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Stress: Where Less is More

Posted on July 24, 2010 | No Comments on Stress: Where Less is More

Diabetes patients grapple with the demands of self-management (home blood sugar testing, diet and exercise requirements, medicine intake, and so forth) over and above their other concerns (work, finances, family and other relations). Living with diabetes day in and day out can really shoot one’s stress levels through the roof. If one is unable to cope, then a “nervous breakdown” may ensue.

Nervous breakdown is not really a medical term and does not specify any illness. For our purposes, we will define it as severe and persistent emotional distress that hampers an individual to function normally. The following are signs that one may be suffering a nervous breakdown:
• Loss of interest in normal daily activities
• Feeling sad or hopeless
• Crying spells for no apparent reason
• Problems sleeping
• Trouble focusing or concentrating
• Difficulty making decisions
• Dramatic appetite changes
• Unintentional weight gain or loss
• Restlessness
• Irritability
• Feeling fatigued or weak
• Feeling worthless
• Loss of interest in sex
• Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
• Feeling of impending doom
• Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

It is important for diabetes educators to recognize these signs and ask patients about them. Emotional distress may have a profound impact on diabetes control and lead to therapy failure. Stress not only can raise blood sugar levels but cause patients to abandon self-care. Diabetes educators must teach patients not just about taking care of their physical well-being but of their emotional states as well. Here are some stress-reduction techniques diabetes educators can share with their patients:
• Know the roots of stress. Find out why you’re feeling so rotten. Is it a physical or an emotional problem? Moping around won’t help. Be proactive and find out how it can be made better. You may need professional assistance, and don’t be ashamed to admit it.
• Learn to manage time. Poor time management can cause you to burn out. Have a balanced schedule of work and play. Trim your schedule down to the activities that mean the most to you. Learn to say “no”, delegate responsibility and prioritize tasks.
• Focus on the positive. Instead of cursing the darkness, DO light a candle. Keep a gratitude journal and list down your blessings. Force yourself to write down the people, things and events you ought to be thankful for. Think only happy memories. Lousy thoughts breed lousy moods which in turn breed lousy actions.
• Take a break. A few moments of quiet can rejuvenate you. You can just close your eyes, pray and/or meditate for a while. Visualize soothing images or practice taking slow deep breaths and imagining the precious oxygen pumping life into every single cell in your body.
• Enjoy yourself. Engage in activities that give you pleasure and are good for your health — like sports, dancing, reading, singing, painting or listening to music. In addition, many studies show that generosity generates happiness. The happiest people it seems are not those who make money but give it away so to speak. Giving does not necessarily pertain to financial resources. It could simply mean giving a smile, a word of encouragement or lending an ear. You will find that brightening another person’s day can brighten yours as well.
• Get help. Seek the company of family and friends for support. Join reputable diabetes clubs or support groups in your area. Sharing experiences with other people who are going through the same struggles can be cathartic. Talk to your doctor also if you’re feeling distraught. He may be able to help or refer you to someone who can.

Life may suck at the moment, but under no circumstances should you let the life get sucked away from you. You can live a full and happy life with diabetes.

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