Overcoming Stress with T1D

As patients and family members, we all know living with diabetes can be stressful at times! From the daily grind of blood sugar management to integrating care into your life to planning for the future with diabetes – it can be exhausting! It’s normal to get stressed out or overwhelmed or even burnt out. We know that diabetes stress is related to decreased diabetes care behaviors and increased HbA1c – even more than depression. Because we know it’s so important to overall diabetes management, JDRF has put together a series of brief videos to talk about stress and resilience.

Note: If you or someone you love is experiencing depression or extreme diabetes burnout, please talk to our psychosocial team at the U-M Pediatric Diabetes Clinic by calling the clinic.

Understanding the Cause of T1D Stress

Diabetes is a demanding condition. It can be easy to feel exhausted, worried, or frustrated with your diabetes when it interferes or distracts from your everyday life. Try to be mindful of these feelings and understand their deeper cause. This will help you process these feelings and work towards a healthy outcome by overcoming the challenge. Follow these tips for advice on handling diabetes stress:

  • Don't be afraid to talk about the issues that you're experiencing with a parent, counselor, or your diabetes care team. Sharing can help you feel better, but bottling up your stress will make things harder.

  • Avoiding T1D care won't remove the stress associated with T1D - in fact, it will do the opposite and make you feel more distressed. If you're experiencing symptoms of diabetes burnout, we strongly recommend talking to our clinic psychologist for advice.

  • There's no such thing as perfection with T1D. You'll have good days and bad, weeks with lots of target blood sugars and weeks with lots of out-of-range values. We aim for blood sugars to be in-range 50 - 60% of the time, but we understand that things happen. The important thing is that you keep trying your best and adapt to challenges with a positive attitude.

Building Resilience with T1D

One of the most helpful things you can try for handling T1D stress is joining a support group (you can check for local groups on our Emotional Support FAQ page).

 

It's not always easy or practical for all of our patient families to attend support group meetings in person, however. Try these tips if you're feeling alone in your diabetes slump:

  • Use your personal or family strengths to improve your diabetes management and adjustment.

  • Maximize your helpful supports – friends, extended family, coaches, spiritual leaders, and diabetes providers! Check out our Building a T1D Support Network page for tips and tricks on building a strong network of T1D supports.

  • Consider ways to tell your story and advocate for the greater good. Write a blog post, join an online support group, draw a comic, or make a video journal! There are lots of ways to share your story and connect with your T1D peers who might be feeling the same way.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of self-care and engaging in pleasant activities!

Words Matter

The words we use to describe and communicate to others about diabetes management have a big impact on both our emotional response and our behavior. Consider the following tips to maintain a positive state of mind:

Being a Strong Support

I think we can all agree, not all support or help is created equal. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes efforts to support someone we love with their diabetes can fall short. And becoming the “diabetes police” or “nagging” doesn’t feel good to the giver or receiver. Here are few ideas that can build support without being overbearing:

  • Active listening is essential to support our love ones with diabetes. Remember, understanding and respecting someone’s perspective doesn’t mean you have to agree.

  • Emphasize the things someone does well. Research suggests between 3 - 23 positive statements for every criticism to attain the best behavior and relationship outcomes!

  • Focus on management behaviors, instead of numbers. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story - blood sugars can be impacted by stress, puberty, diet, activity, temperature, and dozens of other factors. Logs don't always reflect the work and effort put into daily care, so be forgiving if there are out-of-range values.

  • Set specific, attainable goals that highlight how you will support your loved one reach their desired outcome.

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