Could art be the answer?
June 2014 — Stress has been a pretty constant companion in our house recently, given a mother who has moved into long term rehab, another mother with dementia, the recent death of a father, and the subsequent emptying and selling of a long time family home.
There has been plenty of ‘good' stress as well, with our two sons graduating this spring, one with a BA and one with a PhD.
Then there is the BA's ongoing job search and his temporary move back home. Plus the usual work deadlines, ever-present money issues, and a dog that always wants more attention (I'm talking to you, Noodle).
So, really, what else is new?
The problem of course, is that while psychological stress can deplete your energy and keep you awake at night, it can also wreak havoc on your blood sugars. In the past, any and all of these events might have lead me to a bag of chips and a carton of chocolate chip ice cream.
But this summer, I've vowed to cut away the carbs, and have been satisfying my sweet tooth with substitutes like a handful of blueberries, a square of dark chocolate, and some nuts. (Well, occasionally a lot of nuts.) The result? No fewer stressors, but fewer highs and lows.
Yet, it isn't all diet. I've also embraced a secret weapon, a new hobby. In my case, it's drawing and painting. Last winter, in the thick of it, I decided that after many years of thinking about it, I would bite the bullet and take a drawing class. It was frightening to go into the first session, but what I found there surprised me. I wasn't the best (or the worst) artist of the bunch, but simply having to stare at a model or a still life for three hours was purely meditative and terrifically relaxing. (Which is saying something for someone who has been unable to sit still to meditate.) I left the class feeling like a wet noodle – happy and even at peace. My problems were still there, but I had taken a vacation from them.
It helped to have an encouraging teacher, but it also helped not to have to succeed at the class or solve any problem more taxing than where I would put the next shadow. It brought back memories of younger days of finger painting and crafting, when you had the license to simply create.
Enthralled, I embarked on a second series of classes, this time in oil painting. It's a messier art, and more difficult, but I resolved not to care that those around me were creating Rembrandts while I was still at the semi-stick figure stage. Somehow, my teacher gave me permission to simply ‘be,' and the results, while hardly ready for a gallery, were good enough to bring a smile to my face.
Plus my husband loved them all.
I'm not telling you to go grab a piece of charcoal or a brush. But if there is something – anything – that you've been meaning to do, particularly if your stressors are up, maybe it could help you find a little meditative time. Tennis, ice skating, or a pottery wheel might help turn your stress level down and could help save your sugars from soaring. It isn't all diet and exercise, sometimes it's just having the courage to take on something new and paint yourself a new picture of where you are and where you can be.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
Acorn Squash Chilled Tomato and Basil Soup Berry Cream Cheese Dessert Triple Cabbage Delight Cinnamon and Vanilla Yogurt Sour Cream Banana Blueberry Muffins BBQ Meatloaf Company Chicken Homemade Pineapple Jalapeno Relish Lemon and Tomato Sole Fillets
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...