Heart Palpitations, Sweaty Palms, And Shaky Knees (And We’re Not Talking About A Hypo)
It’s not uncommon to experience anxious moments in our usual day-to-day lives. That upcoming job interview, the moment you ask your crush on a first date (it was love at first sight, you know), watching your in-laws eat the first meal you’ve ever cooked for them… However, if you’re living with type 1 diabetes, the apprehension of asking your only love if they share the same feelings may pale in comparison to the anxiety caused by other factors. So, what is anxiety and what can you do about it?
What Does Anxiety Have To Do With Diabetes?
Although feeling anxious about certain situations is entirely normal (and even helpful at times), when it begins to negatively affect your daily life for an extended period of time, it may be considered a problem. The symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person, but in general, they may include experiencing things like:1
- Worrying excessively.
- Having difficulty relaxing and unwinding.
- Feeling irritable or easily annoyed.
- Feeling constantly afraid of something bad happening.
- An unusually rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations.
- A tightness in the chest.
- An upset stomach.
- Shaking or trembling.
If you’re living with type 1 diabetes, your diagnosis may be a significant source of anxiety for you. It is thought that people living with any type of diabetes are around a 20% higher risk of experiencing anxiety, compared to those not living with diabetes.2 You may feel anxiety about various things, including how others may think of you living with diabetes2 or what might happen if you experience a hypoglycaemic episode, during a particularly dangerous situation, such as while driving. Many people living with diabetes are also constantly fearful of experiencing health complications from long-term diabetes.1,2
Experiencing anxiety has been associated with higher HbA1c levels, greater challenges with self-managing one’s diabetes, and less frequent blood glucose monitoring.3 Don’t worry, though! There are ways you can combat anxiety.
3 Strategies To Calm Your Racing Heart
One of the first steps to addressing anxiety is to acknowledge that you’re experiencing it in the first place. If you need to talk to your diabetes healthcare team to help you figure out if what you’re feeling is anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you can, surround yourself with a diabetes healthcare team that you can build a strong rapport with. Studies tell us that anxiety is actually reduced when patients feel they can trust their healthcare team.4
For those who would like to try some anxiety-lowering strategies on their own first, here are some ideas to get you started.2
While your body is working up a sweat, physical exercise can help settle your mind. Your activity doesn’t necessarily even need to involve sweat. Low impact movements like yoga or tai chi may help you feel calmer and more Zen. You may want to follow an online video in the comfort of your home or join a class at your local gym. Our fun videos, Exercising with Maria and Be Active, Stay Active, are a great place to get you started!
Ever feel irritable after a poor night’s sleep? You wouldn’t be the only one. Though feeling anxious can make dropping off extra difficult, try to get a healthy number of hours of shut-eye every night. This may mean asking your diabetes healthcare team for strategies to help you sleep better, such as adjusting your sleep environment or limiting caffeine intake during the day.
Although being told to breathe sounds pretty obvious, mindfulness and breathing exercises can be effective at reducing stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is thought to help you separate yourself from panic and anxiety, enabling you to remove their control from your life. There are resources online to help get you started with practising mindfulness, otherwise, your diabetes healthcare team may be able to point you in the right direction.
Although conditions such as anxiety may carry a certain stigma in society, it is nothing to be ashamed of, just as living with type 1 diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of. Your diabetes healthcare team is available to offer you support in all areas of your journey, including your emotional wellbeing. If you feel like anxiety is taking over your life, never be afraid to reach out. You can take back control!
- NDSS. Diabetes and Anxiety Fact Sheet. https://www.ndss.com.au/. 2020. Available at: https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/diabetes-and-anxiety-fact-sheet/. (Accessed January 2022).
- Diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes and Anxiety. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/. 2019. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/emotions/diabetes-and-anxiety.html. (Accessed January 2022).
- Rechenberg K, Whittemore R, Grey M. Anxiety in Youth With Type 1 Diabetes. J Ped Nurs. 2017;32:64-71.
- AlRuthia Y, Alwhaibi M, Almalag H, Almosabhi L, Almuhaya M, et al.The relationship between trust in primary healthcare providers among patients with diabetes and levels of depression and anxiety. PLOS ONE. 2020;15(9): e0239035.