay attention to both aspects of your overall well-being. Leading a healthy lifestyle, finding the right support system, and having a simple but sufficient way of tracking blood sugar levels is essential. The Diabetes:M app helps people with any type of diabetes to manage their condition in a breeze. Have you tried it out?
Amanda Marten, MSN, FNP-C is a certified family nurse practitioner and freelance health writer. With eight years of nursing experience, she has worked in a variety of specialties including urgent care, post-surgical, intensive care, and travel nursing. As a healthcare provider, she is passionate about diabetic patient education and management.