When you feel depressed or low, you might like to try and get into the habit of becoming aware of the thoughts you are having when you notice your mood changing.

Writing down your thoughts may feel like a lot of effort, but it can really help you to capture and explore your styles of thinking, and see which are helpful and which are less so.

Use our 5 step process to assist you in challenging your thoughts.

The 5-step process

Step 1: What is the Situation or Event?

For example, measuring your blood glucose level and it being higher than you expected, stepping on the scales after a week of healthy eating and not having lost any weight

Step 2: What do you tell yourself? What are the thoughts you notice running through your mind?

“What have I done wrong? I can’t do this. I’m a failure.”

Step 3: What is happening in your body and what do you do?

  • Mood – hopeless, frustrated, fed-up
  • Body sensations – low energy, feel sick, dry mouth, slumped shoulders
  • Behaviours – ate some comforting food, avoided engaging in blood testing/healthy eating for the rest of the day

Step 4: Challenge Your Thoughts

Ask yourself some helpful questions:

  • What is the evidence for and against this thought?
  • Is thinking this way helping me?
  • Are there other ways of thinking about this situation?
  • If a friend told me they were thinking this way, how would I respond?
  • Am I thinking in ‘all or nothing’ terms?

Step 5: Come up with an Alternative, Balanced Thought

  • I have tried but just because I haven’t got the result I wanted it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure.
  • If a friend was feeling this way I’d help her think about what she could do differently next time, or suggest she phone her diabetes nurse to ask for advice.

Examining your thinking styles in this way is likely to feel a bit strange at first, however with practice it will feel easier (like any skill you have learned – such as driving a car or tying your shoelaces!). Soon enough you will be naturally using more supportive, constructive thinking styles without even realising.

In addition to talking therapies such as CBT there are other, more practical ways you can help yourself through low mood to lift feelings of depression.

Do more exercise!

Doing more physical activity each day can have a beneficial impact on your diabetes health as well as your mood.

Finding time to relax can be very helpful.

But equally important is that you find ways to increase your pleasurable pursuits – life with diabetes can be hard work so make some time for some fun or enjoyable activity each day.

Finally, talk to your GP about a NHS referral to a psychologist, therapist or counsellor to help you manage your low moods.

Many people feel a sense of stigma about seeking support of this type, but there is no shame in reaching out for help with someone who is trained to help you.

You can overcome your difficulties with depression, and taking action is the first step.

This is one of series of Psychology articles by Dr Jen Nash, a Clinical Psychologist who has been living with type 1 diabetes since childhood.

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