World Mental Health Day: Better Mental Health in 2 Easy Steps

Today is World Mental Health Day. All around the world the last two years have made a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.  

Mental health challenges and type 2 diabetes often go hand in hand. People with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the general population. While people with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes. Only 25% to 50% of people with diabetes who have depression get diagnosed and treated. But treatment—therapy, medicine, or both—is usually very effective. And without treatment, depression often gets worse, not better. This can lead to diabetic complications and further chronic conditions.  

One of the biggest challenges to treatment of mental health conditions for people with diabetes is low rates of detection. Up to 45 percent of mental health conditions and cases of severe psychological distress go undetected among patients being treated for diabetes. Having regular mental health screenings during doctors visits can help detect issues early on.  As with all conditions, you should get in touch with your doctor right away if you think you might have depression. The earlier depression is treated, the better for you, your quality of life, and your diabetes. 

The good news is, there are two easy steps that type 2’s can take to better your mental health and in turn your physical health.

Lower your anxiety

Anxiety disorders complicate living with diabetes and its management in at least 3 ways: (1) serious anxiety disorders largely overlap with the symptoms of hypoglycemia, making it difficult for the person with diabetes to differentiate between feelings of anxiety and symptoms of low blood glucose that require immediate treatment; (2)pre existing anxiety about injections or blood draws may lead to severe anxiety or panic disorders when a person is diagnosed with diabetes; and (3) fear of hypoglycemia, a common source of severe anxiety for persons with diabetes, can lead some patients to maintain blood glucose levels at above target levels. 

  • Getting active: even a quick walk can be calming, and the effect can last for hours. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Exercises geared towards relaxation, like meditation or yoga are proven to help with mindfulness and resilience.
  • You aren’t alone - reach out to a friend or family member! Calling or texting a friend who understands you (not someone who is causing you stress!) can give you piece of mind and support.
  • Do something that you love. Go outside, read something fun—whatever helps you recharge. By grabbing some “you” time you give back to yourself and reset.
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine, eating healthy food, and getting enough sleep. Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking.

Overcome negative self talk

We all talk to ourselves, some more than others, but are we listening to what we are saying? Studies show yes, we have a stream of thoughts going through our heads constantly in an inner dialogue.  Sometimes our thoughts are about rational things and logic and sometimes our thoughts are being run by the emotional side of our brains. While chronic illness can’t always be met with a smile, speak kindly to yourself as much as possible. When your inner dialogue constantly turns to the negative you might be self sabotaging, unmotivated, and unrealistic. 

We are not suggesting that you must always be positive or happy. Life is not always positive and happy and we have healthy, natural emotions that arise in response to that. It’s about choosing to have a productive and thoughtful reaction to unpleasant situations. Positive thinking can increase your lifespan, lower the rates of depression, improve your immune system and lead to healthier and better coping skills during difficult times. 

Some negative ways of thinking and self-talk include magnifying or exaggerating the negative part of a situation and minimizing or ignoring the positive, blaming yourself for things that are out of your control and automatically assuming responsibility for things going wrong. 

Here is a great chart from the Mayo Clinic highlighting some common examples of how we can shift our negative self talk to positive: 

Joining a Diabetes support group such as our, Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together online community can have so many benefits to your mental health. In our online community you can share in problem solving, sharing goals and accomplishments, types and support with others that are also living with type 2. You are not alone and we are stronger and better together!