Managing diabetes stress is part of living with the illness. That is just a fact. By its very nature it’s unpredictable and doesn’t play fair, so even on a good day it can present challenges. But add to it the stress of the current COVID19 pandemic and we see all new levels of stress and frustration. Just like the dragonfly in this illustration, we are travelling in rough conditions.
Recent studies show that the pandemic is creating individual stress on unprecedented levels. It comes packaged in two lovely forms – 1) stress about real events and 2) worry about future events.
- Many people have experienced true casualty from covid such as disrupted finances, job loss, strained or broken family relationships, and actual infection and illness. Dealing with these hardships can be all consuming with real and tangible threats to one’s livelihood. Each of these stressors poses significant challenges on their own, but the stakes are even higher with the additional unknowns of our times.
- There is no clarity about what data is true, when it will be over, and when we can feel safe. Without clarity, we are stuck in a void of worry and “what ifs”. Not a fun place to be and these ruminating thoughts and worries increase the likelihood of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. We all have good reason for concern simply because we just don’t know.
“When is it safe to go out?”, “Will a mask protect me?”, “What will happen if I get it?”, “Who can I trust?” , “Will a vaccine be here in time?”, “Will it work?”, “How much longer?”, “What about the elderly who have no visitors?”, “What about our kids who need socialization?”, “What are the long term impacts?”, and on and on…..
There is so much we don’t know and the unknown is a scary place for anyone. And we are all in the midst of MANY unknowns. You likely won’t be surprised that depression 30% of the population has clinical depression (compared to a normal of 6.6%)
Not only are we stressed & depressed as individuals, experts say our communities have experienced trauma. Not the trauma of a specific event like a hurricane or riot, but the collective and ongoing suffering of the fabric of our people’s unravelling. Businesses closing, lack of access to typical services, differing risk tolerances about wearing masks, being with other people and the crazy that is social media, have made us unsettled and not sure who to trust. Neighbors have turned against each other and disputes that otherwise would blow over, blow up.
Most of us can tolerate hard stuff, especially if we know there is an endpoint. We get through a dental visit, because we know it will be over. We choke down nasty tasting medicine because the taste lasts just a few seconds. But stuck in this purgatory feels like hell on earth.
Add Diabetes to the Mix
So yes, we are in stressful times, but add in the normal worries of diabetes on top of everything else, and it’s no wonder people with diabetes are struggling. Paying for supplies and medicines is affected by income changes, insurance changes and lack of normal access. Many grocery stores don’t have all the fresh produce they used to have. Knowing that tight glycemic control is the key to surviving a covid infection raises concern and worry when its harder to stay in range due to stress and atypical conditions.
It’s a worry bonanza and the risks are real and valid when you live with diabetes. I don’t need to explain that to you. But what can you do?
Focus and Learn
There are many suggestions about how to manage stress, but these are two that I have found most helpful for developing resilience. Resilience is a strong predictor for improved diabetes outcomes and lower levels of stress and depression.
The illustration is from my book, “Dragonfly Lights – Learning About Your Perfect Purpose“. It shows the dragonfly (your spirit), travelling in a leaking spaceship (your body and its imperfections), on a day where everything is coming against him. These days happen. We can’t prevent hard days, but we do have options.
The dragonfly must make a choice about which path to take as the road forks. It isn’t clear which path will be the safe path, but it is obvious he has options. Perhaps go right into the unknown, perhaps go left and hide away, perhaps land and stop travelling or perhaps turn around and go back. Only after the selection, can he look back and learn from his choice – good or bad. The hardship and his choice becomes his teacher.
As we navigate this most difficult time, focus on those things which you can change: your reactions, your attitude, your activities, your words, your next steps, or your decision to let go of what you can’t change. And remember, what you have overcome on your hardest days, has developed your character, taught you great lessons and made you stronger. There is purpose in your pain if you choose to look at it that way.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful Serenity prayer that I think is fitting as we journey through this valley
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference
Stay safe and be well,
Curious about my book? It’s a beautifully illustrated book for children of all ages who are perfectly imperfect and need inspiration and support. There is also a companion activity book to explore the topics further. Both available on Amazon HERE