Coping With a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis
So you’ve just been told you have type 2 diabetes. There’s probably a lot running through your head right now. Living with diabetes takes a lot of work and can take a toll on your physical and mental health. The good news is there are things you can do to help you cope so you can stay strong mentally and physically.
While there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, there are ways to manage it and thrive. There’s no one-size-fits-all diabetes management and treatment plan. Your doctor, diabetes education specialist, and other health care professionals can create a plan for your specific needs. A successful diabetes management plan will include healthy eating, exercise, medical support, and emotional support. Yes, emotional support. Getting emotional support is just as important as any other part of diabetes care and treatment.
You may not have all the answers on how to deal with diabetes right now, but over time you’ll figure it out. Many people with type 2 diabetes lead long, healthy lives. Just remember—whatever you’re feeling is OK, and you’re not alone.
Here’s what you should keep in mind as you take each step forward:
It’s Not Your Fault
The truth is, you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes because your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep your blood sugar at normal levels. There are many factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Some you have no control over, like your race and ethnicity, stress, and having a close relative (parent, brother, sister) with type 2 diabetes. While you can’t change those things, you can make lifestyle changes like eating healthy, getting plenty of exercise, and losing weight—if needed—to help manage type 2 diabetes. Now that you know you have diabetes, you can plan your next steps to help manage it and prevent serious complications.
You Can Live a Long, Healthy Life With Diabetes
If you’ve just been told you have type 2 diabetes and you’re not sure what that future looks like, that’s completely understandable. What you should know is that diabetes care and treatment has come a long way in reducing the impact of diabetes on people’s lives. People with diabetes are living longer, healthier lives with fewer complications. And with the help of diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services, you can gain the knowledge, skills, and support needed to successfully manage diabetes.
See a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist
A diabetes care and education specialist will be an important part of your health care team. They are licensed health care professionals who will work with you to develop a management plan specific to your health needs, lifestyle, beliefs, and culture. DSMES services provided by a diabetes care and education specialist have been proven to help people with diabetes. It can help improve A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. What’s more, it can even help reduce the risk of diabetes complications and hospitalizations. Ask your doctor for a referral to DSMES services to help you manage your diabetes.
You Don’t Need Special Foods
There is no such thing as a “diabetes diet.” Your doctor will most likely tell you that you should eat the same way everyone else should eat. Eating healthy foods that are lower in carbs, added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium (salt) will be key to managing your blood sugar. You can work with a diabetes care and education specialist to make a meal plan that works for you. With some small changes, you can still enjoy many of the foods that you love and grew up with and manage your diabetes too. And don’t be afraid to try new foods. For those of you with a sweet tooth, with a little planning ahead, you can still keep dessert on the menu.
Being Active Helps
One of the best ways to manage diabetes is to get regular physical activity. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or run a marathon to be active. You can start small and take it at your own pace. Even little changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator are good ways to get your body moving. Best thing of all, you don’t have to spend money on a gym membership. You can go for a walk, ride a bike, blare your music and dance—all without spending a penny! Regular physical activity has many other health benefits as well, like better sleep, weight loss, stress reduction, and improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You’re Not Alone
This can’t be said enough: you’re not alone, so don’t go it alone. It’s important to connect with others living with type 2 diabetes. Peer support is important. Whether in person or online, it allows you to connect, share stories, and find resources, everything from daily management to mental health. And don’t forget, your diabetes health care team is also there to support you. Talk with your health care team about your experiences, concerns, and any questions you may have about managing diabetes.
Hoping is Coping
Your diabetes diagnosis may come with big life changes. It will take time to figure out everyday diabetes care. Just know there are many resources available to help you cope. The main message here is don’t lose hope. With the right diabetes management plan, you’ll be able to live your best life while successfully managing your diabetes.