To lower your stress level, you must first identify what is causing you stress. Is it a marital problem? A conflict at work? The daily obligations of diabetes self care?
Once you’ve identified your stressor (or stressors), think about how you’re currently coping with the situation and what you might do differently. In some cases, there may be something you can do to change the stressful situation. A problem with a spouse or at work, for example, might be resolvable through communicating what’s bothering you and negotiating a change of some sort.
Some situations, such as the fact of having diabetes, can’t be changed, but they can be made less stressful by developing ways to cope with them. Such tools as support groups, planned relaxation, meditation, and exercise can lower your stress level generally and help you cope with challenging life circumstances.
There’s a lot you can do on your own or by reaching out to peers, but if your efforts don’t seem to be helping much or you feel too overwhelmed to take action, seek a health-care professional who can help. Chronic stress can be associated with depression and anxiety disorders, as well as physical problems. Seek professional help if you are bothered by the following symptoms:
• Difficulty sleeping
• Changes in appetite
• Panic attacks
• Muscle tenseness and soreness
• Frequent headaches
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Prolonged feelings of sadness or worthlessness
Adapted from “Stress and Disease: New Perspectives,” by Harrison Wein, PhD, The NIH [National Institutes of Health] Word on Health, October 2000. www.nih.gov/news/WordonHealth/oct2000/story01.htm