A lot of people do not think about how physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting having diabetes can be at times. It is important to maintain your mental health to ensure you can manage your diabetes and manage it well.
According to the CDC, diabetics are two to three times more likely to be depressed and 20% more likely to have anxiety. You may be wondering why that is.
Consider the goals: maintain a blood sugar in the range of 70 to 180 mg/dL (3.9 to 10.0 mmol/L) for 70% of the day and have an A1C below 7%. Consider having to make upwards of 180 extra decisions every day to achieve those goals. Consider having to pick up the slack and act like an organ that should be regulating your blood sugar automatically.
Consider timing your meals around your workouts, so you do not experience a low blood sugar mid-workout. If a diabetic uses a CGM, like I do, consider alarms indicating hyper- and hypoglycemic episodes going off at 2:00 AM mid-REM sleep or at 2:00 PM mid-work meeting. This is just the tip of the iceberg; I'm stressed just listing the pressures. Continually miscalculating boluses or completely disregarding treatment can lead to serious complications and/or death.
Diabetes management can be daunting and overwhelming from time to time. A lot of my day is spent thinking about diabetes and how everything I do will impact my blood sugar later, thus impacting my health in the long run. I do a lot to ensure I am remaining centered, happy and motivated to care for myself properly.
How I Maintain My Mental Health
1. Get active. Working out has always been a stress reliever for me. If I am feeling overwhelmed, I get dressed, tie up my shoes and I run. Or I weightlift. Or I cross train. It doesn't matter. I move! In times when I need to get active for my sanity, I do not set a time limit or a distance for the activity. I, simply, do what feels good until the stress/anxiety lifts. (The effect on my blood sugars and insulin sensitivity is an added bonus.)
2. Talk it out. I keep a journal - always have. Sometimes though, writing is not enough. I spew all my thoughts onto paper, but there are still anxiety, confusion and frustration inside me. That is when I turn to my support system. Sometimes it is my mama or my fiance or my BFF or Instagram, but no matter what I am sharing my thoughts and feelings with someone else. I voice my concerns, my wins and my shortcomings. Not so much for validation, but for relief. I share my thoughts free of judgement and in hopes I will shine light on life with diabetes. Words are powerful and talking about how you are feeling can bring a new sense of clarity and freedom.
3. Take "Me Time". Self care is defined as "the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health". For some, that is a face mask and a bubble bath. For others, it is working out. For me, it is reading a good book in the sunshine or completing a DIY project. Whatever it is that brings you peace and joy, do it! Carve out time in your schedule to do what you enjoy. Do not be afraid to do things alone. Taking time to do the things I love - alone! - gives me the freedom to express, withdrawal or think without any outside influence.
4. Maintain healthy habits. Within an 18-month period, 33 to 50% of diabetics experience diabetic distress, or burnout. The stress, anxiety and exhaustion surrounding blood sugar control can make you want to throw in the towel. I have been there. I wanted to rip off the CGM and resort to finger sticks because the constant high and low alerts and constant flow of data were driving me mad. So, I did. I gave myself a break from the tech. I checked my BG five times a day instead of 150 times a day.
What I didn't do was rage on sweets, disregard carb-to-insulin ratios or stop taking insulin. As daunting as the decisions can be, I know my being alive is a result of the decisions I make surrounding my diabetes management. When diabetes is overwhelming, change what can be changed without harming your physical well-being, your ability to wake up, to breathe, to function.
We all get burnt out, but we are built to overcome it. You are strong. You are capable. You will get through this.
May is National Mental Health Month. I encourage you to join The Diabetic Therapist's 10 Days of Diabetes & Mental Health campaign on Instagram. Do not be afraid to share your experiences. If sharing on social media is not for you, please reach out to me personally. I will be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or just a presence in the room. I know the stresses and anxieties of living with this disease.
I am here for you!
The information contained in this blog is a compilation of thoughts, opinions, and personal experience. Information is researched and gathered from reputable sources, but Ice Cream and Insulin is not responsible for errors or omissions in reporting or explanation. The discussions should not be considered advice, medical or otherwise. If you have concerns about your health, the information should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat. Please consult a physician before making any changes to your medical plan.