Resilience and Your Blood Sugar

“Resilience is the human capacity to deal with, overcome, learn from, or even be transformed by the inevitable adversities of life,” writes Edith H. Grotberg, author of the book Resilience For Today.

Resilience and Glucose

This capacity to take on adversity and come out ahead has more to do with diabetes than you might think. Research reveals a correlation between people's resilience and their blood glucose level:

  • In 2008, the British Journal of Health Psychology published a study showing that people with low to moderate resilience demonstrated a strong association between heightened distress and worsening glycemic control—evidenced by rising A1C values.
  • More recently, in 2011, a research report in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners revealed a high capacity for resilience was correlated with lower A1C percentages.

The faculty for resilience also touches on our overall quality of life, since those with a greater ability to manage difficulty experience less mental and emotional distress.

Cultivating Resilience

While it is true some of us reach adulthood with less resilience than others, there are several things we can do to increase our aptitude for dealing with adversity, such as:

  • Humor and A Sense of Play. Most of us have experienced how laughter reduces tension, diminishes both physical and psychological pain, and helps us adjust our perspective. It’s easy to add extra humor to our lives if we have a mind to.
  • We can also introduce levity into our stressed lives by approaching problems with an attitude of play. In his book The Survivor Personality, Al Siebert discusses how playing, or toying with a situation makes us more powerful than when exercising sheer determination. “The person who toys with the situation creates an inner feeling of ‘This is my plaything; I am bigger than it . . . I won’t let it scare me,’” says Siebert.
  • Quieting the Mind. We can quiet the mind by giving our full attention to whatever situation, task, feeling, or conversation is at hand. When we do this - without passing judgment on what is occurring - the mind becomes more still.
  • When our mind is still, ideas for managing or solving problems can “dawn” on us through our intuitive faculties. We become more aware of our gut instinct about things, and are more sensitive to feelings and emotions. What’s more, science backs this up.
  • Research using PET and MRI images indicates that when our brains seem to be silent and passive, areas associated with memory, processing emotionally charged events, and decision-making are actually quite busy.
  • Garnering Support. We should never confuse resilience with going-it-alone. We can increase our capacity for resilience by expanding our support network, and asking for assistance when we need it.
  • Acts of resilience include socializing, joining support groups, expressing our feelings to trusted family and friends, consulting with our diabetes care team, and sometimes utilizing the services of a professional mental health counselor.

Though there is an element of self-sufficiency in rising above our problems, resilience is more a product of interdependence than independence. Since interdependence is a two-way street, we can also nurture a flair for resilience by giving of ourselves to others.

Sources: NCBI; NCBI; 5 Ways To Build Resiliency; Siebert, Al, The Survivor Personality, Perigree, 2010; Grotberg, Edith Henderson, Resilience for Today: Gaining Strength from Adversity; Praeger, 2003.
Photo credit: Vladimir Agafonkin

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