New to Type 2?

( You’re go­ing to be okay!)

Diabetic Living - - Contents -

And feel­ing anx­i­ety, de­nial, shame, fear and gloom? You’re not alone

Ad­dress­ing emo­tions like shame, anx­i­ety and fear is the key to deal­ing with a type 2 di­a­betes di­ag­no­sis

“I was too em­bar­rassed to tell any­one when I was first di­ag­nosed with type 2 di­a­betes 16 years ago,” says Louise Payne, a 38-year-old teacher from Lake Mac­quarie, NSW. “Though I was re­lieved to fi­nally know why I had been so tired, I wor­ried that peo­ple would think I brought this on my­self. The doc­tor didn’t help. He clearly knew lit­tle about type 2 and told me to go home and not eat any­thing with sugar. When I went to the su­per­mar­ket, I was so dis­tressed be­cause sugar was on al­most ev­ery food la­bel. I felt com­pletely overwhelmed.”

Learn­ing that you have type 2 di­a­betes is a life-chang­ing mo­ment that can com­pletely shake up your world. “It is per­fectly nor­mal to feel out of your depth and grieve the loss of your pre­vi­ous, more care­free life,” says He­len Ed­wards, di­a­betes ed­u­ca­tor and founder of the web­site Di­a­betes Can’t Stop Me (di­a­betes­cant­

“Man­ag­ing di­a­betes can at times be dif­fi­cult, tir­ing and stress­ful. But di­ag­no­sis is also the first step to­wards im­prov­ing your health and feel­ing bet­ter.”

En route, you may find that you need to have some strate­gies to be able to han­dle the fol­low­ing emo­tions.

1 Anx­i­ety

Peo­ple with di­a­betes are 20 per cent more likely to suf­fer anx­i­ety, re­search from the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion shows, while in Aus­tralia it has been found roughly one in six peo­ple with di­a­betes ex­pe­ri­ence anx­i­ety.

This worry trig­gers your fight or flight re­sponse. “The re­sult­ing stress hor­mones, such as adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol, can neg­a­tively af­fect ev­ery­thing from your blood glu­cose lev­els (BGLs) to your abil­ity to fight off a cold,” says As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Dr Craig Hassed, a pioneer for the use of mind­ful­ness and se­nior lec­turer in the De­part­ment of Gen­eral Prac­tice at Monash Univer­sity.


• Slow down Breathe in and out to the count of three and tell your­self, “I am safe right now.”

• Be­come more mind­ful “When you fully en­gage in the sights, sounds and feel­ings of ev­ery mo­ment, you can’t worry about the past or fu­ture,” Dr Hassed ex­plains. Peo­ple who en­gage in mind­ful­ness also have health­ier BGLs, shows re­search from Brown Univer­sity.

• Eat reg­u­larly Skip­ping meals causes a drop in blood glu­cose that can raise anx­i­ety lev­els.

• Med­i­tate daily Con­tinue the still­ness from med­i­ta­tion into the rest of your day or evening.

• Move your body Ex­er­cise helps your body burn off stress hor­mones. Try walk­ing, yoga, swim­ming or a team sport.

HIIT (High In­ten­sity In­ter­val Train­ing) is par­tic­u­larly beneficial in eas­ing ten­sion and stress, shows re­search from the Univer­sity of Mis­souri. It in­volves per­form­ing short bursts of in­tense ex­er­cise fol­lowed by short rests.



Some peo­ple deal with their type 2 di­ag­no­sis by ig­nor­ing their con­di­tion and fail­ing to make any pos­i­tive lifestyle changes. “Un­for­tu­nately, in the long term this ap­proach can put you at risk of di­a­betes com­pli­ca­tions,” says Ed­wards.


• Set new healthy rou­tines

Try a gen­tle ap­proach – for ex­am­ple walk­ing daily in­stead of go­ing to the gym. Sched­ule treats like dessert or fast food so you don’t feel de­prived.

• View tar­gets as sug­ges­tions “Tar­gets for BGLs, HbA1c or

A1c (the av­er­age BGL over the past eight to 12 weeks), blood pres­sure and so on are im­por­tant,” says Ed­wards.

“But they can make you feel like you are sit­ting an exam ev­ery day. Think of them as guides rather than ‘musts’.”

3 Shame

“When first di­ag­nosed,

I felt so ashamed and em­bar­rassed that I only told close friends and fam­ily,” says Payne. “But as I read more about type 2, I re­alised ge­net­ics play a big role and that I was un­lucky to get it when I was not much above my av­er­age weight. That knowl­edge helped me to stop car­ing what other peo­ple think.”


• Lower the bar Aim to do your best to­day rather than be per­fect ev­ery day.

• Make over your self-talk “Avoid un­help­ful think­ing styles, such as black and white think­ing or catas­trophis­ing,” says Dr Hassed. “This will help you keep events in per­spec­tive, so they seem less over­whelm­ing.”

• Be kind to your­self Speak to your­self the way you would speak to a friend. “Crit­i­cal self-talk en­cour­ages the re­lease of chem­i­cals that in­crease in­flam­ma­tion, which can erode health long-term and could worsen di­a­betes com­pli­ca­tions,” says Dr Hassed.

• Stop blam­ing your­self “Re­search shows many fac­tors con­trib­ute to the devel­op­ment of type 2, in­clud­ing ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion, age and even stress,” Ed­wards ex­plains.

4 Fear

Chronic wor­ries about your health or com­pli­ca­tions you could ex­pe­ri­ence may keep you awake at night once you are di­ag­nosed with type 2. “Try to stop think­ing about the

‘what ifs’ and re­mem­ber that just be­cause you fear some­thing, doesn’t mean it will come true,” Ed­wards ad­vises.


• Take con­trol where you can “Though you can’t pre­vent di­a­betes com­pli­ca­tions, you can re­duce their like­li­hood by eat­ing a healthy diet, ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly, quit­ting smok­ing and re­duc­ing al­co­hol,” says Ed­wards. • Seek sup­port from your team “I fear com­pli­ca­tions in my feet,” says Payne. “I spent six months in a moon boot last year with sus­pected Char­cot foot dis­ease but it turned out to be arthri­tis. I’ve found the best an­ti­dote to that fear is for me to see my po­di­a­trist reg­u­larly.”

• Face your fears Write a list of your fears, then be­side each one, note strate­gies to ad­dress them. Ac­cord­ing to Ed­wards, “This will re­mind you that you are not at the mercy of your di­a­betes and you do have some con­trol.”

5 Gloom

“Why bother – my fu­ture health is doomed any­way,” is a com­mon thought when di­ag­nosed with type 2 di­a­betes. “Un­for­tu­nately, when you of­ten get up­set or stressed or de­spair­ing, you strengthen the wiring for those emo­tions in your brain. So the more gloomy you are, the more gloomy you will con­tinue to feel,” Dr Hassed ex­plains.


• Have pos­i­tive ex­pec­ta­tions Ex­pect the best from life and

peo­ple, and you will zoom in on more and more good news sto­ries ev­ery day.

• Cel­e­brate your per­sonal bests Write a list of what you do right most of the time – such as eat­ing a healthy din­ner and go­ing for a walk a few times a week. Look back and ahead so you can ap­pre­ci­ate how well you do most of the time.

• Keep a daily grat­i­tude jour­nal It can boost op­ti­mism while re­duc­ing depression and stress, shows re­search from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia.

• En­joy feel-good ac­tiv­i­ties Watch the sun set, tell a joke or hug some­one you love. “The neu­ro­plas­tic­ity of the brain means that ev­ery time you en­joy some­thing that makes you feel happy, stim­u­lated or up­lifted, you strengthen those pos­i­tive path­ways in your brain,” says Dr Hassed. “Feel good more of­ten and the path­ways form­ing your neg­a­tive brain net­works will grow weaker while the path­ways for op­ti­mism grow stronger.”

“When I feel overwhelmed by all the med­i­ca­tions and doc­tors’ ap­point­ments and self-care, I talk to fam­ily or close friends,” says Payne. “I also dis­tract my­self with ac­tiv­i­ties such as a phone call to a friend, a walk, the movies or a mas­sage, and it makes me feel much bet­ter.”

Lower the bar. Aim to do your best to­day rather than be

per­fect ev­ery day

Louise is a self-care ex­pert thanks to her di­ag­no­sis.

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