Most people with diabetes are aware of potential complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure. However, people with diabetes also need to be aware of the mind and body connection. Learn more about mental health and how to cope with diabetes-related depression and stress.
- Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is caused by a lack of insulin or insensitivity to insulin. Often pharmaceuticals and natural health products are recommended by doctors to help improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of diabetes-related diseases such as nerve damage, cardiovascular problems, kidney failure and blindness. Sometimes the mental health implications of living with diabetes are overlooked. A complete approach helps people with diabetes maintain a healthier body and mind.
- People with diabetes are twice as likely as people without diabetes to suffer from anxiety and depression. Stress may be associated with having the disease or keeping up with a diabetes self-management plan that could include a special diet, medications, exercise and other maintenance. Depression can lead to passive behavior and avoidance which could cause a person with diabetes to neglect or even abandon his or her diabetes self-management plan. This can lead to other health complications associated with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. People with depression also tend to have higher incidences of gastrointestinal symptoms that could impact when and how they eat. Some patients with type 2 diabetes have a “Type D personality.” People with this distressed personality may experience emotional distress and increased loneliness.
- While having diabetes type 2 can increase the likelihood of mental health issues, there are various ways to overcome them for better psychological health. Yoga can calm the nervous system and build better body awareness. Breathing and stretching exercises help boost muscle strength and flexibility while minimizing stress and depression. It can relieve chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and promote improved cardiovascular function.
- Meditation is a way to help people focus on the present, have a positive attitude, relieve pain and ward off sleep issues. It can also reduce feelings of depression. Massage therapy can help reduce anxiety, improve the use of insulin and increase blood circulation to essential areas of the body. Certain supplements such as chromium or Rhodiola may help. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise regime or holistic therapies including supplements
- Other mental issues associated with diabetes include a decline in memory, reduced thinking speed and minimized mental flexibility. Recent research revealed improved blood sugar control can help prevent some of these mental health effects. Discuss updates to your diabetes self-management plan with your doctor, including your schedule for insulin and medications. Test your blood sugar regularly and report the results to your doctor during routine visits. Any extreme highs or lows should be shared with your doctor immediately.
- Proper diet and exercise are an essential part of any effective diabetes self-management plan. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Make exercise fun so you look forward to it rather than dread it. Regular exercise can boost the feel-good endorphins in your body and help relieve stress.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, lean meats and fish, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Keep up with proper portion sizes. Have three meals and at least two snacks daily to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. Invest in a diabetes cookbook to make creative and delicious recipes so you never feel deprived.
- Take time to be social and have fun. Often diabetes self-management takes up a large portion of the day. Unwind with friends, talk on the phone or play a game that can help boost your memory, such as Sudoku. Rediscover a favorite hobby such as reading, jogging or doing crafts. Join a club to encourage you to continue to pursue hobbies and interests you enjoy.
- If feelings of stress or depression linger for more than a few weeks, discuss them with your physician. It can help to talk to a counselor or psychologist about how you feel. Support groups can also be beneficial. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
As you take care of your body with diabetes, make sure to consider your mind. Positive habits can help you maintain better blood sugar control and reduce the symptoms of mental health issues such as depression or stress. If you continue to feel anxious or depressed, discuss your feelings with your doctor to get the help you need.