No matter where you are in the world, everyone’s life has been changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you are on the front lines working to help keep communities safe or locked up inside staying safe, we are all feeling the effects of these uncertain and troubling times.
For diabetics, this anxiety doesn’t just come with feelings of dread, sleepless nights, and high blood pressure. It often also comes with a hefty dose of elevated blood sugars.
To have a fighting chance at keeping your blood sugars within a healthy range you have to lower your stress hormones. Here are ten proven methods for fighting your anxiety that you can do from the safety of your home.
Not only is exercise an effective way to reduce cortisol and increase endorphins, but it is one of the simplest ways to lower blood sugars without using up valuable insulin.
If your area’s isolation restrictions allow it, try going out for a run. Shoot for early morning or dinner time when crowds aren’t likely. Otherwise, youtube has an almost unlimited number of free cardio and anaerobic workout videos to follow along with.
Just make sure your blood sugars are in the appropriate range before you start. If you aren’t sure what that means, check out this article first.
2. Stay Connected
Today’s communications technology provides a unique aid compared to the true isolation people experienced historically when they suffered through pandemics. While we may be physically isolated from family and friends, saying hello or even seeing their faces is only a click away.
If you feel anxious or lonely, schedule a call with someone close to you. Or better yet, set up a video chat happy hour with all of your friends or family. House Party is a great app for doing this with your whole family or group of friends.
Studies have shown that depression levels are directly tied to perceived social support. If you feel you’re missing that vital support, take the first step and reach out. If that’s not an option or not enough, there are many counselors available to chat over the phone.
3. Limit Your Social Media and News Exposure
While it’s important to stay informed during this time, it is easy to overdo it. In your endless search for information, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the number of negative stories you see. And yet, it can be difficult to turn off the TV or close your social media app.
Instead of letting your drive for information lead you down a rabbit hole that will most likely ruin your day, set limits for yourself. Allow yourself ten minutes to check your Facebook feed or read your news notifications during lunch or while you take a break in the afternoon. Once your time is up, engage in one of the other stress-relieving activities on this list to assure that negativity doesn’t spiral.
Try to avoid watching the news right before bed and don’t be afraid to use screen time limiting apps or the do-not-disturb setting on your phone to force yourself out of stress-inducing habits.
4. Utilize Stress Reducers
If you find that your blood sugars or your anxiety are out of control, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor for help. While medications may be necessary for some, others can find relief in the form of non-pharmaceuticals.
Many studies have found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can have a profound impact on anxiety levels. Herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, and valerian can also help reduce stress and improve sleep.
Aromatherapy can be another great avenue to explore, especially while you are stuck in the house. Scented candles and essential oils have been shown to reduce heart rate and stress hormones in the blood. Even the smell of rain can have a positive impact on mood and reduce anxiety.
5. Find Time to Laugh
Laughter is the best stress reducer and it does not need to be ingested or inhaled. A good, hearty laugh is one of the simplest ways to make yourself feel better.
Laughing not only reduces stress hormones but can also relieve the physical symptoms of tension and make you feel physically and mentally more relaxed. Both of these effects can have a profound impact on your blood sugars and your overall BG control.
Choosing a classic comedy, binging on episodes or your favorite sitcom, or even calling that friend you share endless inside jokes with are all great ways to induce a belly-busting laugh session. Sometimes I ask Alexa to tell me a joke — they are lame but it helps.
6. Get Your Oxytocin Fix
Oxytocin, commonly known as the love or cuddle hormone, can help reduce stress and make you feel less lonely. And, research shows it has the power to make people more insulin sensitive.
This connection hormone may be the answer to all your isolation woes, but how do you get it?
Oxytocin is readily produced in the body during physical contact with people you like. So, if you happen to be holed up with a significant other and both of you are healthy, it’s time to cuddle! But don’t worry if you’re the only human in your house, because even the act of petting a pet can release oxytocin. If you don’t have your own pup to pamper, consider fostering an animal from your local shelter.
Other simple ways to activate oxytocin in your body are to take a warm bath, do something nice for someone else, meditate, and to go for a walk.
This might seem obvious, but how you breathe is almost as important as breathing itself when it comes to lowering your stress levels.
When we experience anxiety, we tend to take quick, shallow breaths. This breathing pattern can continue long after the initial stressor has gone away. If you feel tense or are in the process of battling a stubborn high blood sugar, try taking a few deep, long breaths.
According to the American Institute of Stress, deep breaths increase the amount of oxygen in the brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which, in turn, promotes a state of calmness.
8. Get Outside
Unless you are under a strict lockdown or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you likely have the opportunity to get out of the house at least once a day. Take advantage of that opportunity to take a long walk or just sit in the sun while doing some breathing exercises.
Getting some fresh air and moving around decreases stress and can help you feel less isolated. Even just spending time on your balcony and hearing other people can help you feel connected to the world and increase that valuable oxytocin hormone.
9. Focus on the Positives
It can feel weird to laugh or enjoy yourself during a time when so many are suffering and the future is so uncertain, but the truth is, there will be some positives that come out of this situation. While we may not know what those are on a large scale, it can be easier and even beneficial to focus on the positive things happening in your own life.
Maybe you get to spend more time with your family, finally have an opportunity to start a new hobby, or just catch up on some much-needed rest. By focusing on these things instead of the many negatives, you can quickly improve your mood.
As a person living with diabetes, you already have to make the best out of a bad situation every day so you should be well equipped for such an exercise.
10. Give Your Diabetes Some Love
Lastly, consider spending this extra time focusing on your diabetes management. While this might not directly lower your stress levels, it can certainly help you better manage those elevated BGs.
And, once your new focused management starts to show results, the stress you’ve always had around diabetes will start to decrease. This, along with your stress management techniques from above will help you feel better overall.
We are currently experiencing an unprecedented global situation that should have you feeling a little nervous. But it’s important to keep those nerves in check so that you can maintain healthy blood sugars and keep yourself strong.
If you are wondering what other steps you should be taking to keep yourself healthy and safe as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, you can learn more here.