Mental health

Research suggests that diabetics are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Here, I share what tools I use to manage my mental health.

If you have diabetes or have recently been diagnosed, you may be feeling overwhelmed and wondering how you are going to cope. Please know that this is perfectly normal. I remember being unable to shake the feeling of sadness and anxiety. Questions about the effect diabetes could have on my life consumed me. It was at that point I realised I had to ask for help.

Getting support and facing your mental health challenges

There are a few actions you can take to get the support you need:

  • Talk to your family, friends and healthcare professionals about how you are feeling. I completely understand that this may be difficult for you. It took me four attempts to pluck up the courage to ask for help. In most cases, you will be pleasantly surprised with how well people respond to you. Sometimes just telling a friend can feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. If you're nervous about talking to a healthcare professional, you can always ask a friend or family member to accompany you to the appointment.
  • If you haven't already, read up and fully understand what diabetes is. By understanding what it is and how to manage it, you can set up a care plan with your healthcare team. This will give you back control and hopefully relieve some of the negative feelings.
  • Join a support group. There are plenty of online forums or Facebook groups.
  • If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone face to face you can call the Diabetes UK helpline. It's operated by trained counsellors who have comprehensive knowledge about diabetes.
  • Another option, which is the path I chose, is to seek counselling/therapy. I was able to be referred by my diabetes health care team, so it is really worth asking if you feel this would benefit you. Alternatively, you can look for a counsellor on the counselling directory.

How will counselling/therapy help me?

Therapy sessions can take place on a one-to-one basis, in a group, or online. Most importantly, you will not be made to do anything you do not want to do. There are a few types of therapies that may be adopted during your sessions, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and cognitive analytic therapy (CAT).

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT helps with learning to overcome or handle negative thoughts and behaviours. The aim of this therapy is to change how we deal with situations and learn to take positive actions. This type of therapy acknowledges the past but focuses on the present and is suitable for mild to moderate forms of depression. Typically you can expect to have 6-8 sessions but your counsellor should suggest how many sessions will be suitable for you.

This is the form of therapy I had. It is not a quick fix but it has helped me to deal with difficult situations and keep my mood from going low.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

The aim of MBCT is to change the way you perceive your life. Rather than focusing on past events or anxieties of the future, mindfulness teaches you to live in the "now" and avoid judgment or the desire to change. It teaches you to accept the situation as it is currently. This is particularly useful when dealing with chronic illnesses as there are some things that are simply out of your control. Learning to accept the situation for what it is can relieve your mind a great deal. MBCT is often used to address recurrent major depression.

Mindfulness practices peace and relaxation which can help to reduce the symptoms of depression. This can often be achieved through mindful meditation. Meditation has become an important part of my mental health management. I highly recommend giving it a go. You can find some of my favorite meditation videos below.

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)

CAT looks the way a person thinks, feels and acts, it explores how previous life events impact these behaviours (often from childhood or earlier in life).

This type of therapy is tailored to your needs and manageable goals for change. Sessions can last between 4-24 weeks (typically 16 weeks).

A lot of these services are available on the NHS, so it is worth speaking to your health care team for more information.

Tools I use to manage my mental health

I use a variety of tools to help me through my bad days. I still have moments when my anxiety creeps up on me. When this happens, I try to act fast by following some of the techniques listed below. Most of the time it helps me to accept what is going on or even overcome my anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation

Guided 10 minutes mindfulness meditation by The Honest Guys

Whatever time of day it is, if I am having a bad anxiety attack I find a quiet place to sit and listen to this 10-minute meditation. It really helps me to accept what is going on, and just be. I hope you find this useful too.

Calming Mindfulness Meditation before Sleeping by Jason Stephenson

It is common to struggle with sleep when living with a chronic illness. I know I certainly do! I have lost count of the number of times I have followed this meditation before bed. Jason Stephenson has also kindly given the option to download this meditation for free on his website .

30 Minute Guided Mindful Walking Meditation by OnlineMeditation

I adore doing guided mindful walks. I have always enjoyed walking, but there is something about taking the time to stop worrying and just appreciate your surroundings. Not only is exercise beneficial for diabetes management it really helps with your mental wellbeing. This is one of my favourite guided walks. You can also download the meditation for free on the mindful walking website .

30 Minute Guided Visualization Meditation by Jason Stephenson

Visualisation is an empowering tool that will enhance your self-awareness and focus your mind. Visualisations help me to work towards the goals I have set for my health.