Managing stress with type 1 diabetes is a key to better glucose control. In part one of this article we discussed how stress affects your ability to control your blood sugar. In this article we’ll explore practical ways you can actually manage your stress.
1. Manage What You Can Control
The all-important first step is to distinguish between those parts of your stress that you have some measure of control over and those you don’t. You want to focus your energy on the areas over which you have some control. For example, you cannot change the fact that your child has diabetes but you can choose how you respond to this challenge in a way that is beneficial for you and your child. Spend your limited time and energy on trying to make the situation better instead of being anxious about the current state.
2. Examine Your Coping Style
Why does one person faced with diabetes rise to the challenge while another person struggles with continual feelings of failure? It often has a lot to do with coping style. Many people have what’s called “learned helplessness.” They respond to adversity in a passive manner believing that fate will inevitably have its way. But this coping style usually fails to see the many choices that are actually available. If you are prone to learned helplessness, start asking yourself what choices you have that could change your situation? Write them down. Be proactive. Diabetes doesn’t have to control your life.
3. Choose to Enrich Your Life
In our fast-paced society, many people never give themselves a chance to fully recharge their physical, mental and emotional reserves. As a result, our minds and bodies stay tightly wound and increasingly stressed with each passing day. Instead of trying to distract yourself from these stressors by plopping in front of the television or going out to eat, do something that you find truly enriching. Consider these ideas for starters:
- Tour a museum
- Take a walk in nature
- Write in your journal
- Talk with a close friend
- Take a bubble bath
- Get a massage
- Read a good book
4. Manage Your Stress Head On
Regular practice of the following disciplines will immediately help you reduce your stress level, and, over time, bring your glucose levels down as well:
- Diaphragmatic breathing. In a sitting or lying position, breathe in through your nose, pulling the air deeply into your lungs until you feel your lower abdomen begin to extend. Take in as much air as you can. Hold it for a count of five and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Do this several times.
- Progressive relaxation. In a lying position, tense one muscle group (calves, for example) for a slow count of 10 while keeping the rest of your body relaxed. Stop tensing that muscle and relax for a few seconds. Then move to the next muscle group (thighs) and repeat. Progressively work your way through the entire body. This exercise is great to help bleed out the tension in muscles before sleeping.
- Exercise. Find an aerobic activity (running, walking, swimming, cycling, water exercise, tai chi, dancing, etc.) that you enjoy and participate in it regularly. Exercise is one of the best ways to release tension and keep your blood sugar in check.
Diabetes and Stress. Islets of Hope. Accessed January 8, 2009. http://www.isletsofhope.com/diabetes/mental-health/stress_management_1.html
Stress. American Diabetes Association. Accessed January 8, 2009. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/stress.jsp