Managing holiday stress and diabetes is completely doable.
We've all been there. Between the shopping, the cooking, and the family gatherings, how are you going to find a moment for managing diabetes? In the season of giving, it's still important that you take time for your own health and happiness.
Sometimes it feels like stress is as much a part of the holiday landscape as turkey dinners and mistletoe, and the combination of holiday stress and diabetes can be a challenge. Stress can make it more difficult to hit your blood sugar numbers and can also have an impact on your mood.
It doesn't have to be so hard. The holidays are a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the joy of the season, and with these tips, you can do that.
Are you expecting to see perfect blood sugar numbers every time you check? Planning to lose a couple pounds over the holiday season? Aiming to start your diet around mid-November? It's great to have goals, but be careful about setting your expectations too high, since unrealistic expectations can cause additional stress. Be kind to yourself, and don't beat yourself up over any blood sugar number that's out of range. Keep tabs on your blood sugar, but give yourself credit for the little things, like staying diligent about taking your medications or skipping dessert for a casual stroll. Building small victories into your day can reduce feelings of stress and boost feelings of success.
It's important to keep the pressure light in order to mitigate stress, but don't use the holidays as an excuse to ignore your health. Blood sugars may fluctuate here and there, but remember to check your numbers and stay mindful about what you're eating—that bread pudding will taste just as good with a little moderation. Don't stress yourself out by striving for perfection, but do what you can to set yourself up for success.
The holidays are accompanied by endless food, and for a person with diabetes, the buffet table can be daunting. Make a plan! Prepare for healthy grazing and rely on clever carb-counting apps like Calorie King to keep track of your intake, or have a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit or raw almonds, before you get to the party to stave off cravings. If you're hosting a holiday meal, you'll be able to provide some healthy options amid the sea of sugar cookies.
If you're not hosting the holiday, be an excellent guest by offering to bring a dish to share with the party. This is a great chance for you to provide a delicious side or dessert that's compatible with your diabetes management plan.
The focus doesn't always have to be food. Take some time to get moving this holiday season—a brisk walk after dinner is a great opportunity to catch up with family or engage in a healthy debate with friends. Exercise is known to help reduce stress and can also help to minimize pesky holiday weight gain.
Sometimes the stress of the holidays can be difficult, and at times you might find yourself feeling a little down. The challenges of managing diabetes might seem magnified by the pace and activity of the season, and feelings of judgment, distress, and sadness can dominate at times. You don't have to carry those feelings around on your own. A heart to heart with a friend or family member can be the gentle mental break you need to alleviate some stress. If talking with a friend isn't enough, reach out to a mental health professional to help you manage the stress of diabetes during the holidays.
There you have it—the tips and tricks you need for managing stress. It's time to carve the turkey, deck the halls, and enjoy the holidays with minimal stress and maximum cheer!
By Kerri Sparling
Kerri Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, when she was diagnosed at the age of seven. She is an internationally recognized diabetes advocate. Kerri is the creator and author of Six Until Me, which she established in 2005 and which remains one of the most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, reaching a global audience of patients, caregivers, and others in the industry. She has been featured on NPR, US News and World Report, CBNC, Yahoo! Health, LA Times, and The Lancet, among other national outlets.
American Diabetes Association, Managing Stress and Diabetes
American Psychological Association, Holiday Stress
Psychology Today, Holiday Expectations and Stress
Cornell University, Five Tips for Dealing with Holiday Stress and Diabetes
Rite Aid, Eight Tips for Managing Diabetes Stress
American Diabetes Association, Holiday Recipes
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.