Telly medic Dr Amir Khan, full-time GP and a regular on Lorraine and GPs Behind Closed Doors, says people who are living with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are often overwhelmed, and that the importance of looking after their emotional and mental health, as well as their physical health, is sometimes forgotten.
Dr. Khan was interviewed as part of the Make T2D Different campaign, which has been developed and funded by Novo Nordisk.
“When you receive a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, it can be really disheartening,” Dr Khan says.
“People associate it with injecting medication, and often they know of someone who has had complications with diabetes. We know that when people are diagnosed with any chronic illness, they are at a greater risk of depression, stress and anxiety. It can be difficult for people to understand that they could live healthily with diabetes if they manage their blood sugar levels.”
According to the NHS people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer with depression.
Being isolated at home with Covid may further impact the emotional wellbeing of people with T2D, especially if people feel worried that the virus could make them severely unwell, and perhaps see them admitted to hospital.
Living with type 2 diabetes could affect your emotions in many ways:
- Research has found that when you are first diagnosed with the condition, you may go through the emotional states of someone coping with bereavement: disbelief, denial, anger and depression
- You may feel overwhelmed by the overload of information you are being given about the condition and the things you need to start doing to manage it
- The everyday frustrations of managing your diabetes (which can feel like a full-time job) may take an emotional toll
- You may feel worried about how T2D might impact your life and health in the future
If you have type 2 diabetes, feeling like this is normal and you are not alone. However, you might also find that these emotions make it harder for you to take in all the information you are being given, or to make long-lasting changes to help control your condition.
Dr Khan says it is important to talk about the emotional impact of type 2 diabetes, and that if you are living with T2D there are a number of things that could help you deal with these emotions on a day-to-day basis. This could help to improve your quality of life, and help you feel more in control.
IF YOU ARE FEELING OVERWHELMED
- TAKE YOUR TIME: Don’t feel like you need to know everything and get everything right straight away. It can take time to learn what works best for you, and if you take things at your own pace you will get there.
- INFORMATION IS POWER: While the sheer amount of information available about T2D can be overwhelming at first, understanding how T2D actually works could help you to make sense of the other information you are being given about how to manage your condition. Only when you feel ready, take some time to find out more, or ask your healthcare team if there is anything you don’t understand.
As a part of the Make T2D Different campaign, Dr Khan has made a video explaining what insulin resistance means, how this links to T2D, and some of the ways changes to your lifestyle can help. You can watch it here.
COPING WITH EVERYDAY LIFE WITH T2D
- GET TALKING: If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you will have a whole team of healthcare professionals to support you. It’s important that you talk honestly to them, and to your friends and family, about how you are feeling – these emotions are really normal, and your emotional wellbeing is an important part of your overall health. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Make use of online support groups too.
- MINDFULNESS: There is some evidence to suggest that mindfulness may be effective in supporting diabetes management, and that it may help to stabilise blood sugar levels by reducing stress. Maybe try just five minutes in quiet meditation each morning, or before you go to bed each night.
- SPEND TIME OUTDOORS: During lockdown, we can still get outdoors to exercise. In general, outdoor activity can be beneficial for our physical and mental health. You don’t need to run a marathon – just walking for five or ten minutes is a good starting point it can really help clear your head and reset.
- MEET FRIENDS: Social interaction is really important. That’s difficult right now, but one thing we can still do is see one person from another household, socially distanced, outdoors for exercise. Take advantage of that allowance. You can also make the most of FaceTime or Zoom to catch up regularly with friends and loved ones.
- SLEEP: We know that having better quality sleep is good for our state of mind. Maybe aim to go to bed an hour earlier each night and try to establish a bedtime routine, which could include a nice soak or reading a book before bed. Try avoiding technology for some time before you turn out the lights.
IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR FUTURE HEALTH
- START SMALL: Most people with T2D know that to reduce their risk of health complications in the future, they need to make changes to their lifestyle to help control their diabetes. However, these can seem like big commitments and may not feel achievable. Starting with smaller more realistic changes, that fit with your life, may make you feel more confident to build up to these bigger changes in the long-term.
- If you feel ready to start making small changes to your lifestyle, you can download this Make T2D Different Goal Setting Guide to help you identify what they could be.
- GET YOUR FAMILY INVOLVED: People with diabetes are far more likely to succeed in controlling it, if they have people supporting them, Dr Khan says. This is not a condition you should feel you need to keep to yourself. Try telling your family what your goals are, so they can support you with reaching them.
- KEEP POSITIVE AND BE KIND TO YOURSELF: If you don’t quite meet one of your goals, don’t think you’ve failed. We are all human. Was that goal unrealistic? If so, think about how you can make your goals more achievable. What can you do differently? Give yourself a break.
For further information, about how T2D and emotional health are linked, and how you can look after your physical and emotional wellbeing with T2D visit novonordisk.co.uk/MakeT2Ddifferentforyou.
Dr. Khan encourages you to speak to your doctor or nurse with any questions or concerns related to your Type 2 Diabetes and how to manage it.
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