Psychological support for diabetes

psychological support for diabetes

By Dr Shikha Gray

Every year, National Diabetes Week is held in July as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges of living with diabetes. This year, from July 12 to 18, the focus of National Diabetes Week is on mental health. Given the extraordinary circumstances we all find ourselves in, this is an apt, important and timely topic of conversation.

Diabetes is a complex condition, which requires ongoing commitment to daily self-management tasks. The demands can be tedious, exhausting, and often disruptive to the flow and enjoyment of everyday activities.

The demands of diabetes management are not just physical. People with diabetes are continually having to make calculations and decisions, maintain motivation, focus, and resilience in the face of setbacks. They must exercise continuing vigilance about their condition. They also need to be socially savvy, navigating social stigma and misconceptions about diabetes and its management

Given these demands and responsibilities, it’s not surprising that distress and anxiety is common among those with diabetes. Most people manage well, most of the time. They have developed coping strategies and take setbacks in their stride. But it’s natural for anyone living with diabetes to feel frustrated at times, fed up or worried. If you’re struggling, remember that support is availab We all do better when we have support.

Psychologists can support people with diabetes in many ways. They can assist people in making positive changes to their mood, well-being, self-confidence and other facets of life that are affected by diabetes. Here are some tips that can help you make the most out of your sessions with a psychologist:

  1. Tune in to yourself: In the lead-up to your appointment, reflect on what concerns, worries, fears, and experiences have been bothering you. What does it feel like to be you? What occupies your mind? What takes up your time? Jot down what you notice and bring this to your session.
  2. Be open: The prospect of unpacking our most private, painful and frustrating experiences can feel daunting. But it can also be liberating. It can feel like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. Resist the urge to shrug and say you’re fine or to present yourself as “perfectly OK”. By the same token, if there’s something on your mind about how your therapy is going (e.g., you feel like your psychologist has overlooked or misunderstood something), make sure you raise this with them.
  3. Consider your goals. When you’re in the midst of an emotional storm, or a highly stressful situation, it can be hard to imagine a bright future, one with possibilities and potential. But it’s important to spend some time visualising such a future. What would you be doing that is different? How would you be spending your time? Allow these questions to inform your goals.
  4. Adopt a stance of curiosity. It can be really tempting to go into therapy with the expectation that whatever it is that is bothering you will be ‘solved’ or ‘fixed’ quickly and efficiently: that all you need from your psychologist are the right tools. The fact is that more often than not – and particularly when it comes to diabetes management - psychological work is complex. It can take time, it can involve mis-steps. Sometimes it can require us to readjust our goals, or to find ways to flourish and thrive in spite of a problem persisting. View therapy as an opportunity to discover and explore. Approach it with curiosity.

If you would like tips for managing your emotional health as a person with diabetes, visit: www.ndss.com.au/resources. The NDSS leaflets can also be a useful conversation starter for discussing with a psychologist how diabetes is affecting you.

You can read more about when and why to access diabetes support from a psychologist here: https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/accessing-diabetes-support-from-psychologists-fact-sheet/

Finally, don’t forget to check out the National Diabetes Week 2020 website: https://www.itsabouttime.org.au/

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

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