Coping with the emotional lifestyle problems of having diabetes
Common Health Issues

Coping with the emotional lifestyle problems of having diabetes

Diabetes is unlike most other diseases or serious conditions. Many diseases are curable or treatable. You seek treatment, put the condition behind you, and get on with your life. Other diseases are chronic, with no sunny outlook, simple cure, or available treatment. But diabetes falls somewhere in between. It is treatable, and if properly managed, you can live a long and healthy life. But managing diabetes takes a lot of work.


You may find that your biggest problem with diabetes is adjusting to it. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you have probably found that you need to change your lifestyle, perhaps drastically, and let healthy living become a way of life for you. This requires a delicate balancing act as you try to integrate healthy habits into your day-to-day routine, without letting diabetes consume you. But it can be done. It’s a matter of accepting your new lifestyle as part of who you are as you go through the daily tasks of living, balancing your needs with those of your family, friends, and career, and gathering the support you need from those around you.


Managing Your Daily Routine

Your biggest challenge in managing diabetes may not be dealing with life-threatening emergencies. Rather, it may simply be managing your daily routine, day in and day out—learning to plan your activities around your meals and insulin or medication schedule, whether you are dealing with a demanding boss or a screaming toddler. The key to successfully managing your diabetes is to fully accept your condition, realize that you are in charge of controlling your diabetes, arm yourself with information so that you understand how diabetes affects your body, develop a plan for managing your diabetes, and learn how to adapt your diabetes care plan to changing needs.


What You Should Do

The first step toward managing diabetes is to fully accept your condition. Many people enter a stage of denial and are reluctant to come to terms with all the demands of the disease until they are confronted with a medical emergency. If you ignore or deny that you have diabetes, you may ultimately put yourself in a position in which diabetes may restrict your life and make day-to-day living more difficult. For example, if you ignore your blood glucose levels and develop diabetes complications, you may find you have leg problems that affect your mobility. But if you come to terms with diabetes and find a way of dealing with it, day-to-day living can be as smooth as or even smoother than that of someone without diabetes.

The next step in managing diabetes is to realize you are ultimately in charge of your own life, including your diabetes. You cannot rely on a doctor to give you a magic pill to make it go away or hope that someone else will tell you what to do. It is up to you to develop a plan of action that works for you. By taking charge of your daily management plan, your meal plan, and your medication schedule, you can find a plan that works for you.


The next step in figuring out a way to manage your daily routine is to arm yourself with information. Ask your doctors lots of questions and don’t worry that you are taking up their time. Talk to your diabetes educator who can explain all the ins and outs of diabetes. Read all you can. Talk to other people with diabetes. Make sure you understand how diabetes affects your blood glucose level, and how insulin, your food and physical activities all connect to affect your blood glucose levels. Once you understand how this works, you can begin to make the necessary adjustments so you can manage your daily routine.


Managing day-to-day living is tough for anyone these days. Sometimes, it seems as though nothing ever goes smoothly. And if you have diabetes, life is even more of a challenge. The key is to accept and understand your diabetes. Then work with your health care team to develop a management plan that accommodates your lifestyle. Is your life structured, or do you prefer to go with the flow? 

If you are comfortable with a predictable routine for eating, testing, injecting and exercising, then you may find it easy to manage your daily routine. But if your job is anything but predictable and you never know from minute to minute when you’ll get a chance to eat lunch or get home, then you will need a plan that allows some flexibility. For many people with diabetes, using an insulin pump can allow for the needed flexibility.


One of the most important things in managing diabetes is to incorporate ways of making adjustments. If you’re running late for dinner or are shuttling your kids to school, what do you do? If you’re out late visiting friends and oversleep the next day, how can you handle that? What if you have those days when you just don’t feel like doing anything? A key ingredient in making adjustments in your daily routine is to test your blood glucose levels frequently. And always keep a carbohydrate snack at hand for those times your blood glucose level falls to low.


When you talk to your doctor or diabetes educator, make sure to bring up those real-life situations that tend to occur during your days and ask about how you can make the necessary adjustments. Once you realize that you can live a real life and learn how to make the changes to accommodate different situations, the idea of maintaining your diabetes management plan day in and day out may seem less daunting.



When you develop diabetes, you are not the only one dealing with the disease. Your whole family is affected by your new lifestyle and what they do influences how you manage your condition. How you schedule your meals, time together, and family activities will all depend, to some extent, on your diabetes care schedule. Your family members will also have to become familiar with how to recognize and handle emergency situations

What You Should Do

The first step in integrating diabetes into your family life is to make sure your family members understand diabetes, what causes it, how it is treated, and how important it is to keep blood glucose levels under control. It may seem like an inconvenience for your kids to have to eat at a certain time if they would rather stay out and play for another hour. 

But if they realize the importance of eating according to a schedule, they may be more cooperative. It may be tempting to put off a meal “just this one time,” but if your family members understand that doing so can have serious consequences in both the short and long term, they will be more willing to accommodate your schedule and be more supportive of your efforts to keep your blood glucose levels under control.


Of course, balancing diabetes with family life may require some give and take on your part too. If you can’t miss your daughter’s performance in a school play, even though it comes at lunchtime, you can learn how to make adjustments in your schedule. Eating part of your lunch as a small snack before the play begins, for example, may be enough to tide you over. There will be times when your family members feel that everything revolves around your meal schedules. But if you find creative ways to include flexibility in your plan, you can avoid some of the family stresses.


Your family members will also need to know how to handle emergencies. This means recognizing the warning signs, even if you downplay them or refuse help. They need to know when you are experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia, for example, and when to call for help. They should also learn to recognize the signs of hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, or hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state. Your family members should all know how to test your blood glucose levels, how to administer insulin, and how to give you a shot of glucagon. Have your family members come to some of your appointments with your diabetes educator. Your diabetes educator can help answer any questions your family may have about diabetes and also show them what to do should an emergency situation arise.

As much as you need family’s support, it is also important that you try to not place the bulk of responsibility for managing your diabetes on them. Don’t make your wife nag you about eating too many helpings of eba. Don’t make your husband be the one who worries more about when you take your next insulin shot than you do. Take responsibility for your own situation, welcome your family’s support and try to meet your own goals, not someone else’s


During the period of adjusting to diabetes and for years to come, it will be important for both you and your family members to freely share your feelings about the condition. Don’t try to hide how you are feeling from your family. If you feel overwhelmed, tell them. If they resent how diabetes affects them, encourage them to share those feelings so that together you can reach an understanding. Maybe a simple alteration in your routine will be enough to prevent those feelings from building up. The more you talk about diabetes and how it affects you as a family, the better you will be at making those changes that will help you balance both your diabetes care and family life.

Of course there may be some hidden benefits to diabetes, for both you and your family. Managing diabetes probably means changing your lifestyle as you start to eat better, exercise regularly, and develop habits that promote healthy living. This isn’t something that only people with diabetes should do. These are habits that good for everyone. As you pay attention to eating better, your family probably will begin eating the same way. 


As you start on your evening stroll after dinner, you may find that your whole family joins in. these sort of activities can go a long way in promoting family togetherness. And as you struggle with the ups and downs of diabetes, and learn to communicate your feelings, you may find that you become closer to family members and develop strong emotional bonds you might not have created otherwise. The key is to try to work with your management plan to bring family members closer, not to drive them apart.


Sources and References

The Diabetes Problem Solver—Quick Answers to Your Questions About Treatment and Self-Care by Nancy Touchette

Family Interventions to Improve Diabetes Outcomes for Adults by A Baig, M Quinn et al

Coping Strategies Among Patients Newly Diagnosed with Diabetes or Rheumatoid Arthritis at Baseline and After 24 Months by K Rane, P Wandell et al

Self-Stigma of Patients with Type 1 Diabetes and Their Coping Strategies by I Nishio and M Chujo



Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner