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5 Tips for Adjusting to a New Type 2 Diagnosis

Posted on October 25, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Robert Hurd, M.D.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

You may feel many emotions after receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus type 2), and that’s completely normal. After all, this diagnosis can (and should) lead you to make changes to your lifestyle that may result in a slew of different feelings.

You might feel overwhelmed, confused, angry, or scared. DiabetesTeam members have felt all these emotions — and more. “I know the frustration of being diagnosed with diabetes,” shared one member. “I understand why you were resentful,” wrote another. “I was diagnosed in 2012, and it felt like I had gotten a death sentence.”

A diabetes diagnosis can produce a lot of feelings that you’ll need to work through to live successfully with the condition. Knowing that you can take steps to keep your diabetes under control and care for yourself well can help relieve at least some of this emotional distress. As one member put it, “It isn’t a death sentence, but it is trial and error until you find what works for you. That’s when it gets easier. The more knowledge you can get about your diabetes, the easier it gets.”

Here are some tips for adjusting to your type 2 diabetes diagnosis and living as well as possible with diabetes.

1. Understand Your Diabetes Medications

Several lifestyle changes may help you manage your type 2 diabetes over time, but medication (like metformin) may help you get it under control initially. Some people take medication for the rest of their lives, while others only need it early on until they get their condition under control.

Before you start taking a new medication, ask a few questions to make sure you thoroughly understand it. You can ask your doctor:

  • Which medications you’ll be prescribed
  • What each one does
  • How long you may need to take them
  • How to know when it’s time to change your dosage or eliminate a medication
  • When and how often to take your medication
  • What to do if you forget to take your medication
  • Whether your new medications will interact with anything you are already taking
  • Whether these medications are best taken with food or on an empty stomach

When you have the answers, come up with a plan to make sure you take all your medications at the appropriate time. You may need to get a pillbox, set reminders on your phone, or use an automatic pill dispenser or reminder. If you struggle to remember medications, ask your health care professionals to help you come up with a plan for taking them on schedule.

2. Understand Your Diabetes Treatment Plan

Your doctor will come up with a diabetes treatment plan that is specific to you and your needs. You should have a chance to work with your health care provider to design this plan, as your input is important when it comes down to what will and won’t work for you.

Make sure you know details about your treatment plan, including:

  • How often you will need follow-up medical appointments
  • Who should attend appointments with you
  • Whether you’ll need to undergo additional tests

You should also learn how to monitor your blood glucose (sugar) and find out how often your doctor or diabetes care specialist wants you to take readings.

If you are interested in a continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump, talk to your health care provider about whether these devices are right for you.

3. Consider Making Some Dietary Changes

In type 2 diabetes, the body does not properly produce or use insulin, the hormone created by the pancreas that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) can cause potentially serious symptoms or health complications. Therefore, monitoring and managing your blood glucose is an important part of living with type 2 diabetes.

Your diet plays a big role in your blood glucose levels. Additionally, if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and are currently at a higher-than-healthy weight, your care team may recommend that you lose weight. This is because weight loss lowers your risk of experiencing diabetes complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems. Losing weight also may help you control your blood glucose levels. Eliminating risk factors like having a high body weight can make your diabetes easier to manage. You don’t need to lose a lot of weight. Even a 5 percent weight loss can help you manage your blood sugar more effectively.

You may want to work with a registered dietitian who specializes in helping people with diabetes. They can look at your existing diet and tell you what changes will have the most positive effects on your diabetes. They can also help you design meal plans or devise a strategy so you aren’t trying to make changes all on your own.

It’s also useful to learn to read nutrition labels on cereals and other foods so you can choose products that are low in refined sugars, saturated fat, and salt.

In general, people with type 2 diabetes should eat a balanced diet that focuses on:

  • Limiting simple (refined) carbohydrates and added sugars
  • Avoiding beverages with a high sugar content (unless you’re experiencing hypoglycemia)
  • Eating unprocessed or minimally processed foods
  • Substituting simple carbohydrates with whole grains (complex carbohydrates)

Beyond that, you’ll need to work with a health care provider to determine how certain foods affect you, in particular. Some people, for instance, find that they can substitute almond or coconut flour for regular flour in recipes to lower the dish’s effect on your blood sugar levels.

4. Find an Exercise Plan That Works for You

Regular exercise can help your body use insulin with greater efficiency (meaning it lowers insulin resistance). Exercise also uses glucose, so there’s less of it in your bloodstream. To determine the right exercise plan for you, you can ask your doctor for advice or work with a physiotherapist who specializes in helping people with type 2 diabetes, especially if you are not currently exercising at all.

You’ll need to build your exercise capacity slowly so you don’t injure yourself or experience other health problems. You may also need to have your overall health assessed before you begin an exercise program.

When you engage in regular physical activity, like aerobic exercise or strength building, you’ll need to monitor your blood glucose carefully. Take readings before, during, and after exercising, if that’s what your doctor or diabetes educator recommends. Find out your target range for each of these readings.

Drink plenty of water, and keep a quick glucose source on hand at all times, such as some raisins, fruit juice, or glucose tablets. That way, you can correct a blood sugar drop if your body burns too much of its available sugar.

If you regularly experience hypoglycemia while exercising, you may need to change your diabetes treatment plan to make sure you have just enough insulin to accommodate your exercise.

5. Work Through Any Difficult Feelings Surrounding Your Diagnosis

Many people experience negative emotions around a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You may feel afraid for the future, angry because you don’t even feel sick, resentful that you have to deal with this new concern, and more.

None of these feelings are unusual or wrong. Acknowledging and working through them is an important part of adjusting to life with type 2 diabetes, and it may help you prevent mental health issues down the road. What’s more, researchers have found that people who understand their negative feelings do a better job of keeping high blood sugar under control.

Having the right mindset around diabetes can help a lot. One DiabetesTeam member offered the following advice to another member who was recently diagnosed: “You have a few choices to make, but firstly, you have to get your mindset right.”

Another wrote, “The solace I get is that it is not a death sentence. We need to move forward with the thought that it is all still in our control, and have nothing but positive and healthy thoughts, at least to the extent possible.”

Clearly, keeping perspective can help people with diabetes make the best choices for the future.

Additionally, psychologist — especially those who specialize in working with people processing medical diagnoses — are positioned to help you work through difficult feelings. They can also help you set reasonable rules or goals for yourself, find joy in trying new exercises and recipes, and build a strong network of support so that you have the care you need no matter what happens with your diabetes. They may even help you find support groups in your area.

Find Your Diabetes Team Today

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, join DiabetesTeam today. Here, more than 124,000 members from around the world come together to share their journeys with diabetes, ask and answer questions, and join ongoing conversations posted by other members. Over time, you’ll form a team of others who will be there to support you, no matter what.

Are you newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? Do you struggle with negative feelings about your type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and you’re not sure how to handle them? Share your thoughts in the comments below or by posting on DiabetesTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Robert Hurd, M.D. is a professor of endocrinology and health care ethics at Xavier University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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