Learn to manage the stress of diabetes

Diabetes distress is a term used to describe the unique emotional issues directly related to the burdens and concerns of living with a chronic disease such as diabetes. Persons living with diabetes do not get a vacation from diabetes.

Monitoring blood glucose, taking medications, timing medications to food intake, counting carbohydrates, making time for exercise in an already busy schedule and preparing healthy meals can be overwhelming.

It may seem like you are struggling to juggle an ever-increasing number of balls.

Diabetes-related problems can range from minor hassles to major life difficulties.

Measure your distress

The Diabetes Distress Screening Scale lists two problem areas that persons living with diabetes might experience.

Consider the degree to which each of the two items have distressed or bothered you during the past month:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes.
  2. Feeling that I am often failing with my diabetes routine.

Rate each of these on a 1 to 6 scale where 1 is no problem, 3 is a moderate problem, and 6 is a very serious problem. Keep in mind that you are to respond not on whether or not this is true for you, but the extent to which it is bothering you in your life.

If you rate either of these as higher than a 3, it’s worthy of further evaluation and may warrant a visit to a diabetes educator or your health care provider.

Find ways to cope

Diabetes doesn’t go away, so finding ways to ease the distress are important.

Find someone who understands your feelings surrounding living with diabetes and talk with them. Talk with another person who has diabetes or join a diabetes support group. OSF HealthCare Holy Family Medical Center has a Diabetes Support Group that meets monthly on the fourth Monday of each month at 5 p.m. in the Wellness Classroom.

Seek out a diabetes educator, family member or mental health professional—someone who knows diabetes. This can help ease the burden and you won’t feel so alone.

Realize that no one gets diabetes right.  Doing diabetes tasks well will not assure you of getting the numbers and results you want. It is never a one size fits all plan of care. Striving for perfection leads to frustration.  Take a break, a little time off.  Plan it, make it safe, do it intentionally, not out of anger or frustration.

Ask someone to help you.  Diabetes is not easy.  When you feel burned out, you may not want any more responsibility, diabetes-related or otherwise, but this is likely the time you most need to ask for help.

Setting realistic and appropriate health improvement goals is another way to reduce stress. Focus on small, concrete, achievable goals. Conquer one thing at a time. Making changes is easier if you work on one at a time rather than tackling everything all at once. Remember any progress toward a goal is success. Success comes one step at a time.

Kaleena Williams, LCSW, behavior health therapist at OSF Holy Family, will speak on Burnout/Coping with Chronic Illness at Diabetes Support Group on January 22, 2018. Phone (309) 734-1424 or click here for more information.