Seasonal Blues and Type 2 Diabetes: Fighting the Cycle.

Seasonal Blues and Type 2 Diabetes: Fighting the Cycle

Before type 2 diabetes entered my life, I had been no stranger to anxiety and depression. While generalized anxiety disorder challenges me year-round, depression is more seasonal in the autumn and early winter.

Managing type 2 diabetes becomes rather complicated when any sort of depression is part of one’s life as the effects of depression can fuel higher blood glucose which can then lead to more depressive thoughts, and a troubling cycle erupts. However, sticking to the same exercise and dietary plan you have developed with your doctor and/or dietician for diabetes can often help curb the effects of depression, including those specific to seasonal affective disorder.

Exercise

If you are mobile enough to exercise on a regular basis, keeping a routine throughout the year can be can be beneficial. Remember that any exercise is good exercise for both mental health and physical health (including type 2 diabetes), and do not be too hard on yourself if you are exercising less than in warmer months.

I know I end up needing to be creative with regards to exercise as winter creeps in and seasonal affective disorder takes hold, as so much of what I enjoy is outdoors. These are just a few tips I found useful over the years:

  • Keep an exercise mat at home for stretching, yoga, and pilates.
  • Use stairs as much as possible at work instead of elevators.
  • Grab an exercise buddy. I just moved closer to family in the Upper Midwest and thankfully some are big fans of cross country skiing and snowshoeing, so I am looking forward to joining them for some variety in exercise.

Diet

Where it might be more difficult to stick with exercise in colder months, diet can take over some of the burden of managing type 2 diabetes. With all the holidays that take place in late autumn and early winter, it can be easy to divert from the ideal plan you have created with your diabetes health care team to manage your type 2 diabetes. When you also experience seasonal depression, that diversion can tailspin all winter long. (I know, I have been there!)

I try not to change up breakfast too much year-round, and for me, that means a meal heavy on protein and low on carbohydrates. Same goes for snacks – I have just a few I rotate in and out all week long, also heavy on protein and lower on the carbohydrates. Even if I splurge too much during the rest of the day, breakfast and snacks stay constant. As far as lunch and dinner are concerned, I make deals with myself, if I eat a carbohydrate heavy lunch, I should really eat a salad for dinner (and vice versa).

Light box

This is the important tool I use to ensure that I am getting enough light at the beginning of each day. I use the routine of 20 minutes each morning to also check my fasting blood glucose, and to grab metformin for the dose I take with breakfast. At times, I pull out that exercise mat and do some light pilates moves as well. That way, not only am I helping my seasonal affective disorder, but I am also ensuring that I stay on task with type 2 diabetes care as well. It really gets my day off to a good start especially if it is gray and cold outside, and I am more likely to get out for a few minutes at lunch on sunny days during work, too.

Professional Help

If you just cannot shake off the seasonal blues, please consider seeing a professional to help talk you through the difficult time you are having and for more advice on ways to handle the changing seasons, including the right light box and dosing for your particular mental health concerns. 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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