We all know that stress is a part of life. There are some good points to having stress, as stress can cause us to take action, but an overall high level of stress can cause health problems.
Having a child with diabetes is stressful. There’s “off the wall” numbers for no reason, feeding them and counting carbs, dealing with schools and playdates, leaving the house with a bag full of packed diabetes items, and of course, the worse, the 3am blood sugar checks that cause sleep deprivation!
But if you are overstressed, your children pick up on it. Reducing your stress can help them have better diabetes control.
Remember, when you take care of yourself, you can better take care of your child!
Tips to Relieve Stress
1. Determine what you can control and what you can’t control. We sometimes waste a lot of time worrying and trying to solve problems that we cannot control. Learning to stop and look at whether you can really change the situation or whether it is out of your control and you need to let go and change how you are dealing with a situation is important.
Learn all you can about managing diabetes so you can change what you need to, but also realize there are many other things that are out of our control that affect diabetes, such as hormones, growth spurts, and infections. And especially don’t waste time blaming yourself or trying to figure out what you did to cause diabetes, because ultimately there isn’t anything!
2. Take time for you. I frequently hear that it is selfish to take time for you and there is never enough time to do something for you. But if you think about running ragged and never having any downtime or you time, it is taking away from how you are responding to others in your life.
By being stressed, anxious, worried, etc, you may be more irritable with those you love, or may not be fully present to enjoy the moments because you are off in your mind worrying about other things. So by taking time for you, you are able to take care of others better.
It is like the airplane analogy. Put on your own air mask before putting on your child’s. So make it a priority to schedule some you time. It can be something simple like a quiet cup of coffee in the morning, a hot bath, reading a favorite book, going for a walk, or developing new hobbies. This may mean that you have to train someone to care for your child with diabetes, but in the long run, that’s better anyway in case of an emergency with you!
3. Eat healthy and limit stress increasing foods such as sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Also eat regular meals and planned snacks. Skipping meals can increase stress. Many people are not breakfast eaters, so try lighter breakfasts such as a granola bar or smoothie. Seek out a Registered Dietitian if you need help in this area.
4. Try some guided imagery, prayer, meditation, yoga, or progressive relaxation. Guided imagery is a process where you do deep breathing and imagine yourself somewhere pleasant such as a beach. You imagine using all your senses such as feeling the sand, smelling the salt water, hearing the waves and birds, seeing the grass blades blow and waves crash, etc. Even a five minute “vacation in your head” will help relax you.
I had a client who told me “I go fishing in my head.” I love a CD available on amazon.com called Ten Minutes to Relax. It is a quick guided imagery that can help lower stress.
Progressive relaxation is a process where deep breathing is used, along with tensing and releasing muscles in order to help you see whether muscles are tense without you realizing it. It helps you relax by releasing muscles. Many audios are available that help walk you through this process. When done daily, guided imagery and progressive relaxation help lower overall stress.
5. Take 4×4 breaks each day. This means learning to take four small breaks throughout the day and do four deep belly breaths. This helps you just slow down and relax a few times during the day. Also try this when a blood sugar number is high. Remember that the number is a tool for managing diabetes, not a reflection on being “good” or “bad.”
6. Exercise. Yes, that is the dreaded word most people do not like. But exercise is a great stress reliever. It also can increase your energy level and help you focus better. And it improves your confidence level, which can affect how you take care of your child with diabetes. Exercise helps lower those cortisol levels and stimulates serotonin. So build some regular exercise into your routine.
7. Be mindful with your meals. This means rather than inhaling your food while working, driving, watching t.v., or doing other activities, try focusing on your meals and enjoying each bite. Take in how your food smells and how each bite tastes. Chew slowly and try to take twenty minutes to eat.
Focusing on your senses gives your mind a much needed break, and by focusing on what you are eating, you get the benefit of being more aware of what you are eating and the amount.
8. Give yourself a mini massage. Just take a five minutes and massage your temples, face, and neck. Better yet, have a partner do it or sign up for a full massage occasionally. You will be amazed at how relaxed you will feel!
10. Find a support person. Find someone you can trust and share your thoughts and feelings with. When thinking of a support person, discern who a healthy support person would be. This would be someone who listens and is nonjudgmental, not necessarily have to solve your problem but just being present with you, and someone who does not tell you to “get over it.”
Someone who understands diabetes is a great asset, though I know those are hard to find sometime. Having a support group with parents of children with diabetes is a great stress reliever.
Work on lowering your stress to help change your cortisol and serotonin levels and you will see the benefits in your life and your child’s. Work on adding in some of these techniques each day, as well as other stress techniques as this is not a complete list of stress reduction.
Sometimes people have to actually schedule them on their calendar or post sticky notes for reminders. And don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional if you need more individualized help.