How six months with Diabetes changes your life
You’ve made it to six months of living as a Diabetic. Well done! It’s a massive adjustment.
So far, you may have had to change your diet, switch up your exercise routine, and restructure your lifestyle, but those are not the only things you’ve had to change. You may have started taking new types of regular medication or, depending on your Diabetes diagnosis, you may have begun using types of medication that require you to inject yourself on a regular basis. No matter your treatment programme as a Diabetic, continue to trust your doctor or clinic team’s advice along the way.
Your chosen medical professional is best suited to understanding your body’s unique needs and your journey as a Diabetic. Today we’re going to reflect on the changes brought about by your Diabetes diagnosis, so you can progress with an even stronger mindset.
Has Diabetes changed your life a lot?
You’ve come a long way since your diagnosis as a Diabetic. Well done! It’s been a learning curve, as you’ve adjusted to living as a Diabetic.
But, now that you are six months into life as a Diabetic, the reality of life as a Diabetic is settling over you. Now that you’re six months into your journey, you’ve become quite familiar with ensuring you manage your blood sugar levels effectively throughout the day, but you’re still well aware that your body is also adjusting to your diet and lifestyle changes.
What are the most significant changes you’ve had to make? Have you formed new habits, or let go of old ones? Are you seeing the benefits of these changes, as you monitor your blood glucose levels, and discuss your progress with your doctor or clinic team?
Are you keeping track of your medical appointments?
At the six month mark, you’ll check in with your doctor or clinic team. The analysis will focus on how your body has adjusted to your new diet and treatment programme. Your doctor will advise if you need to adjust your medication or your dietary plan even further.
You may also stay on the same brand of medication, but have your dosage or your schedule tweaked to better suit your needs at this point. Be prepared to shift your daily routine around if it’s required. If you’ve been battling to stick to your diabetic diet plan, now’s the time to start getting serious about it.
Don’t fall into the trap of crash dieting because it can lead to further complications, either immediately or in the future.
Your mental health as a Diabetic
Mental health is often overlooked as an aspect of dealing with Diabetes. Your diagnosis, and the changes it brings into your life, can result in chemical changes in your body, not to mention the emotional rollercoaster that can be tough to navigate. That’s why Diabetes and depression have been linked by medical researchers, on a regular basis.
Here’s why Diabetes and depression are often found to be linked:
- Adjusting to a new lifestyle, routine, diet, and medication, can take its toll on you. From your initial diagnosis to the ways in which you’ve needed to adapt your lifestyle, living as a Diabetic can lead to elevated stress levels and depression.
- People who have been diagnosed with Depression are more likely to develop Diabetes – especially Type 2 Diabetes. Many of the risk factors associated with developing Type 2 Diabetes, like unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, and weight gain, are often linked to the behaviours associated with Depression.
- If you are experiencing depression, managing your Diabetes can be more challenging. Depression has a direct effect on your ability to perform daily tasks and participate in an active, healthy lifestyle.
How to manage Diabetes and Depression together:
It may seem almost overwhelming to have to manage your life as a Diabetic and manage your depression at the same time. But, with the right help, and sticking to the treatment programme, along with your lifestyle changes, you should be a-okay. Managing life as a Diabetic while also taking antidepressants is quite common, and your symptoms are probably not a surprise to your doctor.
If you are concerned about your mental health, we recommend:
- Talk to your doctor: It may be something as simple as adjusting your medication, or helping you work through the demands of managing Diabetes. Moreover, your doctor will be able to refer you to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, for further treatment, therapy, or other assistance.
- Find a support group: Talking with people who also live life as a Diabetic can be extremely useful and helpful for you. You’re not the first person to be diagnosed with Diabetes, and you won’t be the last. Seek out community support services that work for you, and find people like you.
- Work together: Combining treatment programmes for Diabetes and depression is something that your doctor should supervise. In this way, they can help you manage or overcome any side effects from your treatment programme, and ensure you are carefully monitored throughout.
Understand more about Diabetes and how to live a happy, healthy life as a Diabetic.
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Have your mood swings settled?
Six months in, you know that your blood sugar levels can affect your moods, but you’ve also had enough time to settle into a routine for managing this. If your loved ones know about your Diabetes, and are willing to provide you with additional support, you can ask them to make you aware of patterns in your moods. For example, if you get busy at work over a month-end and you don’t take your medication on time, does that impact both your blood sugar levels and your moods?
It’s important to set healthy boundaries for yourself and the people you care about, so that you can receive feedback that can help you adjust. If you have questions, always check in with your doctor or clinic team to get answers that relate specifically to your medical case.
How does Diabetes affect your stress levels?
The physical and emotional aspects of dealing with this lifelong condition will be different for everyone. At six months into your journey, have you noticed any changes to your stress levels?
Higher stress levels can be influenced by Diabetes in the following ways:
- Chemically: chemical reactions between your own enzymes, hormones and your medication.
- Medication schedule: it’s tough to mentally keep track of when you’ve taken your medication, and if you’ve used the right dosage.
- Medication side effects: if you work in a physically demanding job, the side effects of your Diabetes medication can impact your performance, which can have knock on effects on incentives and overall targets, leading to higher stress levels.
To work through higher stress levels, we recommend:
- Monitoring your blood glucose levels closely
- Speaking with your doctor or your clinic team
- Maintaining your treatment schedule
- Exercising even just for 10mins when you feel overwhelmed
- Practising deep breathing exercises or meditation
- Starting a journal to document your triggers, progress and outcomes
What do you focus on, after six months with Diabetes?
As you continue to settle into your new lifestyle and routines, there’s no doubt that you’ll come across other challenges. But right now, as you look forward, beyond your six month milestone of living with Diabetes, we encourage you to enjoy some of the mental and emotional space you’ve created, if you’ve followed our support journey. You know what matters the most to you right now, and you still want your loved ones to experience the best version of you as a person – by now you know that Diabetes doesn’t prevent that from happening.
Which areas of your life have changed because of Diabetes?
Consider all perspectives:
- Physical: there’s no doubt that Diabetes has had a physical impact on you and your body. Depending on the severity of your diagnosis, and your treatment options and adherence, you may have undergone an amputation which extends the impact on how you physically interact with the world around you.
- Mental: we’ve spoken about your mental health already, but it’s critical to consider if Diabetes has made you think differently: about yourself, your relationships with others, your lifelong ambitions, your assets and your finances, your legacy: there is so much to think about, so take your time to work through these things effectively.
- Social: does getting together with friends and family now stress you out because you’re not sure if you can indulge in all the party favourites? Are you eating at different places because of a change in your desired menu? How about alcohol – has your consumption habit changed at all since being diagnosed?
- Financial: Diabetes medication can be costly, especially if you depend on private healthcare facilities or if you aren’t on a medical aid plan that can cover this cost. Has being a Diabetic altered how you budget for each month? What’s different now compared to six months ago?
In the next few months you may discover that being a Diabetic has a wide range of consequences for how you access the world, such as getting medical aid, life insurance, securing investment opportunities or getting home loans. While you practice focusing on your mental health, exercise and nutrition, you can and should begin to think carefully about the financial aspects of your life, and what could possibly change too.
Does it ever get easier to manage Diabetes?
Adjusting to your Diabetic life is just that: a big adjustment. Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t take your health (including your mental health) anything less than seriously. Finding the help and support you need as you adjust to life as a Diabetic is important.
Diabetic Support Services in South Africa
We recommend you get in touch with these organisations for advice and support:
- Diabetes South Africa: https://www.diabetessa.org.za/
- CDE Diabetes: https://www.cdediabetes.co.za/
- Diabetes Support Team (An international online support service): https://www.diabetesteam.com/
- Sweet Life: https://sweetlife.org.za/
- The AllLife team: https://alllife.co.za
American Diabetes Association. 2020. Mental Health. [online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/mental-health [Accessed 26 October 2020].
American Diabetes Association. 2020. Newly Diagnosed. [online] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/newly-diagnosed [Accessed 26 October 2020].
Brown, A., 2014. Top 10 Tips For People Newly Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes | Diatribe. [online] diaTribe. Available at: https://diatribe.org/issues/63/learning-curve [Accessed 26 October 2020].
Health.com. 2016. 5 Things You Should Do After A Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis. [online] Available at: https://www.health.com/condition/type-2-diabetes/5-things-you-should-do-after-a-type-2-diabetes-diagnosis [Accessed 26 October 2020].
Mayo Clinic. 2020. Diabetes And Depression: Coping With The Two Conditions. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-answers/diabetes-and-depression/faq-20057904 [Accessed 26 October 2020].
Mayo Clinic. 2020. Diabetes Management: How Lifestyle, Daily Routine Affect Blood Sugar. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-management/art-20047963 [Accessed 26 October 2020].
WebMD. 2019. Understanding Diagnosis And Treatment Of Diabetes. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/understanding-diabetes-detection-treatment#1 [Accessed 26 October 2020].
We all have questions.
Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.
Which is worse – Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?
“Worse” is a harsh comparison. The difference between these two types of Diabetes is that Type 1 requires insulin, and it never goes away. Type 2 requires consistent effort and can be managed over your lifetime.
What is the normal HbA1C level?
It is generally accepted that you should maintain HbA1C below 8%. The following guidelines are suggested by the South African Diabetes Association:
- 4 – 6% Non-Diabetic range.
- < 7% Well-controlled Diabetic 7% – 8% Acceptable Diabetic control > 8%
- Poor Diabetic control needs attention.
What is the main cause of Diabetes?
Diabetes (Type 1) is usually a predisposed or genetically inherited condition. Diabetes (Type 2) is caused by lifestyle choices. Gestational Diabetes can be caused by either genetics or lifestyle choices.
What are the first signs of Diabetes?
- Excessive thirst over a prolonged period.
- Increased frequency in the need to urinate.
- Significant weight loss or gain.
- You find yourself fatigued, tired, and irritable, on a regular basis.
- Open or ruptured wounds take a long time to heal.
- Blurred vision.
- Tingling sensations in your hands and feet.
Can you get life insurance if you have Diabetes?
Yes. AllLife can help you get up to R10million life insurance, as either a Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic.
Can I test myself for Diabetes?
Although you can easily test your own blood glucose levels at any time, only your doctor, nurse, or clinic team can confirm a Diabetes diagnosis. This is because a series of specific tests are required for diagnosis.
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