When Depression Accompanies Diabetes: How to Cope
Diabetics with depression tend to have higher glucose levels than those not depressed, and depression makes daily diabetes management more difficult.
So tell your doctor about problems with sleeping, focusing, anxiety, irritability, lethargy, hopelessness or sadness. He or she will want to know how long the symptoms have persisted and how they affect your daily functioning.
Unless you have a history of depression, these symptoms are likely temporary, and there is much you can do to hasten their departure. To begin, accept your feelings.
Depression and Feelings
Anger, fear, disappointment, sadness, fatigue, grief and overwhelm are all natural responses to intrusive change. None of these feelings is wrong or a sign of weakness.
Emotions and feelings, even the uncomfortable ones, are meant to be felt. Denied feelings are like trapped birds; they may flap about fearfully or angrily trying to get free or lose hope and sit in sadness. When we acknowledge and feel our emotions, they are free to come and go or flow.
Unfortunately, we often think of emotions as being either positive or negative. It is more beneficial to think of them as information about the internal state of our affairs. We need to take this information into consideration when choosing our actions.
To relieve depression, you must often make yourself do things you know are good for you, since you cannot rely on pleasurable feelings for motivation.
Socialize, use your supports and ask for help. Getting emotional support will help you manage diabetes, and good diabetes management will empower and strengthen you emotionally. Remember, asking for help and seeking support are signs of strength. Others do not always notice our needs, even when they are glaringly obvious to us.
Educate yourself about diabetes. Reading and learning are distractions from depressive thoughts and feelings. More important, understanding diabetes will enable you to make wise management choices. You may also want to indulge in some education about depression.
Did you know that the two illnesses have things in common? Signs of depression such as anxiety, irritability, fatigue and restlessness are also symptoms of high or low blood sugar; and depression and type 2 diabetes share the risk factors of family history, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and heart disease. It is all good to know.
Eat well and keep moving. Fortunately, both depression and diabetes are helped by good nutrition and regular exercise. Unfortunately, when feeling depressed, it is difficult to get moving or care about what you eat. If necessary, enlist the help of family and friends to help you prepare nutritious meals or to exercise with you.
Be aware of your thoughts. Accepting a diagnosis of diabetes will, for most people, trigger a period of adjustment – a time of sorting through thoughts, beliefs and feelings that previously did not include diabetes.
If thoughts about yourself and having diabetes are continuously negative or self-defeating, they will naturally depress your mood. Talking with family and friends or writing about these thoughts may help resolve them. However, if they persist, consider joining a support group or seeing a cognitive-behavioral therapist.
Get enough sleep. Expert suggestions for improving sleep are retiring and rising at the same times every day, keeping the bedroom dark and cool at night, using the bedroom only for sleep (no TV or computer) and keeping a bedtime routine or ritual.
Learn relaxation techniques. Controlled breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation are both aces at relaxing the body and quieting the mind. However, the best technique to have is one that works for you and one that you will use – it may take some searching and experimentation.
Pursue known interests and take small steps. Depression has a way of taking the pleasure out of pleasurable activities. Still, it is important to stay as engaged in your interests as possible.
When depressed, it often helps to do things in bite-sized pieces of time. If you cannot read for half an hour, read for five or 10 minutes. If your knitting needles seem too heavy to pick up, set a timer and knit for five minutes. When the timer goes off, stop knitting or continue.
Stay safe. If your symptoms are so severe that you worry about keeping yourself safe, call your doctor, a crisis line or 911.
Source: American Diabetes Association
Photo credit: gorchakov.artem / flickr