Managing type 2 diabetes can be incredibly difficult, and dealing with the physical side effects of the disease can often take a toll on mental health. Changes to blood sugar levels can have a direct impact on energy levels and anxiety levels as well as cloud thinking (brain fog, anyone?). Indirectly, the desire to make changes to your lifestyle may leave you feeling scared and uncertain as you learn new habits or try new things. In fact, a recent report found 45% of those with diabetes suffered from diabetes related distress, with 40% of participants claiming their medication impacted their ability to live a normal life .
But looking after mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing. Having a resilient mental outlook and a positive attitude can help you make empowered, healthy decisions, and ultimately lead you to achieving your goals more quickly and easily, putting you on the path to a healthier, happier you.
Here at Habitual, we know that mental health is a tricky old thing, and making it a priority is sometimes easier said than done. So we’ve put together five things to do if you’re feeling blue or struggling to keep motivated.
One of the easiest (and least expensive!) ways to boost your mood is to spend time outside in nature. Being in a green space where you feel safe has been proven to lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, which in turn reduces feelings of stress, anxiety and depression . And when we say nature, we don’t necessarily mean driving to a National Trust... it can be as simple as doing some gardening or taking a walk around your local park.
Whatever you do, try to connect with your surroundings, making a note of the sights, sounds and smells you experience around you (rather than zoning out on your phone, for example). For many of us, exploring and appreciating the natural world can help to calm the mind and relax the body, putting us in a better position when it comes to dealing with our emotions. Plus, the extra exercise never hurts!
To find local walkways and public footpaths in your area, have a look at https://footpathmap.co.uk.
Helping others is a great way to feel better—in fact it’s been scientifically proven that offering help and support activates areas in the brain that stimulate pleasure. Recent fMRI scans have shown that when offering social support to others, stress-related activity in the brain is lowered whilst reward-related and caregiving-related brain activity is increased... all of which helps to reduce stress and promote a greater sense of mental wellbeing .
Helping others can be as easy as checking in on a friend or family member, or offering to help someone pack their bags next time you’re at the supermarket. Or why not join a community forum where you can offer help, support, and advice to others with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Helping others on a similar journey to yours may also help to inspire and motivate you on your own health journey.
For starters, the Habitual diabetes reversal community can be accessed here: https://community.tryhabitual.com/
We’ve all felt the effects of a bad night’s sleep; groggy and irritable the next day, or perhaps the inability to concentrate on even the most simple task. But a bad night’s sleep can actually have bigger, further reaching effects on your mental health, with research suggesting that the ability to regulate our emotions is compromised the following day . When we don’t sleep well, the area of our brain called the amygdala (which helps control our emotions and anxiety levels) struggles to function properly, often leading to feelings of depression and/or low mood.
It’s not too surprising, then, that when we’re tired and emotional it becomes more difficult to make healthy choices. We might find we reach for comfort food or fast food, not having the energy to prepare something nutritious. Further still, there is scientific evidence to suggest that poor sleeping habits can actually impact the ability to lose weight . For more on the link between sleep and weight loss, check out this article.
Making lasting changes to your lifestyle can be incredibly hard. Learning new ways of doing things or adopting new habits can sometimes be scary, which makes it easy to fall back into old habits. But the road to good health is long, and the rewards not often immediate, which is why it’s so important to celebrate each of your successes along the way, no matter how small.
When we say small, we mean it. When you really don’t want to leave the house, but manage to get out for a 15 minute walk. When you’re having a craving and choose to have a piece of fruit instead of chocolate. Whatever your accomplishment, make sure you’re taking the time to congratulate yourself and to appreciate how far you’ve already come. It’s also totally normal to slip up here and there, so be sure not to be too hard on yourself… and then when you get back on track, celebrate that, too!
Sometimes it can feel like nothing is helping to shift a low mood. When this happens, consider speaking up and talking about how you’re feeling; reach out to a friend or a loved one to get things off your chest can sometimes be all you need to feel better and carry on.
If these feelings persist, then it’s important to reach out to a medical professional and seek some extra help. Your GP will be able to talk about how you’re feeling and suggest available options, potentially including different types of therapy or medication. If you’re feeling particularly bad and can’t get to a doctor, then please reach out to mental health charities such as The Samaritans (https://www.samaritans.org) or Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk) who will be able to help.
The path to good health is never easy, but putting time aside to look after your mental health will do loads to help. It’s also important to remember that these feelings are often temporary, and once you employ good coping mechanisms and a structured routine things will get easier.These mood boosting ideas are a great place to start and once you start incorporating them into your daily routine, adding your own ideas as you go, you’ll find there’s no stopping you!
 Nicolucci, A., Kovacs Burns, K., Holt, R.IG., Comaschi, M., Hermanns, N., Ishii, H., Kokoszka, A., Pouwer F., Skovlund, S.E., Stuckey, H.,Tarkun, I., Vallis, M., Wens, J., Peyrot, M., DAWN2 Study Group. (2013). Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs second study (DAWN2™): cross-national benchmarking of diabetes-related psychosocial outcomes for people with diabetes, Diabet Med. Accessed here.
 Barton, J., Rogerson, M., (2017). The importance of greenspace for mental health. BJPsych Int. 79-81. Accessed here.
 Poulin, M,J., Brown, S,L., Dillard, A, J.,Smith, D,M, (2013). Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality. AMJ Public Health. 1649–1655. Accessed here.
 King’s College London, (2016). Sleep deprivation may cause people to eat more calories. Accessed here.