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Dealing With Difficult Emotions

Emotions and diabetes

Have you ever noticed when you’re feeling stressed that your blood sugar goes up? If so, you’re not alone. Everyone experiencesup and downs throughout their life, but living with a chronic condition like diabetes can cause additional difficult emotions as you try to manage your disease with an uncertainty of the future. On top of stressors often experienced by most people, people living with diabetes have additional stressors like high and low blood sugar levels, changing medications, challenges with healthy eating and exercise, and complications from diabetes. It’s important to understand that managing our difficult emotions is just as important as healthy eating, exercise, taking our medications as prescribed, and working with our healthcare professionals.

When we are experiencing difficult emotions, we’re affected in different ways. One of those ways is an increase in blood sugar. When we become stressed, our body releases hormones that cause our blood sugar to increase. It’s our body’s way of preparing for battle; you may have heard about fight or flight. Releasing hormones is our body’s way of making sure that our cells have the sugar and energy they need to take action. While this may be beneficial in some situations and for some people, it can be unhealthy for those living with diabetes, especially if this happens on a regular basis or for an extended period of time.

What happens when we are emotional

Difficult emotions can also cause us to not care for ourselves the way we need to when living with diabetes. Difficult emotions like anxiety and sadness may make us want to eat more and crave sweets. They may also make us feel like we don’t want to be the best self-managers we can be—slacking off on exercise, not sticking to healthy eating guidelines, and not testing our blood sugar as needed. When dealing with grief or depression, we may even become confused or forgetful, which can lead to skipped meals, forgotten medications, and poor hydration. This may lead to high or low blood sugar.

When dealing with depression, symptoms that last for more than 2 weeks, it’s important that you talk to your healthcare provider about medications, counseling, and other therapies that can help. Depression is a medical condition that can be treated. When dealing with grief, it’s important to stay in touch with others. You may have family and friends that can help. It can be someone from your religious institution or a club you are a part of. There may even be a grief support group available to you in person or virtually—a group of other individuals experiencing the grieving process, led by a trained leader.

How to manage diabetes and difficult emotions

There are many ways to deal with those other  difficult emotions you may be experiencing. Some people find that prayer and meditation help to lift their spirits. Techniques like a distraction, body scans, and guided imagery can help to ease the mind, relax the body, and have you think about something other than what is causing your difficult emotions. These techniques can even help you fall to sleep at night when difficult emotions are keeping you awake. You can find examples of these on YouTube, CDs you can purchase, and phone apps. Spending time volunteering and socializing with family and friends can make us laugh, relax and distract us. Sometimes you may not want to share your thoughts with others, so journaling can allow you to share your thoughts in a different way. Starting each day with positive affirmations and a gratitude journal can help you to get ahead of the difficult emotions. Healthy eating and exercise are important for diabetes management but also managing our difficult emotions. Healthy eating helps us to get the nutrients and vitamins we need to boost our overall outlook. Exercise helps to relieve muscle tension, release feel-good chemicals called endorphins and distract us.

Dealing with difficult emotions is part of life for everyone but especially important for those living with diabetes. So much of what we can do to deal with difficult emotions is free and easy to utilize. We just need to give those tools a try and figure out what works best for us. If we can deal with our difficult emotions in a healthy way, we have a better chance of staying on track with managing our diabetes and preventing complications that come with the disease.


About the author

Megan Craley is the Health & Wellness Coordinator for York County Area Agency On Aging. She is a leader for Living Well With Diabetes, a diabetes self-management program, offered by York County Area Agency On Aging. She is also a member of the Diabetes Coalition of York County.

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