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Diabetes and your emotions

Diabetes doesn't just affect you physically, it can affect you emotionally too.

Whether you've just been diagnosed or you've lived with diabetes for a long time, you may need support for all the emotions you're feeling. This could be stress, feeling low and depressed, or burnt out. The people around you can feel all of this too. Whatever you're feeling, you are not alone. Here's some information you might find helpful – you might like to share it with family and friends too.

Coronavirus and your emotional health

We know that things feel a little scary and uncertain at the moment because of coronavirus. Your experience of living with diabetes and the stresses it brings may make you more prepared to cope with this situation than most people. 

“Focusing on things you can control could help people living with diabetes, or affected by diabetes, to manage any stress, anxiety or sleeplessness you may be experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic.”

- Dr Rose Stewart, Principal Clinical Psychologist and one of our Clinical Champions

Focus on things you can control

If you're finding yourself worrying, it might help to try to focus on the things that you can control in your life. Here are some tips:

  • Know your sick day rules.
  • Go to appointments if your healthcare team ask you to.
  • Check out your work policies around sickness and time off.
  • Keep important numbers handy. 
  • Know the symptoms of coronavirus and what to do.
  • Make sure you have supplies and repeat prescriptions up to date.
  • Look after your body – try to make healthy food choices, be active, get enough sleep and wash your hands more often. Check out our recipe finder for new ideas.
  • Look after your mind while you're staying at home – keep in touch with friends and family if you can.
  • Say no to things if you need to, and ask for help if you feel you need it.
  • Get your news from reliable sources, but it’s also okay to take a break from the news if it feels too much.

Things you can’t control

Focusing your mind on these won't change things. This can lead to worry, so gently try to redirect your attention.

You might be feeling more vulnerable, because diabetes may make you more vulnerable to becoming unwell if you catch coronavirus. Or you might be worrying about who around you could catch the virus. But you don’t have control over these things, so try to be supportive and understanding for the people who do get coronavirus. It is not your fault if you catch coronavirus. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.

And if you need to self-isolate or have been told to shield, you may have to miss work, school or appointments. This is okay and the best thing to do to look after yourself and others.
You might also be worrying about some diabetes appointments being cancelled or finding it difficult to get hold of your healthcare team. There might be alternative options, like phone or video appointments, so look into these. Most appointments aren’t urgent, but if your diabetes team really need to see you they will send you an appointment. It’s important that you try to go to these.

Not being able to get what you want from the shops can be stressful. You can't control the availability of supplies. Try to be patient and try not to panic buy. If you are having difficulty getting food supplies, we are doing our best to support you. Find out what we're doing.

It’s not easy to stop feelings of anxiety and worry, and these are completely normal responses given the current circumstance. You can't control your feelings, but you can control what you do with them. Talking about how you’re feeling might help.

The mental health charity Mind have put together some useful information too, on taking care of your mental health while staying at home.

Talking about how you feel

Talking about diabetes and how it's making you feel isn’t always easy. It can be hard to get started, or find someone you think you can open up to. Maybe you don't feel like you need to talk about anything or you don't want to burden anyone. But offloading some of what you're feeling has so many benefits, both for you and for those close to you. 

Read our advice on talking about your diabetes. We've got tips to help you start those conversations with your family and friends, your boss at work, and really importantly your healthcare professional team.

 

Stress and diabetes

Everyone can feel stressed from time to time. But having diabetes to manage as well as everything else in life can feel very overwhelming. Stress can affect your blood sugar levels, so it's important you know how to recognise when you're stressed and how to deal with it. We can help you cope with stress when you have diabetes.

"I'm not superwoman and it's difficult to say that. Having been diabetic for more than half my life, I feel I’m not a role model for Oliver if I get stressed about it. But if I’m honest about the stress maybe that is helping him.”

- Amy who has type 1 diabetes and her son Oliver who was diagnosed in 2019.

Coping with being diagnosed

Being diagnosed with diabetes can come as a shock. First reactions may be disbelief, feeling overwhelmed, even anger. Usually these feelings ease after a while and diabetes becomes part of life. But sometimes these feelings don’t go away easily. If you feel this way, you're not alone. 

There are lots of people out there to support you – your family, your friends, your healthcare professional team, and we're here for you too. We can help you get to grips with diabetes and help you find other people going through the same things as you. Take a look at our guide to being diagnosed to help you start adjusting to life with diabetes.

Depression and diabetes

Diabetes can be difficult to live with day to day and get you down, this is completely normal. But if these feelings won't go away, you might have depression. Having depression and diabetes is more common than you might think – people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop depression than people who don't have diabetes. We can help you know the signs of depression and how to manage it.

Diabetes distress

Diabetes can be really tough to live with. Sometimes people feel distressed, which can include feeling frustrated, guilty, sad or worried. It's understandable if you feel this way from time to time – you’re not alone. There are lots of things you can do to help you cope with feeling diabetes distress.

Fear of hypos

Hypoglycaemia or a hypo is when your blood glucose level (blood sugar) goes too low. Not everyone with diabetes can get hypos, but some often worry or get anxious about having them. If these feelings don't go away or start to take over your daily life, then it's important you talk to someone about it. Find out how to work through your hypo anxiety.

Emotions and food

Diabetes can put more of a focus on food and diet. Having to pay close to attention to what you eat and learn new ways to cook can be stressful. Some people find they eat more when they're stressed or eat less because they're feeling low. Eating different foods can have an impact on your mood too – find out more about the link between your feelings and food.

Sometimes, it can mean more of a focus on weight and body image too. This can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, something called
disordered eating, or possibly an eating disorder. Diabulimia is a serious eating disorder that people with Type 1 diabetes can develop. We've got more information on diabulimia and what can help if you're struggling with it.

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