Don’t let diabetes get you down

2010-08-25 00:00

DIABETES is a burden, so don’t feel bad if you sometimes feel overwhelmed. If you feel yourself getting disheartened ask yourself how to get back on track, and choose something simple to get started. Also focus on your successes and not your slip-ups.

Do not beat yourself up for backsliding. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by the demands of diabetes and accepting that you have diabetes does not mean that you have to like it. The more you know about diabetes, the easier it is to manage.

See a diabetes educator on a regular basis to assist with your motivation and for tips on how to manage your condition better.

Decide what support you need from your family, friends, colleagues and health-care team and tell them. Be the manager of your health care. Some of the other areas you may need help with include setting goals, overcoming obstacles and solving problems. Also, don’t be afraid to share your feelings and your fears with your loved ones, as well as your health team. They will want to support you, and you never know, you may find partners to do things such as exercise with you.

A diabetes diagnosis can be one of the most stressful times of your life. How you choose to handle the situation will make a difference as to whether you are successful in managing your diabetes.

By developing and keeping up a positive attitude, and learning to recognise and alleviating stress in your daily routine, you can take charge of your life and feel better about yourself no matter what challenges you face.

With proper planning and support from your health-care team, coping with stress related to living with diabetes can be better managed.

In small doses, stress can be good for you. Your body naturally responds to stress by releasing hormones that energise you. This helps you tackle the challenges and be successful. This explains why some people are more productive close to deadlines or play sport better when they are under pressure.

However, chronic stress can lead to trouble­. Many diseases are made worse, or even cause chronic stress. It can cause things such as migraines, ulcers and depression, affect heart health and increase blood sugar. This increase in blood sugar obviously can affect your blood sugar. So how does this happen?

When your body responds to stress your liver begins to release stored sugars and fats into your bloodstream to help increase your energy levels. This can be a vicious circle, as increased stress leads to release of glucose­ into your bloodstream and so it goes on. It is a circle that needs to be broken by you identifiying the causes of your stress and trying to eliminate them or manage them. Some things you can do to help cope with stress. • Deep breathing — breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Focus on your breathing. When stressed we tend to breathe more shallowly and faster and just changing this can assist with feelings of stress. The same applies to forcing yourself to speak slowly and calmly.

• Laugh out loud — research has shown that doing or watching something funny will alter your mood positively. Stress-related hormones become decreased and positive immune responses increase.

• Discover a positive attitude — attitude is everything. You cannot always control the reasons for your stress, but you can change the way you react to them. Try to become one of the people with a positive outlooks and make the decision not to let the small things in life upset you.

• Take a walk — or do any exercise for that matter. Exercise in any form has been proved to improve coping with stress, and even a walk in the garden will help. Physical activity is still the best way to exert stored energy, get out and get your circulation moving.

• Stay in control — by eating well and controlling­ your blood sugar, you will help your body to resist illness, and you will improve your general wellbeing. Blood sugar levels that are closer to normal may also help to relieve feelings which mimic depression, such as being tired, anxious or inclined to eat more than you usually would. Normal blood sugar­ levels also help prevent illness, which may also make you feel generally out of sorts.

• Do not be afraid to seek professional help — if you feel that things are getting worse, or that you are fighting a losing battle and not coping, consult a professional such as a psychologist­ or psychiatrist who will understand.

Eliminating stress and controlling your blood sugar are processes that do not happen­ immediately. If you set realistic goals, success may come more easily.

— Roche diabetic care.

• Kate Bristow is a professional nursing sister who has specialised in the field of diabetes and diabetic education. She writes a monthly column in The Witn ess. Bristow practises from the St Anne’s Medical Centre in Pietermaritzburg, and can be contacted at 082 406 8707 for further information.

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