Managing diabetes can be challenging – not only physically, but also psychologically. In order to effectively manage blood glucose levels it is important to understand the many factors that make blood glucose levels rise and fall – including lifestyle (diet and exercise), mental health (stress), and treatment (medication) factors.
At Endeavor Psychology, we help clients develop strategies to understand and manage the many aspects of their lives, habits and behaviors that impact diabetes. We recognize the intricate interrelationships between the client’s physical and mental health. Our approach focuses on enhancing clients’ self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-care.
We work intensively with clients to implement lifestyle changes and behavioral strategies to improve their physical health and help clients manage the emotional demands of diabetes – treating anxiety, depression, mood disorders and stress – all of which can have an impact on an individual’s ability to effectively cope with and successfully manage diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
The term “diabetes” refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar, or glucose. Glucose is a critical source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues and is the brain’s chief source of fuel. If you have diabetes, you have too much glucose in your blood. The causes of this glucose imbalance differ across three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes: Your body does not make insulin, a hormone that is needed to take the sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat and convert it into energy for your body. People with Type 1 Diabetes can live long, high-quality, healthy lives with the help of regular insulin therapy, exercise, and a diet designed specifically for people with diabetes.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Your body does not use insulin properly, a condition called “insulin resistance.” While your body initially makes extra insulin to compensate, over time your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal levels of blood sugar (glucose). Type 2 diabetes is typically treated first with weight reduction, diet, and exercise. If blood sugar levels can’t be managed effectively with these measures, oral medications and in some cases insulin treatment may be used.
- Gestational Diabetes: Some women develop gestational diabetes late in pregnancy. While this condition causes a pregnant woman’s pancreas to work harder to produce insulin, the insulin does not effectively lower blood glucose levels. As a result, the extra blood glucose passes through the placenta, raising blood sugar levels in the baby and causing the baby’s pancreas to produce extra insulin.
While women often “recover” from gestational diabetes after the baby is born, effective diabetes management during pregnancy is critical, both for the health of the mother and baby. Treatment for gestational diabetes aims to control blood glucose levels through diet, exercise, and sometimes blood glucose testing and insulin therapy.
How can Endeavor Psychology help me manage my diabetes?
Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, there are several important measures that you can institute to effectively manage your diabetes. At Endeavor Psychology, we work with clients to understand the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and environmental factors that may impact their ability to cope with and manage diabetes. We help clients leverage their internal motivations and strengths as well as external supports to implement sustainable strategies for diabetes management.
Our approach focuses on targeting several health behaviors and lifestyle changes, including:
- Instituting healthy eating habits: People with diabetes need to understand how to implement and maintain a diet specifically tailored to their needs. It is important not only to know how specific foods affect blood sugar levels, but also how portion sizes and combinations of food types affect glucose levels. Specific nutritional requirements are usually addressed through a nutritionist and/or diabetes specialist. At Endeavor Psychology, we can help you develop strategies to implement dietary changes and stick to a dietary plan to help you manage your diabetes.
- Physical Activity: Physical activity is another critical component of diabetes management. When you exercise, your muscles use blood glucose for energy. Regular exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently and helps lower your blood sugar level. A diabetes specialist can prescribe an exercise plan designed to include a balance of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise that is right for you. At Endeavor Psychology, we can help you set attainable goals and implement strategies to adhere to your exercise plan.
- Medication Adherence: For some people, diabetes management may include insulin therapy or other diabetes medications designed to lower blood sugar levels. Because the effectiveness of these medications depends on timing and dosage, adhering to medication can be tricky. At Endeavor Psychology, we work with clients to implement behavioral strategies to incorporate medicinal therapies into their lives and adhere to the medication plans prescribed by their physicians.
- Stress Reduction and Management: When you are stressed, your body produces hormones that may cause a rise in your blood sugar level. Stress, anxiety and life pressures may also make it difficult to follow your diabetes management routine. At Endeavor Psychology, we work with clients to identify stressors and understand how stress affects blood glucose levels. We help clients learn and utilize techniques to cope with and manage stress and address psychological issues that may be negatively impacting physical health and mental wellbeing.
- Other lifestyle/behavioral changes: For everyone, healthy behaviors are critical to physical health. For people with diabetes, unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, unhealthy eating habits, or being overweight can be particularly critical as they can exacerbate already increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other diabetes-related health problems. At Endeavor Psychology, we use a number of therapeutic approaches including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help clients implement healthy lifestyle changes.
What other emotional and mental health challenges can Endeavor Psychology help me address to manage and cope with my diabetes?
It is normal for anyone facing a health challenge to experience feelings of sadness, helplessness or anger. For people with diabetes, it is important to deal with these feelings – as well as more serious mood disorders, including depression and anxiety – as they can undermine an individual’s ability to cope with and effectively manage diabetes. Mental health issues can have serious physical impacts (biological, hormonal) and behavioral impacts (ability to adhere to diet, exercise, medical treatments) for people dealing with diabetes.
At Endeavor Psychology, we realize that you are the most important member of your health care team; you are the one who manages your diabetes on a daily basis. The more you know about psychological factors that affect your blood sugar level, the better equipped you will be to anticipate blood glucose changes and utilize your diabetes management plan to target those factors. We focus on helping you be self-aware, empowered and practice self-care to achieve your health goals and maintain a high quality of life.
If you or a loved one is dealing with diabetes and needs help, please contact us for a consultation.