Anxiety and depression affect as many as one in six South Africans.
Anxiety can exhibit itself in many symptoms including but not limited to fatigue, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, excessive worry, fear, and insomnia.
When it comes to diabetes, you might be anxious about keeping your blood sugar levels in range, paying for your insulin and supplies, or perhaps the long-term effects of living with the disease such as nerve damage, kidney damage, or heart disease. And the truth is that increased stress about diabetes can also cause high blood sugar.
Most importantly, know that you are not alone and that there are active steps you can take to keep anxiety symptoms at a minimum. Let’s explore a few ways you can improve anxiety symptoms when you have diabetes.
Get Sufficient Sleep
It seems simple but ensuring that you’re sleeping enough can improve diabetes management and ultimately decrease your anxiety symptoms. Just a few consequences of too little sleep include increased insulin resistance, increased next-day hunger, more difficulty losing weight, higher blood pressure, a compromised immune system, and negatively impacted emotions and mood, which raises the risk for depression and anxiety.
You might be thinking that getting more sleep sounds great but when you have diabetes, this is easier said than done. Low or high blood sugars or even middle-of-the-night alarms from a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may keep you from getting a full night of rest. If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep due to diabetes, talk with your doctor to see if there are changes you can make to decrease the likelihood that diabetes will disrupt your sleep schedule. And if you’re wondering how much sleep is best, 7-9 hours is a good standard to follow for most adults.
Find a Diet That Works for You
While a low-carb diet isn’t right for everyone with diabetes, never underestimate how much your gut health can directly affect or be affected by anxiety. For example, some claim that a diet like this one can greatly reduce anxiety by improving overall gut health and sticking to foods that are anti-inflammatory and have high-fat, moderate protein.
In addition, while there are steps you can take to manage your blood sugar while eating any kind of diet, many living with diabetes will tell you that a low-carb diet can play a crucial role in improving diabetes management.
Reasonably, the fewer carbohydrates you consume, the less insulin you’ll need, which means you’ll be battling fewer highs. When your blood sugar is stable, this can have a long-term impact on stabilising your overall mood and anxiety.
Move Your Body More
While exercise is important, consider how you can move your body in a way that you enjoy rather than making it a chore. If you hate going to the gym, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy yourself very much while you’re there.
Instead, get exercise by doing things that you enjoy like walking in the park, doing yoga, or bicycling. Not only can exercise decrease anxiety overall, but it can also increase insulin sensitivity and potentially lower your A1c in the long run, which again can lessen the likelihood that your blood sugar will affect your mood or anxiety.
Talk with a Professional
Of course, there’s no easy answer to anxiety, whether it’s caused by diabetes or not. In many cases, it might be helpful to seek out professional help.
When it comes to anxiety and diabetes, you have many options. First, consider talking to your doctor, whether that’s your endocrinologist or primary care physician. They can make additional recommendations for reducing anxiety as it relates to diabetes – which might include ways to keep your blood sugar under control to decrease the likelihood of anxiety symptoms.
Beyond a medical doctor, you can also consider seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist or psychologist to talk through some of your anxiety. There can be many different triggers when it comes to anxiety, which can extend beyond diabetes. When you pursue therapy, this can often help with ways to cope with and reduce anxiety symptoms.”
Conners, L. 2019. 4 ways to decrease anxiety symptoms when you have diabetes. Diabetes Daily. 21 May. Available at: https://www.diabetesdaily.com/blog/4-ways-to-decrease-anxiety-symptoms-when-you-have-diabetes-620164/ [Accessed 11 August 2019].
The South African College of Applied Psychology. 2018. The shocking state of mental health in South Africa in 2018. 23 October. Available at: https://www.sacap.edu.za/blog/counselling/mental-health-south-africa/ [Accessed 11 August 2019].