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Diabetes Management Toolkit: Dealing with Anxiety

We are constantly bombarded by the media of the risks of ignoring diabetes and obesity.

While theses warnings are crucial to sound the alarm to a culture that is all too passive in the face of this epidemic, what about the consequences to the individual who is actually living with the illness, and is already trying to do what they can to manage their lives in healthy way?

One of the often unspoken problems that challenges the ongoing struggle with diabetes is anxiety.  And to be repeatedly reminded of the possibility of blindness, stroke, heart attack, or amputation can only raise ones anxiety level.

The idea is not to simply live with diabetes, but to really live with diabetes.  And to do that, you can’t occupy yourself with the future and all the problems that could conceivably be in store; you have to just focus on what it takes to lead a healthy life today.  Here are a few tips to help you minimize the anxiety and maximize the living:

  1. Stay here and now.  The future and the past are the playgrounds of anxiety.  “If I just hadn’t done X,” or “I sure hope Y doesn’t happen.”  To live intentionally in the present moment (which, by the way, is the only moment we can really live anyway), is a major discipline that robs anxiety of its power to hurt and ruin, to throw you off course.
  2. Once you have gotten underway with your lifestyle changes, and are adequately informed about the risks associated with diabetes, intentionally limit the time you spend exposing yourself to merely rehearsing those risks.  Just say, “OK. I get it!” And get on with your life by filling your mind with positive reminders that diabetes need not have the last word.  Joy and meaning and all the other good stuff are still out there for you.
  3. Learn to distract yourself with a “safe place.”  Imagine a scene from your memory or imagination that is perfectly constructed to give you a feeling of contentment and safety.  Maybe a day on the beach, a mountain retreat in winter, or a quiet spring morning is your style.  Whatever it is, spend a few minutes in imagining that scene in all five senses.  Once you can sense what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching in your scene, then hold them all together in your mind.  Now, whenever you are anxious, just close your eyes and go to your safe place.  No anxiety allowed!
  4. Learn to approach what you fear.  Fear is always bigger in the rear-view mirror.  If you feel anxiety because there is a part of diabetes management you know you are neglecting, stop right there and then.  Approach your fear by reaching out to your doctor, to the diabetes warriors around you personally and to those on line, and face it down with action and with all the support you can get.  That dreaded dragon will get smaller and smaller until you can reach down and put it in your pocket and get on with your life!
Take your happy pill to kill anxiety

Find your own happy pill to kill anxiety

Anxiety serves a purpose.  It is a natural warning signal that there is something ahead that we should approach with caution.  But anxiety has a way of trying to be the boss, dictating what we should think about and demanding reflexive retreat as a way of coping.  You have to “fire your boss” when this happens.  Use these tips to put yourself confidently back at the helm of your life.

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