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Dealing with Emotions Associated with Diabetes

Content by: NCES, Inc.

Professionals and patients alike often deal with a whirlwind of emotions. When emotions run high, it is important for educators to maintain a calming demeanor and allow patients to feel their emotions while also guiding them towards solutions to their problems.

Dealing with Emotions Associated with Diabetes


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It is important to recognize the early signs of anxiety and stress associated with a new diagnosis. It's helpful to base your education on strategies to target individual challenges a person is experiencing, even when volatile emotions enter the coaching session. All people may process a life altering diagnosis differently, but it is important to meet people where they are at in their own journey.

Use these five steps in approaching patients with persistent behavioral challenges.

#1 Remain calm! It is important to remember the patient is not angry at you, personally. It's an emotional response to the diagnosis of the disease. Maintaining a calming presence will help the patient to feel at ease, and possibly more susceptible to the information you are going to provide.

#2 Engage in conversation. By using the patient’s name, maintaining eye contact, and speaking softly, you can try to draw out how the patient is feeling. Show the patient you care and want to help by engaging in active listening. When met with resistance, it can be helpful to rephrase your statement or question. Phrases such as, “Let me explain...” or “May I suggest?” may be helpful to redirect the conversation. Gauge the patient’s readiness to change by asking them what behaviors they are willing to modify or give up. Allow the patient to participate in goal setting. Letting them set their own SMART goals gives them the control back, and motivates them to achieve their goals.

#3 Be empathetic. Acknowledge that managing diabetes is a lot of work, in fact, it often feels like a full-time job. Recognize and appreciate how hard the client must work to cope with their diagnosis and adjust their lifestyle.

#4 Ask how you can help. When met with resistance, offer your support. For example, you may be able to offer valuable resources such as a grocery list or a weekly meal plan to help ease them into a new lifestyle. Offer to help them set up a blood sugar log and a reminder notification on their phone to check their blood sugars every day. It's important for those with diabetes to feel supported as they adapt to many changes.

#5 Make Recommendations. You’re not the diabetes police, and you don’t want to make your patients feel like a criminal. You can make suggestions or recommendations, but make sure you maintain the role of educator, not dictator. You are there to provide resources and support in whatever way the patient needs. The patient should feel comfortable coming to you with questions without feeling ashamed of anything.

Following these five steps will help you keep the communication lines open between you and your patients, and will over time help your patients feel comfortable with their diagnosis. Overtime, you are key to helping them understand the importance of managing this disease.

Quick Tips!

1️⃣ Utilize the diabetes questionnaire to get to know your client before meeting them.

2️⃣ Have the "Coping with Your New Diagnosis" handout ready to use in case your client expresses difficulty accepting their new diagnosis.

Next Steps:

⬇️ Use the "Reflection Worksheets" as a way to check in with the patient throughout their diabetes journey.

⏭️ It is important to acknowledge positive as well as negative emotions throughout the process.

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