Emotions such as anger, guilt, fear, denial and resentment all have a purpose in human existence the potential to have a negative impact on mental and physical health and wellbeing. These emotions are all common responses to a new diagnosis of diabetes and equally can arise in response to the frustration of dealing with condition for many years. These emotions can sometimes lead to the neglect of self care which can instigate more long term health problems.
Destructive emotions can have a significant impact on the human body, like the stress response, these emotions can instigate changes physiology including; the increase in blood pressure, blood sugar levels and can give rise to somatic changes such as shaking, excessive perspiration, heart palpitations, to name but a few.
These bodily sensations often then lead to changes in behaviour and subsequent thought processes can keep the cycle of thoughts, emotions, physical changes and behaviour.
A person diagnosed with diabetes may be angry and resentful as thought processes such as ‘why me?’ occur. These thoughts cause the physical bodily changes outlined above. These bodily sensations may then initiate changes in behaviour; a person may take their anger out on somebody else or the resentment may endorse risky behaviour in an endeavour to recapture power and control of one’s own health.
Subsequently these behaviours will maintain thoughts and feelings such as anger, guilt and regret, maintaining the cycle or bodily changes, which impact behaviour, which in turn, affects thoughts and emotions.
The changes in physiology can cause long term health implications such as; high blood pressure and heart problems including increased risk of stroke; permanent high blood sugar levels can lower the body’s ability to maintain stable blood glucose levels and can lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. In someone already diagnosed with diabetes, constantly experiencing destructive emotions can not only impact the day-to-day self care by making blood sugar levels unpredictable, more significantly, they could give rise to long term complications associated with the condition.
Treatment for destructive emotions in people with diabetes
The most appropriate treatment for addressing and minimising the impact of destructive emotions is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of becoming aware. Mindfulness meditation experientially teaches one how to attend to thoughts and emotions and understand how it is thought processes that give rise to the bodily sensations.
By becoming aware of thoughts, rather than mindlessly allowing them to control the body, a person is able to focus on these and their physical symptoms.
By simply drawing a non-judgemental, mindful awareness, to thoughts, feelings and their physical embodiments, the cycle is broken. Mindfulness gives a person the capacity to decide how to respond to thoughts and feelings such as anger, guilt and resentment rather than mindlessly react.