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Stress Management
Stress and Non – Compliance : The Double – Edged Sword of Diabetes
May 25, 2018

Sometimes, fighting with diabetes can be a losing battle, both to the individual and the medical team. Some patients are hard on themselves, which can be self-defeating and frustrating. This is because they are trying everything to keep their sugars under control, but with age, duration, severity, and a host of other clinical factors beyond their control, becomes a huge challenge.

Stress and non-compliance are the two main culprits that act as barriers to effective treatment of diabetes. While stress is beyond one’s control (sometimes), compliance, to a certain extent. Rigidity of habits and unhealthy lifestyle can be a huge deterrent, too. We often find patients unwilling to change, say, their diet pattern, timing or lifestyle, simply because they do not want to let go, or for some strange reason, feel they are being disloyal to their ingrained values, customs and traditions. E.g. Fasting.

Stress can be a confounding factor. Patients often enquire, “How do we know when we are under stress?” Technically, when the environmental demands exceed one’s personal coping resources, stress sets in. In a layman’s terms, when one is pushed beyond one’s limits, so much so that you that you start feeling tired, irritable, anxious, angry – hear the alarm bells ringing. E.g. stress headaches (tension headaches).

Many a time, stress is self-imposed, usually due to impractical thinking, high expectations and wanting to be in control. More flexibility in thinking, and adaptation to situations, as and when they come, can help reduce one’s stress. However, sometimes, stress can be genuine and beyond one’s control, as in, having financial problems, relationship issues, job pressures, ill health, going through an emotional crisis, and so on. At such times, one will learn the coping strategies, but in the meanwhile, the sugars predictably shoot up.

Diabetic individuals face the added pressures of dealing with situational stress of this kind, as well as trying to manage their sugars – by eating on time, the right foods, taking their medication, and doing some physical activity as recommended. Any deviations from the regimen, may result in hyperglycemia or even hypos. This results in a rush to the doctor/ lab, to check if everything is in order. We have seen patients run through a gamut of emotions at the hospital, ranging from anger, fear, guilt, sadness, hopelessness.

Diabetic individuals endure a lot of guilt and anguish, for putting their families through financial burdens and emotional stress when they fall ill, or have to be dependent on others. At such times, social and emotional support can help bolster one’s flagging morale.

At the end of it all, one wonders whether there is some specific formula to manage one’s diabetes perfectly, but on the brighter side, stress management, regular compliance and lifestyle modifications, can make one feel more in control of one’s health, and improve one’s quality of life, in the long run.

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