Stressed Out

Life today is full of stress, and managing type 2 diabetes adds significantly to many people’s stress levels. Health Union recently conducted the Type 2 Diabetes Lifestyle survey and found that the perceived stress scores were higher than average for more than 60% of respondents. These high levels of stress have a potential likelihood for impacting lifestyle changes, as well as negatively impacting overall health. Type 2 diabetes can greatly impact a person’s overall quality of life, and survey respondents also said the disease negatively impacts their mood, emotions, and ability to sleep.

Type 2 Diabetes Stirs Up Emotions

Cheri Neill understands the stress of managing type 2 diabetes. Diagnosed 25 years ago, Neill admits to feeling anger when she was first diagnosed. She was started on insulin and gained additional weight in a short period of time. Neill recalls that she went through a period of intense anger towards her healthcare team and denial about her condition, making the choice to not take the medications or manage her blood sugar for a while. However, she recognized that every choice has repercussions, and having seen several family members and friends experience complications from diabetes, as well as personally experiencing skin complications, she has learned to be diligent about managing her condition. The fear of long-term complications is a major concern for many with type 2 diabetes, and the majority of participants in the survey agreed.

As for many who live with type 2 diabetes, Neill has struggled with being overweight. Neill explains that a turning point for her came when she learned how to accept herself. She says she asked herself, “If I am this size for the rest of my life, how can I enjoy my body?” That shift changed everything, and she learned she could look and feel good about her appearance no matter what her size.

“I Am Not My Diabetes”

The majority of survey respondents admit that due to their diabetes, they are unable to do as much as they used to, and many agree that others don’t understand what they are going through. This lack of empathy and emotional isolation can exacerbate a person’s stress.

Neill has found that some people don’t understand, but she’s learned how to take care of and advocate for herself. “One of my biggest pet peeves is when others say, ‘you’re not supposed to eat that,’” Neill reflects, “They don’t know how I’ve prepared.” Neill plans ahead for special occasions and indulgences, managing her diet and medications. “I am not my diabetes,” Neill says. She acknowledges that diabetes affects her body but that she is so much more than the condition she lives with.

Coping Strategies that Work

Survey respondents to the Type 2 Diabetes Lifestyle survey noted a variety of strategies to cope with their stress, such as talking with friends or family, replacing bad thoughts with good thoughts, avoiding causes of stress, exercising, and engaging in breathing exercises.

After 25 years of dealing with diabetes, Neill has a wealth of experience and has learned coping strategies that work for her. One of the areas that is most important for her is being her own advocate, especially when dealing with healthcare professionals. Neill has learned about her condition and speaks up for what she needs. She also shares that she uses journaling, music, visiting bookstores, and watching HGTV as stress relievers.

“There is a consequence for every action,” Neill says, “and even if you’re doing well with managing your diabetes, you could do better.” She says her wife gave her the best advice for handling those times when you realize you’ve made a bad choice: “Make a different choice.” With that wisdom, every day is a new day to make small changes that can have a beneficial effect.

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