Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Meditation and the Art of Diabetes Management

by Joseph B. Nelson, MA, LP

Why meditate if you have diabetes?
Having practiced and taught meditation, I could go on at length about the physical and mental benefits of meditating regularly. I could include things like the development of an accepting mind, the ability to learn to let go of stressful events, the understanding of how to pick one’s battles, and the development of a sense of discipline that helps in everyday life. But I’ll keep it brief.

Meditation will help you to relax in a new way and give you some fresh tools for dealing with stress. Life stress is a big issue for all of us. For those who have diabetes, stress presents at least two problems: The direct effect of stress raises blood glucose levels, and we are most likely to engage in behaviors that are not good for our health when we are stressed. We may tend to eat more high-carbohydrate foods, or sit on the couch and watch TV instead of exercising. When stressed, we tend to become less disciplined and more self-indulgent.

Research studies suggest that practicing meditation regularly helps people reduce their bodies’ responses to stress by lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate, reducing oxygen intake, and changing the brain waves to a more relaxed state. Moderating the stress response is also likely to lower blood glucose levels. Regular meditation builds skills in responding mindfully, meaning that you will learn how to take your time to think through your actions before acting. As you practice meditation regularly, you will begin to notice that the decisions you make are more thoughtful. The likelihood of grabbing for chips or ice cream becomes lower, and the possibility of going for a walk increases. In other words, your ability to handle stress will be strengthened by good decisions and you will be capable of relaxing without engaging in negative behaviors.

As a therapist who works primarily with people with diabetes, I have found that those who have a deeper understanding of themselves and have the ability to cope well with stressful life events simply live better with diabetes, both in terms of diabetes control and general quality of life. Diabetes self-care and meditation are both practices that require discipline and commitment. But the payoffs are tremendous for practicing them together. Reduced stress, better diabetes control, lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose levels, greater self-awareness, better relationships, improved focus in other areas of your life, and less depression and anxiety are all potential benefits of including meditation in your routine. Making meditation a regular part of your diabetes management will enhance both your attitude and control.

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