Coping, Support, and Living Well

Receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be difficult. You may worry about how your life will change. However, adapting to life with type 2 diabetes and learning to cope with the challenges that might arise can help improve your quality of life.

Different strategies work for different people. This article shares general tips on how to live a full life despite having type 2 diabetes.

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Emotional

Aside from the physical effects diabetes might have on your body, balancing all the emotions that go along can be demanding. Being newly diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming. However, these feelings are normal and to be expected.

Diabetes distress is a term used to describe the emotional response to living with diabetes. Over time, getting into a new routine and becoming more familiar with your new life with type 2 diabetes can help the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm fade. 

However, prolonged feelings of sadness, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, or depression that interrupts your daily life may be indicative of a separate problem.

Research suggests that having diabetes is a risk factor for depression. Diabetes and depression occur about twice as often together as separately. Therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, can benefit people with depression.

In addition, many people with depression discover that taking prescription antidepressant medication helps improve mood and identify better coping skills. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if therapy or medications may benefit you.

Even if you don’t have any anxiety or depression, dealing with the everyday demands of type 2 diabetes can sometimes be mentally exhausting. People with diabetes are more likely to experience diabetes distress than clinical depression. Research suggests that 30% to 40% of adults with diabetes may report significant levels of diabetes distress over time.

With taking your medications, monitoring blood sugar levels, physical activity, and eating nutritious foods, there is a lot to think about and manage daily.

Coping with the mental and emotional burdens of type 2 diabetes can look different for everyone. However, the following are some suggestions that you might find helpful:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Pay attention to your feelings and learn to recognize when they are starting to interfere with your daily life. This way, you can know when you need to address them.
  • Talk with a healthcare provider. Let your healthcare provider, nurse, diabetes educator, psychologist, or social worker know how you feel. They can help you problem-solve your concerns about diabetes or refer you to someone who can help.
  • Talk with family and friends. Share your honest feelings about having diabetes with your family and friends. Simply talking with others can help ease some of the stress. However, remember that sometimes the people around you can add to your stress. So let them know how and when you want or need their help.
  • Ask for help with medication costs. Diabetes medications and supplies can be costly. If the cost of your medicines is a major concern, talk with your pharmacist or other healthcare providers. They may be able to point you toward government assistance or other programs that can help with the costs of diabetes medications or supplies.
  • Take one day at a time. It’s easy to get stuck thinking about the long term when you have diabetes. Instead, focus on what you can do today to manage your diabetes. Write down your to-do list and work on one item at a time. Additionally, create short-term goals and work toward one or two at a time.
  • Practice self-care. Take some time out of your day to do the things you truly enjoy and make you feel good. This might be talking with a partner or friend, writing in a journal, playing a game with your children or grandchildren, reading a good book, working on a fun project, or gardening.

Physical

Type 2 diabetes can take a physical toll on your body. Learning to deal with the physical aspects of diabetes can help you keep your blood glucose (sugar) levels under control and feel your best.

Following a healthy eating pattern and participating in regular physical activity are important for everyone. In particular, these can also help you cope with type 2 diabetes.

Being overweight and having type 2 diabetes increases your risk for other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a difference in your health and help you better manage your diabetes.

Before starting a new exercise routine or diet program, always talk with your healthcare provider.

Diet

Diet and nutrition are one of the cornerstone treatments for people with type 2 diabetes. The foods you eat have a direct impact on your blood glucose levels. Eating foods that contain carbohydrates raises blood glucose levels.

There is no diet for people with type 2 diabetes. However, a good start is eating a healthy diet with a base of nonstarchy vegetables, along with lean protein and healthy fats. Balance carbohydrate-containing foods such as starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and others.

Avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages is also recommended. Some healthy eating patterns to follow include the diabetes plate method, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity provides a host of benefits. These include weight management, reduced disease risk, improved brain health, stronger bones and muscles, and improved ability to perform everyday activities.

Physical activity has also been found to improve insulin sensitivity (so your cells respond to the action of insulin for better blood sugar regulation) and reduce inflammation in the body.

Aim for around 30 minutes of purposeful movement most days of the week. Find a type of exercise you enjoy (you’re more likely to stick with it). Exercising with a friend or family member can help hold you accountable and make it more enjoyable. 

Medication and Dietary Supplements

Diabetes medications can help manage your blood glucose levels. Some diabetes medications also help with weight loss and some reduce your risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

Take your diabetes and other medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medication without talking with your healthcare provider first.

Talk with your pharmacist or other healthcare providers if you have any questions or concerns about your medications. They can help determine if the drug is right for you and adjust your medications if needed.

There are some dietary supplements marketed as helping with blood glucose levels and diabetes management. Always talk with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement. It may interact with your current medications or have undesirable side effects.

Social

Support from those around you can make all the difference in coping with type 2 diabetes. Don’t be afraid to share your diagnosis with others and to accept help from family and friends.

Sometimes it can be hard to accept help from others; however, letting those around you support and help you can take some of the stress away.

Ways others can help include going to the doctor with you, reminding you to take your medications, exercising with you, helping monitor your blood glucose levels, and cooking nutritious meals with you.

Another way to get social support is by joining a support group. Connecting with other people who have diabetes can help you feel understood and heard. Additionally, they might be going through some of the same issues you are.

You can learn from others how they manage the demands of diabetes and receive support, so you don’t feel alone in your journey. Ask your healthcare provider if they know of any local support groups or online communities you could join.

Practical

 Travel

Diabetes doesn’t take a vacation. Learning how to take care of your diabetes while traveling is an important part of diabetes management. Planning is key to ensuring you’ll have a smooth and enjoyable vacation.

The following are some tips to help make traveling with diabetes less stressful:

  • Make sure you have enough of your medication and other diabetes supplies for the duration of your travel.
  • Find pharmacies close to your destination, just in case.
  • If you are flying, pack all your medications and diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag.
  • Set an alarm for when it’s time to take your medication (and factor in changes in time zones).
  • Pack healthy snacks.
  • Check ahead for healthy food options at your destination and along the way. 
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Plan purposeful movement into your itinerary, but don’t overdo it on exercise.

Work

Type 2 diabetes might impact your work, depending on what you do for a living. It’s a good idea to inform your employer, especially if you are finding it difficult at work to take your medication, check your blood glucose levels, or take snack or movement breaks.

If you are worried about discrimination, get to know your rights as a qualified individual with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act covers diabetes and states that an employer:

  • Cannot fail to hire or promote you because of your diabetes
  • Cannot terminate you because of your diabetes (unless you pose a “direct threat”)
  • Must provide you with reasonable accommodations that help you perform the essential functions of your job
  • Cannot discriminate with regard to employer-provided health insurance

Tips for coping with diabetes at work include getting plenty of sleep each night and eating a meal before heading to work. Keep healthy snacks at work. Avoid any sweets and treats brought into the workplace, or enjoy only a small portion.

Find a coworker you can count on to help and know where your diabetes supplies are and how to use them in an emergency.

Summary

Having type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming at times. However, learning to cope with it by recognizing the emotional, physical, and practical challenges can help you live a better quality of life.

Find ways to cope, such as going to therapy, taking medication, finding a support system, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and navigating having diabetes in your workplace.

A Word From Verywell

Learning to manage everything that comes with a diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming in itself. Educate yourself and the people close to you about type 2 diabetes. Take your diagnosis one step at a time. Eventually, it will all become familiar.

Incorporating these coping habits into your daily routine can help you manage your diabetes and lessen any stressors that may come along.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a specific diet help manage type 2 diabetes?

    There is no single “diabetes diet” prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes. However, for most people with type 2 diabetes, a simple way to make healthy food choices is by following the diabetes plate method.

    Using this method, you fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the remaining quarter with carbohydrate foods. Choose water or a low-calorie drink as your beverage.

  • How does living with diabetes affect loved ones?

    Living with diabetes doesn’t only affect the individual with diabetes, it can also affect loved ones. Fear of your loved one getting diabetes complications, dealing with the financial burden of diabetes, changing eating habits for the entire family, and finding ways to support your loved one with diabetes are all ways diabetes can affect those close to you.

  • Can type 2 diabetes be reversed?

    Diabetes is a chronic disease, meaning it cannot be cured. However, research has shown that individuals with type 2 diabetes can have glucose levels return to the non-diabetes range without the use of glucose-lowering medications.

    The main way in which people with type 2 diabetes achieve remission is by losing significant amounts of weight, often through bariatric or metabolic, surgery or calorie restriction.

    However, it’s important to keep in mind that weight regain can result in developing high blood glucose levels again.