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Using CBT to cope with the physical impact of diabetes

June 9, 2021

People who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes can find it affects them in a number of ways – some physical, and some psychological. In this blog we share a few ideas and CBT-based techniques that might help if you’re struggling with the physical impacts of your condition.

Managing pain.

Some people find that mindfulness exercises help to ease the psychological burden of any physical pain they’re experiencing, by reducing their perception of and sensitivity to it. Following a short mindfulness or meditation practice for 10 minutes every morning can make a big difference. Popular apps include Headspace, Calm and 10% Happier, which can be downloaded from Apple and Android Play stores.

Improving the quality of your sleep.

Difficulties with sleeping can stem from changes in physical health or mood. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important. This means doing things like going to bed and getting up at the same time, getting exposure to natural light during the day, and avoiding stimulants such as coffee and nicotine from mid-afternoon.

If you find it hard to get off to sleep, you can have a go at using light, sound and temperature to calm distracting thoughts and reset your circadian rhythm – otherwise known as your body’s internal clock. For example, set a pre-bedtime window, roughly 45 minutes before you plan on trying to sleep, where you dim the lights, have a warm bath, turn off all devices, and do something that relaxes you like reading or listening to soothing music.

Boosting your activity levels.

If you experience low energy and tiredness, doing a ‘values exercise’ will help move you towards living a meaningful and fulfilling life within your current situation and what you’re able to manage.

Make a list of all the things that are most important to you. Consider people and relationships, work, hobbies, and downtime. What do you love? What really matters? What brings you joy, or a sense of achievement?

Now, which of those can you still do? Is there anything you can continue doing if you make some kind of change? There may be activities that are no longer possible. Think about what you valued most about them. Creativity? A sense of purpose? Relaxation? Is there an alternative activity you can do that would bring you the same benefits?

The final step is to make firm plans for how you’re going to bring each of those things into your life.

Engaging in healthy behaviours.

Setting and following a routine is a good way to avoid slipping into bad habits, or behaving in ways that are detrimental to your health. Schedule things like medication reminders and daily exercise as appointments in your calendar, and make a list for your weekly supermarket shop so you’re not led astray!

Choose two small healthy habits that you’re not currently doing, and commit to include them in the week ahead. Plan in exactly when and where you’ll do them. Make them small and easy to accomplish to begin with.

If you experience low mood, stress or anxiety as a result of having diabetes, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you manage these feelings by changing the way you think and behave. Ieso offers online CBT treatment that you can access from home – find out more here.

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