Take time out and relax 27 February 2015 Living with all types of diabetes can come with an emotional burden. For instance you may be experiencing diabetes-related distress, a clinical version of depression, anxiety or just generally out of sorts about your diabetes or life in general. Diabetes Queensland spoke to psychologist Alexandra Grainger about some of the best ways to improve your state of mind. “Diabetes is tough and it definitely does take an emotional toll on people,” Alexandra said. “But there are things you can do to make dealing with this emotional toll easier.” “Lots of these techniques sound straightforward but they really work. The important thing to remember is that these techniques aren’t silver bullets. They take time to develop but the results are worth it.” “Three really practical things people can do is learn how to focus on their breathing, practice mindfulness and relax your muscles.” Breathing: We do it all day every day, mostly without thinking about it. But it can play a huge role in how we are feeling. Knowing how to control your breathing can help you reduce anxiety. How do you do this? By practicing your breathing. Firstly, ensure you are sitting somewhere comfortably. Then breathe in for four seconds and hold for two seconds, then breathe out slowly for six seconds. Repeat. It does sound too good to be true but learning how to control your breathing means you control the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body which helps keep everything balanced. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is one way you can train your brain to take control of, or reduce, worries and negative thoughts. It is all about letting these thoughts go. How do you do it? To start with sit down and adopt an alert and relaxed posture. Ask yourself: what am I experiencing now? Take stock of your surroundings, your feelings and what your body feels like. This phase is all about just recognising what you’re feeling – not trying to change anything. Secondly, start focussing on your breathing and the way it is moving back and forth in your belly. Try and make this the only thing you focus on. Finally, start to shift your focus and awareness into your whole body. If your negative thoughts reappear acknowledge them then try and let go by focussing on your breathing. You should do this for about a minute. Don’t worry if it seems difficult at first. It is a skill and, like any skill, it takes practice to master. Relax: When you feel frightened or anxious your muscles tense up which can lead to aches and pains. Ultimately, it can leave you feeling exhausted. Do you tense up if you’re feeling anxious? If you do you can try progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet place and give yourself a chance to relax. Tense the muscle group that is feeling tense and hold for about five seconds then relax the muscles for about 10 seconds. It might help if you say relax as you relax. If these techniques seem difficult at first, just keep practicing. Overcoming anxiety and stress doesn’t happen overnight, it takes work but as you improve you will find your mental health and emotional wellbeing on the way up. If you’d like to talk about your emotional health you can call our Helpline on 1800 637 700 or you can find a psychologist here.