Finding diabetes support groups can seem hard at first, but there are several simple strategies for getting the social and emotional support from fellow people with diabetes that you need. Research has shown that social support can lower stress and even extend lives for people with serious diseases. Stress is one of those things that you probably have come to take for granted, but it could literally be killing you…or at least making your life more miserable not only from the emotions you feel, but also from the higher blood sugars and higher blood pressures that it can cause.
Feeling stressed releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin or epinephrine. It activates the fight-or-flight part of your brain and nervous system to put you on edge. It helps you tense your muscles to run or fight. In primitive times, this was useful to keep you from being attacked and eaten by wild animals. But in modern life, it just leads to a cascade of undesirable outcomes. For people with diabetes, this can be particularly bad for your health.
Among the steps you can take to beat stress is getting social support. Of course your partner or spouse, family members, and friends can help. But sometimes, putting all the burden on them damages your relationships. And they are not in the same boat with you in the sense that many of them may not have diabetes or the unique challenges that you face.
So, what are your options? You can find the needed support for emotional support and for practical tips from others living with diabetes everyday both offline in your local community and online in diabetes forums, blogs, Facebook, and other social networking sites.
Some support can even come from your pets – researchers have even found that petting your dog or cat can reduce physiological stress responses, and dog walking actually is associated with a better health profile, including lower BMI, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, and better cholesterol.
On the people side of things, here are some steps to take:
1. Ask your doctor for a referral to a local diabetes educator or education center.
2. Join the online support program sponsored by the American Diabetes Association at http://Diabetes.org/DiabetesProgram for diabetics with type 2, and click on their “In My Community” link to find out what is going on with supports groups in your local area
3. Learn more about support for type 1 (juvenile) diabetics and their families at http://www.jdrf.org/index.cfm?page_id=105564
4. Check out one of these larger diabetes self help forums:
- http://DiabetesSisters.com for women with diabetes
- http://DiabetesHandsFoundation.org (both English and Spanish speaking support forums)