Managing Your Mental Health while Managing Type 1 Diabetes

People living with diabetes are accustomed to focusing on physical health. Monitoring glucose levels, tracking A1C, and counting carbs – diabetes demands a lot of attention. All that time and energy spent focused on managing physical health can leave people living with T1D or T2D without much time to even consider their mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people living with diabetes are:

⦁    2 to 3 times more likely to have depression. 
⦁    20% more likely to have anxiety than those without diabetes. 

And 33% to 50% of people who live on the rollercoaster that is diabetes during any 18-month period, will experience diabetes distress. 

Dr. Tricia Tang, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, has made a career out of studying the connections between mental health and diabetes. Here are her four tips for managing mental health when you are also managing diabetes.

#1 Only people who live on the rollercoaster can truly understand it. 

⦁    Feeling disappointed when you wake up with a blood sugar of 12.5mmol? 
⦁    Feeling thrilled when you see your time in range is 94%? 
⦁    Feeling panicked when you forget to put your insulin pen in your purse before leaving the house? 

These are the typical scenarios and emotional swings a person with T1D experiences on a daily basis. Often the people who can empathize the most are your T1D peers. Seek support communities such as the T1D Huddle in Canada or other groups like the College Diabetes Network, Beyond Type 1, Connected in Motion, and Riding on Insulin.  

Just like you can’t predict when your blood sugar is going to spike or dip for no reason, you can’t predict when you will need emotional support – so having a community of support on “stand by” is reassuring.  

#2: After being held captive by COVID for 2 plus years, it’s finally time to re-emerge, re-connect, and re-flect. 

It’s time to re-emerge from our respective caves, re-connect with our friends, family, and loved ones; and re-flect on our unique strengths that helped us cope with an extraordinary time in history. 

The most effective way to re-charge from an extended emotional and mental hibernation is to turn to friends, family, and loved ones – and rebuild our relationships that were put on “pause” for much longer than we expected. 

Meaningful relationships fuel our drive, sense of purpose, and quality of life. 

Looking to connect with the T1D community? Start by joining the Pod Squad today!

#3: Resilience is the insulation against diabetes distress. 

Interested in building your resilience? 

1.    Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself how you would treat a friend when they experience a setback. In other words, give yourself space to be human (flaws and all).
2.    Make it a habit to find one positive aspect of every challenge you encounter.
3.    Build a community of support around you!

How are resilient people different than those who are not?  According to Lucy Horne, a scientist who studies resilience, resilient people recognize that “stuff happens” and don't lose their equilibrium when obstacles emerge. They also turn away from things they can’t control, and turn towards things they can, and ask themselves “is this helping me or hurting me?” as a way to decide whether to walk away.

#4: We can’t escape all the stressors and frustrations of T1D, but WE CAN REGULATE when, why, and how much it affects us. 

Everyone is faced with challenges – some that are not anticipated.  

When we encounter unexpected hurdles, it is perfectly normal to feel upset, angry, or powerless.  Rather than allow your emotions to take the driver’s seat, you can take control and steer things in the direction of your choosing. To accomplish this, we need to recognize when we are experiencing an emotion, label what the emotion is, and explore why we are feeling the way we do. 

Finally, we take the reins in deciding when we will deal with the problem, the magnitude of our reaction, and what options there are for a satisfying solution. 

Learn more about resources available to Canadians living with diabetes at

Insulet has paid a fee to engage Dr. Tricia Tang as a content creator, however the views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Tricia Tang.