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What happens to your body when you have diabetes?

The very first thought that comes to mind after hearing ‘Diabetes’, is ‘high blood sugar’. Diabetes is a group of different types of high blood sugar related issues.

Generally, your body turns glucose, or sugar that you consume, into energy for your cells. This happens with the help of a hormone called insulin that is secreted by your pancreas.

Sometimes, your body produces very little or no insulin, and sometimes it doesn’t use up all the insulin properly. When that happens, the glucose in your blood doesn’t enter your cells and remains in the bloodstream. This makes your blood sugar level go high.

When prolonged, you increase the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes, if not managed properly, can cause fatigue, lethargy, heart attacks, strokes, and nerve and kidney damage.

Does diabetes really affect your mind too?

Managing diabetes is a life-long process. It comes with a lot of lifestyle changes including food and beverage diet, exercise, tracking blood glucose and insulin, following up with your doctor, and all while caring for your work-life balance and financial situation. These factors alone are enough to make you feel as though your life is spinning out of control.

Frequent shifts in blood sugar levels can cause rapid mood changes, stress, fatigue, aggression, irritability, and the inability to think clearly can put pressure on your work and personal life.

Having diabetes also causes something called “diabetes distress”. Diabetes distress shares some traits of depression, anxiety, and stress. People with diabetes distress often feel a lot of pressure when it comes to managing the condition in terms of lifestyle and financial changes. Changes in their work life, personal life, and relationships can cause further upheaval. They may constantly worry about their blood sugar level, which may become emotionally taxing and physically burdensome. Within about 18 months from a diabetes diagnosis, 30%-50% of people with diabetes develop diabetes distress.

Having different types of diabetes also affects your mind in different ways. Simply the existence of a diabetic condition increases the chances of an individual developing depression by 2 to 3 times. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes are at a heightened risk of developing depression, while individuals with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.

All of this has a negative effect on your mental health and makes you lose your mental strength.

How does your mind affect diabetes?

When you’re battling many difficulties , and feel stressed, your heart rate increases, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. Your body responds to this threat by releasing hormones to try and calm you down to a state of equilibrium.

These stress hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol), when produced repeatedly for a long amount of time can cause an imbalance in your blood sugar level.

The cycle of diabetes works similar to that of a sugar crash. When you experience a sugar crash, you may feel lightheaded, irritable, hungry, shakiness, and have difficulty concentrating. Your mind might try to compensate for the low blood sugar by bingeing on sweets, sugary drinks, or chocolates. Similarly, diabetic conditions may make you crave for foods or snacks rich in sugar which may trigger eating disorders in the long term.

Locus of control- the degree to which an individual believes they have control over situations and experiences in their life, is also important when it comes to diabetes. This can be tied back to mental strength and its three components. When you think that you have no control over your diabetic condition, and instead think that it controls you, you become vulnerable to difficult emotions like sadness, anger and frustration. These emotions lead your behaviors in destructive or unhealthy ways, ultimately making it harder for you to manage your condition.

That's why, along with caring for your body’s diet, you must also care for your mind’s diet. When you put effort into building your mind muscles, your mind reciprocates the efforts by helping you cope with adverse situations resourcefully.

When you’re mentally strong, you’re better equipped to cope with stressors, face challenges, and perform to the best of your ability. Being mentally stronger means understanding the mind-body connection; the circle of how thinking affects feeling, which affects the way you act or behave, which in turn goes on to affect how you think.

Having an internal locus of control, i.e. thinking that you have control over your situation, and that you can make positive changes to help it, motivates and encourages you to look on the brighter side, think rationally, and take steps that are healthy and productive to your condition. Managing diabetes also means practicing a certain level of self control. Sugar crashes may leave you wanting more sweets or chocolates, but it is important to remind yourself of your progress, cultivate the will to improve your condition and limit your sweet intakes.

Three things you can do to be mentally stronger and manage diabetes better

1. Think mindfully:
Be aware of your thoughts, and catch yourself when you think something negative or unproductive. Challenge thoughts that make you feel negative emotions.
Focus on the solution rather than the problem to move on from negative emotions and feel better. What can you do about your situation? How can you help yourself feel better?
Instead of worrying about making big changes in your lifestyle, breathe, and start with smaller changes like drinking more water instead of sodas, or cutting down on sweets and sugar in your tea or coffee.

2. Feel without constraints:
Allow yourself to feel difficult emotions like sadness, irritation, worry. Try to label these emotions, and understand why you must be feeling them.
Reach out to your friends, family, therapist and diabetes care provider, and talk about your worries and anxieties. Try to connect with other people with diabetes and support each other emotionally through the daily tasks of counting carbs, testing blood glucose levels, and all the highs and lows that come with diabetes.

3. Take productive actions:
Thinking towards a goal, or a solution, helps you stay motivated and encourages you to take healthy actions that are helpful to you.
This can include things like setting a daily routine, exercising adequately and developing a meal-plan with your diabetes care provider.

To help you learn more about your emotions and mental strength, in collaboration with MindPeers users can take online therapy and mind coaching sessions at an exclusive rate of just INR 280. Please visit https://mindpeers.co/therapy, sign up and apply code KOTAKGI while booking to avail.

Article authored by MindPeers India Private Limited. Copyright 2021. Cannot be duplicated.

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Disclaimer: The content provided is for education and informational purpose only, none of the information contained in our blog amounts to any form of opinion or advice. Please go through policy related documents carefully or consult an expert before making any insurance-related decisions.

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