By Mark Heyman
I would be willing to bet that you have been feeling more anxious than usual over the past couple of weeks. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the news and with all changes we’ve had to make to our daily lives because of the current coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). When you throw diabetes into this mix, things can feel even more stressful.
As a person with diabetes, taking care of your mental health is especially important when you’re feeling stressed. Here are some strategies you can use to stay emotionally healthy during these uncertain times.
Focus on What You Can Control
This situation is anything but normal, and it’s likely that you are feeling like things are out of your control. Let’s be honest – right now there are lots of things that you do not have control over and that is scary. Focusing on things you do have control over can give you a sense of stability, which can calm your mind. Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:
- Stick to a routine. Get up at the same time every morning, take a shower and get dressed. Creating a structure to your day can help life to feel a bit more normal.
- Follow public health recommendations. You have control over doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly, keep up with social distancing and stay away from crowds.
- Keep managing diabetes. No matter what is going on around you, you still have the ability to manage your diabetes. Make healthy food choices, stay active, monitor your blood sugar and take insulin. Even if you don’t have perfect control of your numbers, you will know that you’ve done everything you can to keep your blood sugars in range.
Give Yourself Space for Your Emotions
All of the uncertainty in the world right now is unsettling and scary. These are not emotions that are comfortable or fun, and your first instinct may be to try to avoid feeling them. Remember, it is okay to feel whatever it is that you are experiencing. Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions come up for you – you can handle it!
Be Kind to Yourself About Your Management
Stress can make blood sugars a lot more difficult to manage. Keep this in mind during these stressful times and be kind to yourself, especially if your blood sugars are not where you would like to see them. Instead of getting down on yourself for not doing “a good enough job” with diabetes, try telling yourself that you are doing the best you can in this difficult situation. Showing kindness to yourself is no different than showing kindness to others. If you get down on yourself (as a result of frustration over your diabetes, or any other reason), ask yourself what you would tell a friend who was in the same situation.
We need to stay connected with the people in our lives, especially when things are rocky. Our friends and family can give us support, reassurance, and maybe even a good laugh to lighten the mood – all of which are essential to our mental health. Just because we are experiencing “social distancing” does not mean we can’t stay connected. Send an email or text, call someone on Facetime, or even pick up the phone. We are all in this together!
Caring for Others
Caregivers of people with diabetes also need to stay emotionally healthy during this time. People often think that taking care of themselves means not taking care of others, and nothing can be further from the truth. In fact if you don’t care for yourself, you’ll likely have a much more difficult time caring for others.
Dr. Heyman went live on the Beyond Type 1 Daily Instagram, answering community questions about tackling mental health in the midst of COVID-19. Watch the full video:
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Read more about COVID-19, emotions, health management, insulin, Intensive management, lifestyle, mental health.