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10 Tips for Coping with Diabetes Distress

Managing diabetes can be hard. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed. Having diabetes means that you need to check your blood sugar levels often, make healthy food choices, be physically active, remember to take your medicine, and make other good decisions about your health several times a day. In addition, you may also worry about having low or high blood sugar levels, the costs of your medicines, and developing diabetes-related complications, such as heart disease or nerve damage.

Having diabetes can be overwhelming at times. The good news is that there are things you can do to cope with diabetes and manage stress.

When all of this feels like too much to deal with, you may have something called diabetes distress. This is when all the worry, frustration, anger, and burnout makes it hard for you to take care of yourself and keep up with the daily demands of diabetes.

The good news is that there are things you can do to cope with diabetes and manage stress. Here are 10 tips that can help.

  1. Pay attention to your feelings. Almost everyone feels frustrated or stressed from time to time. Dealing with diabetes can add to these feelings and make you feel overwhelmed. Having these feelings for more than a week or two may signal that you need help coping with your diabetes so that you can feel better.
  2. Talk with your health care providers about your feelings. Let your doctor, nurse, diabetes educator, psychologist, or social worker know how you’ve been feeling. They can help you problem-solve your concerns about diabetes. They may also suggest that you speak with other health care providers to get help.
  3. Talk to your health care providers about negative reactions other people may have about your diabetes. Your health care providers can help you manage feelings of being judged by others because you have diabetes. It is important not to feel that you have to hide your diabetes from other people.
  4. Ask if help is available for the costs of diabetes medicines and supplies. If you are worried about the cost of your medicines, talk with your pharmacist and other health care providers. They may know about government or other programs that can assist people with costs. You can also check with community health centers to see if they know about programs that help people get insulin, diabetes medicines, and supplies (test trips, syringes, etc.).
  5. Talk with your family and friends. Tell those closest to you how you feel about having diabetes. Be honest about the problems you’re having in dealing with diabetes. Just telling others how you feel helps to relieve some of the stress. However, sometimes the people around you may add to your stress. Let them know how and when you need them to help you.
  6. Allow loved ones to help you take care of your diabetes. Those closest to you can help you in several ways. They can remind you to take your medicines, help monitor your blood sugar levels, join you in being physically active, and prepare healthy meals. They can also learn more about diabetes and go with you when you visit your doctor. Ask your loved ones to help with your diabetes in ways that are useful to you.
  7. Talk to other people with diabetes. Other people with diabetes understand some of the things you are going through. Ask them how they deal with their diabetes and what works for them. They can help you feel less lonely and overwhelmed. Ask your health care providers about diabetes support groups in your community or online.
  8. Do one thing at a time. When you think about everything you need to do to manage your diabetes, it can be overwhelming. To deal with diabetes distress, make a list of all of the tasks you have to do to take care of yourself each day. Try to work on each task separately, one at a time.
  9. Pace yourself. As you work on your goals, like increasing physical activity, take it slowly. You don’t have to meet your goals immediately. Your goal may be to walk 10 minutes, three times a day each day of the week, but you can start by walking two times a day or every other day.
  10. Take time to do things you enjoy. Give yourself a break! Set aside time in your day to do something you really love; it could be calling a friend, playing a game with your children or grandchildren, or working on a fun project. Find out about activities near you that you can do with a friend.

Remember that it’s important to pay attention to your feelings. If you notice that you’re feeling frustrated, tired, and unable to make decisions about your diabetes care, take action. Tell your family, friends, and health care providers. They can help you get the support you need.

To learn more about resources for coping with diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program.

To learn more about connecting with others who have diabetes, visit the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Diabetes Online Community [PDF – 1.27MB].

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