The 4-step mindfulness practice for diabetes distress

For Mindful in May, Dr Adriana Ventura walks you through a simple mindfulness practice to increase resilience in the face of diabetes. 

It can often feel like there are many things out of your control when you live with diabetes.  You do your best to manage the condition but even then, sometimes it feels as though you just can’t get it right. You can become frustrated, annoyed and angry. This only makes it harder to take care of yourself.

What if there was a way to help deal with the negative emotions that inevitably occur with diabetes? Well, there may be one – Mindfulness.  You’ve probably heard the term before and read a million blogs about it, so rather than explain what it is, I am going to walk you through a 4-step process known as RAIN…

  1. Recognise your emotions

It is easy to get caught up in our emotions. Often, when we are feeling an intense emotion, we react to situations rather than respond in a manner that would be most helpful. By tuning into our experiences in an open, non-judgemental way, we increase our awareness of the actuality of the present moment.

It is helpful to name the emotion, for example, “I’m feeling overwhelmed with my diabetes”.

  1. Allow your emotions to be as they are

Allowing doesn’t mean liking, but if we can accept a situation for what it is, we are less likely to suppress or ignore our difficult emotions, which only lead to more suffering.

For example, “I’m feeling frustrated with my blood glucose levels, and I don’t like this feeling but I accept that I am frustrated right now”.

Allowing is a way of softening our mental resistance to what is happening, which often brings a sense of ease around the emotion.

  1. Investigate the emotions

Now that you have recognised and allowed the emotion, you can choose to investigate it. Mentally enquire with questions like, “What is making me feeling this way?”, “Has something happened that may have influenced the way I feel?” (e.g. not getting enough sleep, having a fight with my partner), “What do I need right now?”, “What can I do to support myself through this difficult time?”

These questions allow you to choose a conscious response rather than react in an unhelpful way.

  1. Non-identification: You are not your emotions nor your thoughts

Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not defined by your thoughts and emotions. For example, you may have the unpleasant thought, “I have failed with my diabetes management”, but just because your diabetes management is not ‘on track’, this does not mean that you are a failure. You are the awareness that is observing the thought, emotion and sensation. This simple realisation can bring about a sense of freedom and peace and allow you to focus on positive actions (rather than negative self-talk) moving forward.

This simple 4-step process can be drawn upon at any time you experience a difficult emotion – whether or not you choose to use it, is completely within your control.

To take the Mindful in May challenge, click here.

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