Diabetes & COVID-19: Staying Emotionally Safe and Sane

For a transcript of the video, see below:

 

Steve:

Hello Nation! Today I have my good friend and colleague, Dr. Bill Polonsky, who is a world-famous “touchy feely” guy, and the founder and president of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute – really the only organization I know of that focuses on the emotional and behavioral issues of people with diabetes. We are doing this video from two different cities within San Diego, being very good at our social distancing. Well, the bottom line is, everybody is going through a tough time and everyone deals with these emotional issues differently, and that’s why I asked my good friend Bill to come on and help us out, and frame our thoughts a little bit. 

Bill:

I’m glad to be here Steve, thanks. We know these are crazy times. No one seems quite sure what’s in store – it’s tough for all of us to be coping with what’s going on right now. We do know, and I’ve heard you try to say this as well, that the vast majority of us are going to be ok, even if you have diabetes, but that doesn’t make the worry go away. Since odds are good over the next few months, that people we know are going to get hurt, and people are getting hurt either health wise, or financially, and it’s worrisome times, but we know it won’t last forever. That’s one thing we have to keep reminding ourselves. And of course as a result of all of this, people are hurting emotionally. You know, and we know, lots of folks have become incredibly anxious, panicky, depressed – they’re just going crazy. They’re lonely, bouncing off the walls in their own homes, and of course if you’re not feeling any of these things, then we’re really worried about you, because we know this is pretty normal feeling that stuff. 

Steve:

You know Bill, I’ve talked to a lot of people and they are basically frozen with fear. And that’s not good. I think you have to break it down and find out – really ask yourself – what really are you fearful of and what you can do to alleviate that fear? I don’t know, I’m not a clinical psychologist, but I play one on TV. 

Bill:

We know these things make sense. We know that this is what happens in terms of anxiety and depression. It happens when you’re in a situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen, where the outcomes aren’t predictable, and we’re not so sure we can really influence what’s happening (except through social distancing) and the end in sight is not yet in sight. So it makes sense that we’d all be feeling this way, and of course thoughts are kind of like diabetes, where we’re also dealing with a disease and we’re not quite sure what’s predictable, what’s going to happen etc. etc. 

Steve:

I just wanted to add that on top of the usual worries, people with diabetes are hearing on television every 5 seconds that if you have diabetes you’re more at risk, you’re likely to die much faster, or not get over it very quickly if you do get over it, so, that’s another layer of anxiety or worry. So it could be compounded in people with diabetes for sure. 

Bill:

Yeah, and of course if you hear that, it can be reassuring if you know your blood sugars are in a safe place, but it’s also even more devastating if you feel like, oh my god I can’t even keep my diabetes under control. And the core of all of these things is just this underlying feeling of powerlessness. And that’s what the core of depression is for most people. When you feel like bad things are happening and there’s nothing you can really do about it. But understanding it’s about powerlessness also gives us a clue about how we can move forward and what we can do to help ourselves and other people cope. And that’s what I want to talk about. 

Steve:

Let’s talk about the big picture first, the larger principles.

Bill:

There are a couple of major things we want to put forward, and then we’ll get into some tips. Very broadly, we know we can help other people and ourselves find some kind of control over our life, even if it’s in little teeny tiny ways. It doesn’t have to be in a big way, but feeling some sense of control in even little things can matter. We know that helping ourselves and others to gain some new and perhaps different perspective on what’s going on and how things are unfolding can help. We want to think about applying just the basic principles of stress management and find new and innovative ways to cope, primarily with the isolation, which is really tough for folks. So those are broad things we want to talk about. 

Steve:

I really appreciate that. I think it’s good to start off with the broad picture because everyone is going to react differently and not everyone is going to have the same issues that relate to other folks, so it’s good to start off broad. Now let’s go into some specific things. We can’t cover all the bases here, but I think the purpose of this short video is that it’s food for thought, to get people thinking in the right direction.

Bill:

Sure. So there’s a bunch of things I want to mention.  One is – and it’s sort of in many ways too easy to say this but it’s important now – you’ve got to just take one day at a time, or one MOMENT at a time. You can drive yourself crazy worrying, as we all do, worrying about what’s going to happen next week, what’s going to happen in a month, what’s going to happen to my retirement…who knows? Even to do that in little ways if possible, and to put aside worry about the future, even for a few moments and focus on what do I have to do TODAY? What’s today going to be like? Any moment we can do that will be very powerful. 

Another thing is that we want to remind everyone, again, to just do what you can, I mean odds are good if you’re stuck at home like so many of us, you’ve got some free time on your hands, so maybe it’s time to put a little more effort into simple things. It might be putting more effort into your diabetes care. It can be something that has nothing to do with your diabetes – it can be rearranging your sock drawer, or taking on a new habit, or learning how to juggle. But don’t think about what you can’t do so much, but what you can do, moment to moment. Does that make sense? 

Steve:

It makes perfect sense, except I did clean out  my sock drawer. I couldn’t’ find socks that matched! That was the problem! Back to Costco to buy 12 more of the same color so I don’t have to go through that again. Yes it’s a great time to start doing things that you haven’t had time to do. You know what I’m doing personally? I’m contacting at least two or three people a day, by email or phone call, that I haven’t talked to in years. Now’s a really good time to hook up again. 

Bill:

And certainly that’s one of the keys that I think many people are discovering to keeping your sanity, is connecting with other people. Whether that’s through email, instant messaging, FaceTime, whatever it might be. And, as I think you’ve discovered, as many have discovered, not only is it good for us, but it’s really a gift for other people because other people are feeling the same way. So I think that’s really key.

Steve:

It’s so true. Everybody appreciates it. What next, Bill? 

Bill:

In terms of management, I want you to remember about good old physical activity. Not only is physical activity good for diabetes and good for overall health, but it’s one of the most powerful ways we can address anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. So, if you’re stuck in your house, walk around your house, or  jump up and down, or something else. Get out in the world if it’s safe to do so. Any kind of physical activity, regular physical activity can be very very powerful, so find a way to do it if it’s at all possible.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that while it’s important to stay informed, you probably want to make sure you have periods of time during your day or your week where you can limit the news. The news organizations – many of them at least – are pretty good at giving us the truth and the facts, but you can get a little obsessed with it and it can get overwhelming and profoundly depressing. So you want to be informed, but also distract yourself in productive ways and not be watching it all the time. 

Steve:

It’s probably a good time to mention that on our website we do have three Facebook groups, one for people with type 1, type 2, and significant others – type 3s. It’s just another way to communicate with people, to look for a response back, and we’ve had a lot of activity lately. Especially in the last three or four weeks, and it’s just important for you to express yourself, to look for validation, to look for more friends. It’s important. 

Bill:

And speaking of your Facebook groups and the TCoYD website, I want to mention one last thing. Even though we are putting forward some ideas about how you can cope with and address these emotional issues we’re all going through, we know we have a lot of people watching us right now who figured out some awesome things, and we’d like to hear from them. So I’m hoping they will chime in on their Facebook groups, or send notes to TCOYD directly, and perhaps we can do another video later based on what we heard. So please send in your comments about how are you keeping your sanity and/or what have you learned. You’re the experts, so we’d like to hear from you.

Steve:

I like that idea, Bill. We’ll come back with all the ideas. We read every comment. My personal email is: steve@tcoyd.org. You can email me and I’ll share with Bill and we’ll go from there. Bill, any parting words before we say goodbye? 

Bill:

I just hope everyone will hang in there and just remember, we will get through this, this is going to end. And it’s easy to say, I know, but it’s important to remember that we’re going to get through this together. 

Steve:

Alright everybody, thanks so much. So long, Nation. Stay healthy!

Bill:

Hang in there guys! 

 

6 Comments
  1. Avatar

    Thank you for this presentation. You have given information we likely already know, but we need to be reminded again and again! Than you, thank you, thank you! To all of you, stay home, and stay well!

    • Avatar

      You’re right Becky! Especially right now with so much information coming at us, it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves emotionally too.

  2. Avatar

    I have been able to read books that I had neglected. This keeps me busy and I look forward to going to my room to read when I usually would go shopping.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and concerns wit all of us.

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      Thank you Maria! Catching up on reading can feel like such a luxury! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Avatar

    As a musician it’s no problem being alone…got many guitars harmonicas and yest stips….
    Very controlled type 1 6.3 A1c…..no gear here…thanks doc

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