Managing Diabetes-Related Anxiety

Anxiety arises as we confront change, contemplate life’s uncertainties, and imagine scary what-if scenarios.

Behind anxiety is a dread of loss, whether it be of pleasure, identity, independence, people we care about, or our health.

On the plus side, anxiety prompts us to take action, which happens to be the best antidote for anxiety.

Six Actions to Reduce Anxiety

Taking steps to manage diabetes may not immediately eliminate anxious feelings but, in time, will establish a redefined comfort zone that includes diabetes management.

  1. Educate yourself about diabetes, even beyond what your doctor shares with you. An intuition supported by knowledge allows people to make the wisest possible decisions.
  2. Stay open and curious about the latest conventional and unconventional treatment options related to your type of diabetes. If something interests you, talk to your doctor about it.
  3. Even if you have never before been disciplined about anything, become disciplined about glucose management. Today’s blood sugar monitoring, medication compliance, food, and activity choices are the determiners of long term health within your control.
  4. Regular exercise relieves feelings of anxiety. Aerobic activities help us burn nervous energy and sleep better at night. Practices such as yoga, Tai chi, or Qi gong teach the anxiety reducing habits of relaxation, breathing effectively, and quieting the mind.
  5. Writing or journaling about anxious feelings is a proven way to help manage them. A journal is also a good place to explore existential issues, and research shows that people who keep a gratitude log, or simply practice daily gratitude, tend to feel happier.
  6. Stay engaged in life: play, pursue your interests, socialize with friends and family, simplify wherever possible, appreciate beauty, and cultivate laughter.

Although action relieves anxiety, it is usually not enough. We also need to share our concerns and receive emotional support.

The Power of Sharing and Support

Anxiety about diabetes, or any serious illness, is existential in nature; it naturally gets us thinking about heady things such as the temporariness of physical existence. Keeping these thoughts hidden makes people feel isolated and alone, increasing anxiety.

It is necessary to share both practical and existential concerns to receive support. Talking to family and friends may suffice, but consider finding a diabetes support group. Not only will you receive encouragement from those who share your experience, but support groups are a great place to pick up diabetes management and coping tips.

If you are doing what you can to manage anxiety, but it is interfering with daily functioning – home, school or work responsibilities – let your diabetes care team know. They may have helpful suggestions and/or may recommend seeing a spiritual advisor or counselor.

Photo credit: chema.foces (@flickr)

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