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Chronically Growing with Diabetes: Mental Health and Well-Being with Diabetes

by Katie Little, MS CNP, Institute Fellow


Living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or any chronic condition for that matter, comes along with a lot of various feelings and emotions. As Kid President says, “Give people high fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes!” We must do something with these feelings and emotions that we have. We must first recognize that they exist, then we must feel them, and finally we must decide what to do about them. If we choose not to be an active participant in the process, they may overtake us and emerge at unexpected times.

As someone living with Type 1 diabetes, I can sometimes feel overwhelmed and tired. Life in general can be busy and stressful day in and day out. Life in a pandemic can bring about other unrecognizable or intruding feelings, and diabetes sometimes compounds those feelings. A study done by Stanford University in 2014, showed that on average, people with Type 1 diabetes make 180 extra decisions every day. That is exhausting to think about! On top of waking up, getting ready for the day, eating and packing food for the time you are away, performing your daily expected tasks at work or school, tending to family and relationship needs, and exercising, thoughts related to your health are also jabbing at your mind. 180 jabs, on average, that someone without Type 1 diabetes might not experience.

It is helpful to have individuals in your corner as a support to you in managing your diabetes. Some of these individuals may include family, friends, or trained health care professionals such as a social worker, counselor, or therapist. Additionally, diabetes technology can help reduce the burden of decision making placed on the individual living with diabetes. For example, having a continuous glucose monitor that alerts when blood sugar levels are too high, or too low, can provide a sense of safety and peace of mind for the person living with diabetes or someone loving an individual with diabetes.

Managing your mental health and well-being is important for anyone to be healthy. It is even more critical for someone living with diabetes since added stress can impact blood sugar levels. Here a few tips to consider this week as you focus on improving your mental health and well-being with diabetes:

  1. Make a list of diabetes related things that add stress to your life (financial expenses, out of range blood sugar levels, food, etc.).

  2. Talk with your doctor about resources they may have to help maintain or improve your mental health and well-being.

  3. Actively investigate the resources provided, and act on them.

  4. Note how you feel (less stress, better sleep, overall healthier feeling, etc.) once acting on those resources.

  5. Additionally, consider something you can do weekly to maintain or improve your self-care (read a book, go on a walk with a friend, meditate or pray, relax in a bath, go for a jog, get a massage, etc.).

As you consider the tips above, and the feelings you are experiencing, you are becoming an active participant in your mental health and well-being. Keep in mind, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to keep trying! Join us next week as we focus more on the mental health around diabetes.


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