May 10, 2019
Diabetes Distress: Moving towards becoming a champion of wellness!
Living with diabetes 24 hours a day is tiring, and when blood sugar keeps going up, you may feel frustration or sadness associated with difficulty managing your diabetes and keeping your blood sugars or HBA1C within target range. If you have recently developed a complication from diabetes such as kidney damage, you may feel like you are losing control, which can lead to feelings of shame and helplessness. People with diabetes must plan, prepare, organize, think ahead and think of every possible event and obstacle to make sure that they can take care of themselves, while also doing all of the things they want to do, whether that is going to university, having a family or trying to build a career. It is understandable if you feel frustrated and overwhelmed from time to time – it’s known as diabetes distress and you’re not alone. If you don’t manage this distress, things can get worse and could lead to burnout.
It is important to know the symptoms of diabetes distress, so you can seek help when you are feeling down or sad. Some common symptoms include:
• Loss of pleasure: you no longer take interest in doing things that you used to enjoy.
• Change in sleep patterns: you have trouble falling asleep, wake often during the night or sleep more than usual.
• Changes in appetite: you eat more or less than you used to, resulting in a quick weight gain or weight loss.
• Trouble concentrating: when you watch a television program or read a book, other thoughts constantly intrude.
• Loss of energy: you feel tired or easily fatigued
• Guilt: you may feel you “never do anything right” and worry that you are a burden to others.
• Physical signs include muscle tension, headaches, teeth grinding, upset stomach, shakiness, sweating
Prolonged periods of stress or depression can cause the body to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and other hormones, such as glucagon and cortisol. Because of this, more glucose is released from the liver and the body becomes less sensitive to insulin; this is what causes blood sugar levels to rise.
At times of stress, it’s even more important to remember to look after yourself and treat yourself kindly.
But we know it’s not always as easy as that. If you’re extra busy at work or looking after family then forgetting to eat or take medication can happen.
It’s important to get a balance between looking after yourself without putting too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly. This can add or lead to stress. But it’s good to be aware of how easy it can be to give into the habit of letting diabetes self-care slip in times of stress.
Getting enough sleep and building exercise, rest and relaxation time into your routine helps some people cope better with stress.
We want to take this diabetes “monster” and turn it into something that is multi-dimensional, so that we can see that along with the negative qualities, there are some deeply positive ones. Being mindful is being aware of what is happening within yourself and in the world around you. It is being aware of what you are doing and why, being aware of what is working and what is not working for you. It is always being aware of possibilities, of the choices you have in every situation.
By becoming more mindful and self-aware, diabetes can become a teacher. Diabetes can teach you about balance, creating a deep sense of patience and an ability to let go when things don’t go your way. These are all deeply spiritual values that diabetes reinforces every day. What can we do on a practical level to cultivate this shift? First off, you can meditate. Engaging in 15 minutes of meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga every day helps people lower stress levels and shifts perspective into a more contemplative mindset.
Managing diabetes day in and day out can be overwhelming, but learning to say thanks for the little gifts in life has helped some live better with the disease. In developing a practice of gratitude, considering friends and family members in your life is integral. One of the things that helps some stay in the mood of gratitude is taking pictures of special moments with loved ones and printing them so you can look back on these treasured times in the future.
Talking about what’s making you stressed can help. It may put something into perspective, or you may just feel relieved about getting it off your chest. If you want to talk to someone about things that are worrying you, you could think about speaking to your diabetes team.
Special shout out to the nurses who dedicate their lives to helping people with diabetes live their best lives. Happy Nursing Week! (May 6 to May 12)
We would love to know what inspires you to be champion of wellness.
Please share your stories or pictures on social media #whatinspiresme #championofwellness
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Joslin Diabetes Center.2019. Retrieved from
American Association of Diabetes Educators. 2017. Retrieved from
American Diabetes Association. 2019. Stress. Retrieved from
Diabetes.co.uk The Global Diabetes Community. 2019. Diabetes and Stress.
Diabetes UK, 2019. Stress and Diabetes. Retrieved from