Mental health is come into sharp focus during COVID times. We have started accepting mental health issues as a reality which is a good step to seeking professional help. Rapid urbanization, breakdown of traditional families, living alone, increased competitiveness at school, college and workplace all add to our feeling out of sorts. Our mental wellbeing affects all parts of our lives. When stressed we may make wrong decisions, have a low self-esteem and influence how we handle our professional or personal relationships. In a nutshell how we feel and think makes our lives happy or not so happy.
Diabetes and mental health have a significant relationship. It is well established that total health includes both healthy mind and body. Our thoughts, feelings and the way we react to the environment around us - all are important for maintain overall health. It is seen that mental health problem makes it difficult to manage a lifestyle needed for controlling diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugars. This may further lead to added medical issues that will adversely affect our mental health.
Some common mental health problems and their manifestations in diabetics:
1. Depression is when you are constantly feeling sad for no reason - depression leads to loss of interest in all things that were normally important to you and that you enjoyed doing. In such a situation, you may land up ignoring going out for your daily walk; you may not take your blood tests or doctor consults on time because you just don't want to meet anyone. Again, due to depression you may not be taking your medicines on time, which leads to uncontrolled blood sugars. High blood sugars over a long period of time are known to increase the risk of nerves getting damaged, increased risk of heart diseases and kidney health deterioration.
WHAT TO DO: Ask for help. Speak to your doctor and meet a mental health specialist who will help you cope up. Get a family member or friend to support your effort. Therapy for depression in diabetes is been found to be very effective and helps get life back on track.
FOOD THERAPY: Load up on foods rich in antioxidants like red, yellow, orange coloured fruits and vegetables. Vitamin-C rich foods such as citrus fruits, papaya, guava and tomatoes are also known to protect the brain against oxidative stress damage. Complex carbs from whole grains and legumes keep the sugar levels stable and ensure sustained fuel for the brain ant all times while calming the mind. Tryptophan from low fat dairy will help with a good sleep.
2. Stress and anxiety are common words of modern lifestyle. From meeting family demands to managing long working hours, which includes extended travelling time and traffic snarls - all triggers and add stress to our lives. It makes us irritable, short tempered, and may manifest as increased heart rate and/or profuse sweating. With diabetics two things are of significance, a feeling of stress may prevent you from following the daily regimen needed to control blood sugar levels. Secondly stress promotes the increased release of stress hormones promoting sugar fluctuations that are detrimental to health.
WHAT TO DO: Try meditation, yoga and other forms of physical activity as it helps calm the nerves and the effect can be felt for hours after. Get some me time, stepping away from the stress point or person and just "chilling" is the best way to deal with the situation.
FOOD THERAPY: Eat foods that will help control the stress hormone cortisol, which when high will cause inflammatory responses and oxidative stress. Stress busters in your food is whole natural food - delete all processed foods . Magnesium- found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, Banana and legume, omega -3 fat from salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, and gut-healthy probiotics like yogurt, kimchi and kombucha are all time-tested remedies for tackling stress.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition and hence diagnosis can lead to a lot of distress. Seek the right team of diabetologist, nutritionist, diabetic educator and life coach. They are trained to support you in all the scenarios that can arise in a chronic condition. Diabetes is a chronic condition but all that it needs is a bit of discipline and lots of support around you; so, do not hide your condition. Instead, share it with family and close friends, who know you may become their health guru.
Stay happy, stay healthy.
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.