Living with diabetes isn’t just about managing a health condition. It often requires an entire change in your lifestyle.
Quality of life is your overall satisfaction with your life. It includes your physical and emotional health, your social supports, finances and your ability to participate in and enjoy your daily activities. Living with diabetes type 2 can negatively affect your quality of life. To maintain your health, you have to constantly monitor and adjust your eating, participate in an exercise program and monitor your blood glucose.
If you frequently deal with symptoms from either low or high blood sugar levels, you might live with the constant fear of having to manage diabetes or worry that complications from diabetes will further erode your health. People with diabetes reported that their quality of life decreased after their diagnosis according to a study completed in 2016. They also indicated they spent less time with friends and family and at social events. They felt the number of people in their lives they could rely on lessened after their diagnosis. All of this can diminish your quality of life.
If you aren’t well enough to monitor your glucose levels or don’t feel like eating, your health can suffer. If you are living with depression or anxiety because of or on top of your diabetes, caring for yourself may become difficult. Feeling good about yourself, your illness, and your life means you are more apt to take the necessary steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.
It might seem overwhelming to have to manage both your physical and emotional health. You use up your energy just trying to manage your diabetes. It might seem as if you don’t have any energy left to take care of you. But taking care of your diabetes will help you feel better and give you the energy and desire to care for the other parts of your life according to the booklet Self-Managing Diabetes and Emotional Wellness by the University of Illinois at Chicago. When you eat a healthy diet, exercise, take medications if needed, create a support network and spend time with family and friends you feel better physically and emotionally. Caring for your diabetes doesn’t need to be separate from caring for your emotional needs.
The importance of managing stress
Stress affects you in more than one way when you have diabetes. Not only does stress affect your ability to manage your diabetes but stress hormones may raise blood glucose levels according to the American Diabetes Association. They suggest charting your stress levels along with your blood sugar levels to see how stress affects your diabetes. Before checking your glucose levels, rate your stress level on a scale from one to ten. Keep track of your stress level and your glucose level for several weeks to see if you see a pattern. When your stress levels are high, how does your glucose level react?
Are you at risk of depression?
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing depression than those without diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association. Although it isn’t understood the reasons for this, it may be the additional stress of dealing with a chronic illness or the feelings of isolation that often accompany living with diabetes. If you are struggling to manage your diabetes, the frustration may bring about feelings of depression. Some of the signs of depression to look out for include:
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Change in sleep patterns - either sleeping too much or not enough
- Change in appetite - either eating more than usual or avoiding eating
- Loss of energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
Sometimes, low or high blood sugar levels can make you tired, anxious or change your mood. Blood glucose levels can also affect your sleep and appetite. If your changes in mood are caused, even in part, by blood sugar levels, work with your doctor to find the best way to manage them. Or, if your mood changes are caused by depression, discuss options for managing and treating depression.
Should you see a psychologist?
You might think it odd to see a psychologist to help you manage diabetes or any other physical illness but a psychologist might be able to help according to the American Psychological Association. A psychologist can:
- Help you change behaviors to improve eating habits, activity levels
- Help you create effective strategies for testing blood glucose and taking medication
- Help you accept your diagnosis
- Help you address emotional reactions and accept your diagnosis
- Help you improve your outlook on life
In addition, you might find it helpful to talk to other people who are learning to live with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association provides awareness programs, educational programs and other resources in many communities.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.