Diabetes can affect anyone at any age. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 382 million people worldwide including 4.05 million people in the UK have diabetes. Of this, 3.5 million diagnosed are adults and there are around 549,000 people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes. The NHS spends over £10 billion annually on diabetes, 80% of which is on complications of the condition.
These figures highlight there are number of issues around diabetes management and in particular support for people having to live and cope with the condition.
Mindfulness is a technique of self-awareness through observing moment-to-moment thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in our body. Although the foundations of it are rooted in ancient traditions of meditation, mindfulness is gaining popularity in clinical settings . There is now scientific evidence of its usefulness in the management of diabetes especially with regards to blood sugar control.
Mindfulness has been shown to positively impact a number of issues in the management of diabetes, physically, mentally and emotionally. Physically it helps in regulating blood glucose levels, blood pressure, aiding sleep, improving glycaemic control to easing back pain.
Mentally and emotionally, mindfulness is a secret ingredient because in 40-60% of people with diabetes there is an increased risk of diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health problems, which adversely impacts compliance with agreed management and consequently diabetes outcomes. The National Audit Office concluded that 22,000 people were dying from preventable diabetes related causes so it is critically important these people receive emotional and behavioral support.
This support is crucial from the moment a person receives an initial diabetes diagnosis. According to NICE (NICE, 2005) when a person is first diagnosed with diabetes, they will often go through similar psychological stages as that of bereavement - disbelief, denial, anger and depression. Mindfulness helps to break this cycle by helping the person to accept their condition and embrace the change.
Equally, living and coping with any chronic condition including diabetes is just as emotionally upsetting as the initial diagnosis because it requires changes to lifestyle. As humans, we are creatures of comfort; the fear of the unknown, the loss of an old lifestyle or embracing change causes stress, anxiety, feeling frustration, guilt, anger or sadness all of which are completely normal. Sadly 1 in 2 patients do not comply with treatment and whether that is “denial” of the change or to “avoid negative emotions” remains personal to each individual but either way it is serious and can lead to complications, and perhaps ultimately grave consequences.
However, by exploring the impact of having a chronic condition or facing the inner emotional battles of diabetes, mindfulness can help people break these negative cycles to focus their awareness on successfully feeling empowered to control the condition rather than it control them. This is especially effective in the areas of diet and nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress and medication, all of which are critical success factors in managing diabetes so that people with the condition and their loved ones can live a full content life.
Author Mita Mistry LicAc MBAcC is a Mindfulness Coach, Acupuncturist, Columnist based in Leamington Spa, UK. She is a recognised expert in holistic healthcare modalities, specialising in helping to ease the mental and emotional side effects of chronic conditions whilst empowering people to reach their optimum health and well being goals.