Manage Stress: Dealing with Diabetes Fatigue

effective-diabetes-self-management

 

Successfully managing a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes requires making hundreds of decisions each day, over and over again, without end; this is exhausting. Some days this is no big deal: I eat well, I exercise, I laugh with friends and family, and I test my blood sugar when I wake up plus before and after one of my meals. Other days (sometimes for several days at a time) it’s all I can do to keep up my exercise routine – the eating, stress management, and blood sugar testing all go out the window. This phenomenon is sometimes known as “diabetes fatigue”: basically, you are burned out from all of the decisions required to successfully manage your disease every day.

So, what can you do to fight diabetes fatigue?

  • Get outside for some exercise at your own pace. You don’t have to run or power walk in order to benefit from exercise, particularly mental health benefits. Moving your body, even at the lightest intensity, will release endorphins inside your body and that will automatically lighten your mood. Besides, changing your surroundings can help change your thoughts.
  • Speaking of changing your thoughts, when you catch yourself painting your diabetes self management efforts with the “all or nothing” paintbrush, change the dialogue going on inside your head. If you’re anything like me, you are your toughest critic. Some days I have to catch myself and stop the negative self-talk. Instead of saying things like, “Managing my diabetes is too much for me, I just can’t do it,” or, “My blood sugar is high so I’m a bad diabetic,” I change my thoughts to something more positive, even if I have to fake it. “I’m doing my very best to make good decisions for my diabetes,” or, “Let me look at my food journal to see why my blood sugar is high right now – more great data that will help me make better food choices.”
  • Take extra especially good care of yourself. In addition to modifying your self-talk to be more nurturing and less perfectionistic, how about going for a facial or pedicure? If spa treatments aren’t your thing, try going to bed an extra hour early – you’ll rebuild your strength and stamina at the same time you turn off your conscious mind for a few hours, so it’s a win-win. If you have a favorite tea or other hot, calorie- and- carbohydrate-free beverage, make yourself a mug and enjoy it mindfully.
  • Chat with your general practitioner, your endocrinologist (diabetes doctor), a certified diabetes educator (CDE), or a psychotherapist. Never underestimate the power of sharing how you’re feeling with someone who can actually help you improve your situation – they’re there to help and they’ve certainly heard the same problems you’re experiencing from other clients in the past.

What you don’t want to do when the disease wears you down is give up on all of the healthy choices you are making. I know it’s challenging to keep making the tough decisions about getting some exercise versus an extra hour of sleep or having a hard boiled egg with part-skim string cheese for breakfast instead of that gorgeous blueberry scone you saw in the pastry case at your favorite coffee bar, but no one has ever regretted making those trade-offs once they are past the immediate temptation; be strong and remember that you’re worth it.

Have you ever experienced diabetes fatigue? What advice would you give someone dealing with this challenge?

p.s. If you’d like to read more about my daily life, visit my personal blog.

Effectively managing stress

Do you know someone who never seems to react to the craziness around them but rather stays calm and serene at all times? While I want to be more like that, my more common response is to let the energy of my surroundings – whether calm or chaotic – dictate my mood and feelings. In the past, this led to my using food to soothe or distract myself, but after losing nearly 100 pounds and getting my Type 2 diabetes under good control, emotional eating in response to stress no longer serves me well, so I spend a fair amount of time seeking out and practicing new stress management behaviors.

Serenity
Serenity, by Ken Douglas, via Flickr

What works for me is:

  • taking a deep, cleansing breath – it sounds simple, and it is, but this is one of the most effective tools I’ve found for managing stress without turning to food. Not only does it keep me anchored to the present moment (instead of obsessing over every possible bad outcome) but filling your belly, chest, and throat with air before emptying them out with an enormous sigh feels simply decadent.
  • getting away from the situation – even slipping away for a brief moment provides a reminder that there is far more going on in the world than whatever is preoccupying me. I particularly like to walk laps around the inside of our building at work: I “get away” while still being close by in case someone needs me urgently.
  • walking meditation – my morning walks are my favorite 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes of the day. Some days I listen to podcasts but others I simply walk and breathe and enjoy the people, animals, and scenery I encounter. The key is to focus on being really present where you are and holding those feelings of freedom and joy inside to help with perspective when things get rough later on in the day.
  • yoga – in the last six months, I have fallen in love with my yoga classes and have gained so much inner peace (not to mention flexibility and agility) from my practice. For the 60 minutes I’m in class, I focus on my breath and finding ways to bring more relaxation and joy into my body. (Note that I used to spend a lot of time in class worrying about how I looked in the various poses and what other students were thinking when I couldn’t do everything exactly as described. Now I know that no one cares even a little bit what you are doing or not doing because they are taking care of themselves, their bodies.)
  • communicating how I’m feeling – it can be verbally or in writing, but sharing what I’m worrying about  with another person nearly almost reduces the associated stress.

Do you have any favorite stress management techniques? Are you one of the unflappable folks who don’t seem bothered by anything, and, if so, what are your secrets???