How to Manage Diabetes Distress

April 02,2020 |

Living with diabetes is hard. There’s unpredictability with each day and sometimes, frustration becomes overwhelming and you just want to throw in the towel. Unfortunately, with diabetes, that’s not an option. It’s a chronic disease that requires consistent medical care throughout your entire life. But the weight of dealing with diabetes is very real and has a huge impact on the quality of your life. You’re not alone. There are so many people that struggle to live with diabetes that it has its own name: diabetes distress. In this article, we’ll talk about what diabetes distress is and how to manage diabetes distress. 

 

What is Diabetes Distress?

Diabetes distress is an emotional response to living with diabetes.1 It occurs when a person feels burdened by the relentless daily self-management and the potential long-term complications of diabetes.1 Over time, these thoughts can intensify and cause disruption to daily life. In addition to managing the disease itself, people that experience diabetes distress often feel socially isolated and anxious about finances.

Diabetes distress is similar to that of depression only in that it can be measured on a continuum. At times, diabetes distress may be severe; while at other times only mild.1 The dynamic spectrum of diabetes distress means that it fluctuates from person-to-person and day-to-day. Some days, no diabetes distress occurs. Other days, diabetes distress is an all-consuming emotion. The reason that this fluctuates so often is that diabetes is an unpredictable disease, which is extremely frustrating for anyone trying to live life with any type of schedule or routine.

Many people who experience diabetes distress feel at least one of the following:2 

  • Overwhelm by life with diabetes
  • Concern with the success of diabetes management
  • Worry about long-term complications
  • Guilt if daily management goes off track
  • Frustration at the lack of control

The first thing to understand is that you’re not alone in these feelings. Many people with diabetes suffer from diabetes distress at some point in their lives—if not repeatedly. Diabetes is a frustrating condition and you have every right to feel distressed. Unfortunately, you can’t change your diagnosis. You can, however, change how you manage diabetes distress.

Common Signs or Symptoms of Diabetes Distress

Prior to learning how to manage diabetes distress, you have to understand how to spot signs of symptoms of diabetes distress. When it happens, we tend to get in our heads and often can’t look past whatever emotion we’re currently feeling. When you start to understand what feelings are normal and what feelings are indications of distress, you can make a conscious effort to get help and take back your life.

If you notice any of these feelings or behaviors, you might be suffering from diabetes distress. Try not to isolate yourself and instead, seek help from a close friend, family member, or a healthcare professional.

Some of the most common signs of diabetes distress include:3

  • Feeling alone and isolated
  • Feeling angry about diabetes
  • Feeling frustrated with diabetes management demands
  • Feeling worried or anxious about not taking care of your diabetes, but also not feeling motivate to change your behaviors
  • Avoidance of appointments
  • Avoidance of checking your blood sugar
  • Regularly making unhealthy food choices

Life with diabetes is hard, but continuing with some of the actions above could be fatal. If you think that you might be suffering from diabetes distress, reach out to someone, or try a few of these tips on managing diabetes distress.

 

Managing Diabetes Distress

If we start to feel distressed or overwhelmed, it’s easy to get stuck in a downward spiral. Sometimes, all it takes to remind you that life is more than your diagnosis is a little change in attitude and open communication. Other times, it might be a bit more difficult. Either way, it’s worth making an effort to try to get out of diabetes distress and start seeing the positive in life again. To help, here are a few great tips on how to manage diabetes distress.

Don’t Blame Yourself

First and foremost, stop blaming yourself. Diabetes is hard to manage for everyone, not just you, so there’s nothing wrong with the way you’re feeling. Diabetes isn’t a perfect equation and while this is frustrating, it’s not your fault when outcomes aren’t what are expected. Just because your blood glucose levels aren’t reading what you thought they would be, doesn’t mean you’re failing. It’s a constant effort, but it’s not a reflection of who you are.2 

Give Yourself a Break

Going hand-in-hand with the above statement, you need to try to give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself and look for the positive. You’re trying and that’s what matters. Your body is unpredictable and as long as you’re making a conscious effort towards staying healthy, you need to allow yourself some time to relax. Take a mental break from diabetes and try to stop thinking about it while you take a nice bath, get a massage, or spend a night out with friends.

Listen to Your Feelings

While we can tell you to be kind to yourself and give yourself a break, it’s hard to ignore your feelings when they’re saying the opposite. Try to listen to them. If things don’t get better, maybe it’s a sign that you need some extra support—and that’s okay! Having a support system is an integral part of staying sane for most people in life. Finding people you feel comfortable talking with, or people you can relate to, will help relieve some of your distress.

Communicate with Friends or Family

With that being said, try to communicate openly with your friends or family. While they might not understand what you’re going through, they do love you and will listen to what you say. Be open and honest with them, you might be surprised at the outcome.

Get Professional Support

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends or family about your diabetes distress, consider getting professional support. It’s absolutely normal and your doctor has more than likely had many other patients who have been in the same situation. Healthcare professionals are able and willing to help you with whatever you need to better manage your diabetes distress.

Join a Diabetes Support Group

If talking to a professional doesn’t seem appealing, join a diabetes support group. Diabetes support groups are filled with other people who are going through exactly the same thing as you, which means that you’ll be around people that can relate to your feelings. Not only will this help improve your diabetes distress, you’ll get a chance to see that life with diabetes doesn’t have to revolve around diabetes. You can find more information on how to join a diabetes support group here.

Take Things Day-by-Day

One thing that can help manage diabetes distress is taking things day-by-day, sometimes even hour-by-hour. Think of small goals that you can accomplish instead of big ones. Focus on the little details, not the big picture. This will help you focus on your tasks at hand so that you can get things done and start feeling accomplished with the progress you’ve made.

Make Time to do What you Love

Finally, regardless of your schedule, make time to do what you love. Don’t let diabetes make you feel like you can’t have hobbies or a social life. Set aside time in your day or week to do something that fuels your fire. It’s the best way to combat distress and bring joy to your day.

Conclusion

Managing diabetes comes with a lot of mental struggles, including diabetes distress. Remember that living a healthy, active lifestyle will make things easier, but they won’t make them perfect. At times, you will feel frustration and that’s okay. Just make sure that you find a support group and don’t give up! If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional for help. Always continue to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels. If you need any blood glucose meters or continuous glucose monitoring devices, Byram Healthcare has you covered. We’re proud to provide you with the latest technology in diabetes management, including continuous glucose monitoring. We’ll work with your insurance provider and doctor to ensure you’re supported from start to finish, maximizing your coverage while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. For more information and added support on diabetes management, sign up for Byram Healthcare’s Caring Touch At Home Program. We focus on providing exceptional customer service and top-of-the-line brand name products while lowering your overhead costs. The Caring Touch At Home Program combines convenience, affordability, and choice to deliver extensive service and support to everyone living with diabetes. 

For added support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Byram’s Diabetes Center of Excellence—a one source, total solution for diabetes care. Our Center of Excellence combines high quality products with clinical and educational research to help you better manage your condition, support all of your needs, and live a long, healthy life.

Sources:

1https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/resources/shared-practice/psychological-care/emotional-health-professionals-guide/chapter-3-diabetes-distress

2https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/diabetes-distress-fact-sheet/

3https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/emotions/diabetes-burnout

 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE