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D-Relationships: Negative Moods

Understanding the diabetes emotional rollercoaster

Have you ever taken a ride on a diabetes rollercoaster? No, I’m not talking about a ride at Disney World! It’s the emotional up-and-down ride that many people living with diabetes, and their loved ones, may experience. The rollercoaster can be triggered by a variety of factors, including blood sugar levels, stress, and emotional challenges. Here are a few of these issues along with tips that may help:

Blood sugar levels

Blood sugar levels – high or low – can play with your emotions. When your glucose level drops, you may feel cranky, nervous, or angry. You may experience less self-control and become more willing to bicker with those around you. A high blood glucose level can also just make you feel not very good. Blood glucose changes are not limited to people with diabetes. Even if you are a caregiver and are not personally living with diabetes, your glucose level can drop within the lower range of normal and make you feel awful. Think about the last time you skipped a meal. How did you feel? If your partner suddenly becomes argumentative or moody, first consider that he or she may be having a significant blood glucose change.

To help keep your blood glucose within your target range (and limit rides on the diabetes rollercoaster!), try the following:

  • Don’t skip meals. Space them out at regular intervals and enjoy healthy between-meal snacks, as needed. Get some healthy snack suggestions here.
  • Don’t go longer than four to five hours without a meal or snack; ensuring that they fit into your meal plan.
  • Review your diabetes care plan with your healthcare team. Today, there are many new medication and meal planning options to consider.
  • Treat any low blood glucose level as directed by your healthcare team.

Stress

Diabetes and stress often go hand in hand (read more about stress and diabetes here). If you live with diabetes, you may worry about possible complications, stress out over financial issues, or feel pressured by the self-care tasks you must do each day, in addition to your everyday job and family stress we may all feel at times. If you love someone living with diabetes, you may worry about your loved one’s health. You might lose sleep if you think that your partner’s blood glucose level may go low. All of us touched by diabetes may also feel burdened by healthcare costs. Here are a few ways that may help both of you reduce the level of stress in your lives:

  • Participate in regular physical activity.
  • Maintain a “glass half full” attitude. Try to think positively whenever you can.
  • Recognize what is in and out of your control.
  • Ask your healthcare or insurance provider about financial assistance.
  • Meditate or attend a yoga class. Seek out ways to calm yourself and relax. Read more about the benefits of yoga.
  • Try to manage your time more effectively and work on not overscheduling yourself.
  • Take time to do something you enjoy. Get together with friends, see a movie, or read a great book.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Seek emotional support from a spiritual advisor.
  • Meet with a mental health professional to learn how to handle stressful issues in a healthier way.

Emotional challenges

When diabetes enters a relationship, it can wreak havoc. You and your partner may disagree on how to care for it and how to handle medical emergencies when they arise. Here are a few ways I’ve found to help reduce these stressful moments:

  • Attend a diabetes class or visit a diabetes educator together. Learn how to care for diabetes and what to do in case of an emergency. You can both hear the information at the same time and get expert answers to your questions. Read more about a couple who did just this!
  • If you want help from your partner, be specific. Say exactly what you want or need. If you don’t want any help, thank your partner for offering, even as you (nicely) decline.
  • If you aren’t living with diabetes, don’t just jump in and help. Ask your partner what he or she wants you to do and respect the answer you receive.
  • Take an emotional time-out. When things become too stressful, go for a walk or spend some time alone.
  • Keep a journal. If you wish, write down the things that aggravate you, and then tear it up. The act of writing can be a wonderful release.
  • Meet with a qualified marriage and family therapist to help strengthen your relationship.

As I tell my clients, don’t let the diabetes rollercoaster take you for a ride. Take proactive steps to limit the effect it can have on your life and your relationship.

For more articles on D-Relationships, visit The DX archive.

Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE*, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators 2008-09 Diabetes Educator of the Year. She is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and marriage and family therapist. Her books include Sex and Diabetes and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes. Roszler is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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