6 simple ways to calm diabetes stress

Having diabetes isn’t always easy – but feeling overwhelmed doesn’t have to be part of the deal.
Reducing stress about diabetes

When diabetes is part of your life, it can sometimes feel like your days are all about meters, meds, and tests. And that may leave you feeling out of control and down in the dumps.

It’s no wonder, says Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD. She’s president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “[Diabetes] requires effort to properly care for yourself. Yet, after being diagnosed, you may feel overwhelmed by fear and anger.” 

Turns out, there’s a name for this experience: diabetes distress. And it affects as many as 50% of people who have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You may not have these tough emotions all the time – they can come and go. But it’s important to know that they’re completely normal.

They’re also important to take seriously. “Feelings of distress can weaken your resolve to follow your care plan,” says Dr. Iroku-Malize. 

Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to keep your distress – and your diabetes – in check.

1. Ask for help. Reach out to your diabetes care team. That includes your:

  • Primary care doctor
  • Endocrinologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Diabetes educator and more

They know how common diabetes distress is, and they’re ready to help. They can suggest ways to make managing your diabetes easier, and less stressful, for you. 

2. Recruit your family and friends. Having a support system can be an important part of coping with diabetes-related distress. Sharing your feelings honestly with those who are closest to you may help relieve some of the burden. Your loved ones can also help remind you to take your medications and check your blood sugar. And they can join you in exercising and cooking healthy meals.

3. Move more. Exercise is good for almost everybody, but it’s great for most people with diabetes. It can help lower blood sugar by helping muscles use insulin more effectively. What’s more, exercise can reduce feelings of anxiety and improve sleep. Consult a doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

And don’t forget, eligible members can access free and discounted fitness programs through Blue Shield, including Fitness Your Way™, and for members 65 and older, SilverSneakers®.

4. Stick to a routine. If your diabetes has left you feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to establish a routine. A daily ritual helps people feel calmer and gives them a stronger sense of control. That may lead to self-efficacy – aka the feeling that people can manage whatever life throws their way.

“Having a routine can be very empowering,” says Marjorie Madikoto, CFNP. She’s a diabetes care and education specialist. She suggests making a schedule for everything, from taking medications to going for a walk. It often makes people feel better – and see better results.

5. Cut yourself some slack. “Diabetes is a very complex condition,” says Madikoto. “The disease process itself can cause depression, so don’t blame yourself. Anyone and everyone can have it. We’re all human. And remember, when things go wrong, you can start the journey all over again.” Some ways to get back on track:

  • Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything at once. Instead, focus on one or two small, achievable goals at a time.
  • Talk to other people with diabetes. They know what you’re going through and may be able to offer the emotional support (and practical tips) you need. 
  • Sign up for the Care Management program. You’ll have access to telephone support, educational resources, and a nurse for any questions that pop up. Having an expert team on your side can help reduce your stress.
  • Take time for yourself. Find time each day to do things you enjoy, such as calling a friend, pulling a few weeds from the garden, or listening to music.

Having diabetes may never be exactly easy, but you can get to a place where you manage your condition, rather than the other way around.

6. Sign up for free support with Wellvolution®. Taking care of your mental health is easier with digital tools through Wellvolution – available to eligible Blue Shield members. Without the struggle to make an appointment or take time away from work or family, you can access on-demand mental health programs through Headspace or Ginger. Sign up today.