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Coping with Diabetes


The first challenge faced in dealing with diabetes is accepting the medical diagnosis.  Accepting diabetes is similar to accepting the death of a loved one.  You experience loss. You may think you have lost health, your sense of yourself, or your sense of well-being. You may think it changes your relationships. You go through denial, anger, sadness, and fear.  You may even feel ashamed of the diagnosis. How could this happen to me?  Why me?  I don’t deserve this. Can’t it just go away? I don’t want to make changes.  Why do I have to make changes? This is inconvenient.  This is too difficult.  I’m not me anymore.  What does this mean?  Now what am I going to do? This is going to change everything.  Like it or not, this is your new life.  It is better if you welcome it.


Diabetes means improving your eating habits.  You have to be more conscious of what you are eating and when you are eating.  This is not such a bad thing under any circumstances.  If you also struggle with obesity, it also means adjusting how much you consume. 


Along with good eating habits, it is important to improve your activity level.  Daily exercise is important for everyone, not just you.  You may choose exercise that fits your lifestyle and is fun. It does not mean you have to join a private gym.  You can take walks. You can ride a bicycle.  You can dance in your living room.  You can follow exercise videos.  You can practice yoga.


Managing your diabetes is easier if you keep to a schedule.  Regular meal times and exercise periods are important.  You also need to remember when you need to test your blood glucose and when you need to take your medication. Rather than use the clock, pairing testing and medication with certain moments in your day makes it easier.  The association may be mealtime, for instance.


When cortisol and epinephrine, stress hormones, are released, your liver produces more glucose.  This is why it is important to manage stress.  Managing stress may mean eliminating certain stressors in your life. Alternatively, maybe all you need to do is to learn how to relax or to meditate.  Worry is a stressor in itself.


That brings us to making cognitive changes.  In addition to accepting your diagnosis, your perspective about your behavior is important.  When it comes to diet, you might convince yourself you can have cheat days.  However, you will end up suffering for it.  It really does not make sense to sabotage yourself. You do not deserve punishment for having an illness. Your illness is an opportunity to lead a healthier and satisfying life. A positive outlook always bodes better.


When you change your perspective, you also change your emotional reactions.  Thoughts are what create emotions.  Your thoughts about a situation will determine whether it is stressful. Your thoughts about a situation will determine your emotional reaction.  However, once you have created an emotion, you cannot think it away. It has to be released.  Do not confuse release with avoidance and escape behaviors. There are healthy ways of releasing emotion.


Psychotherapy for diabetes targets cognitions, emotions, and behavior.  Whether you just received a diagnosis or have been attempting to cope with changes, call for an appointment.

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