The NDSS is administered by Diabetes Australia

Happy and healthy. Dealing with emotions

Looking after your mind is just as important as looking after your body. It’s okay to feel down, frustrated or fed up sometimes. The important thing to learn is the things you can do to feel better so you have more good days, than bad.

Diabetes can be tough to live with

Living with type 1 diabetes can be like carrying around a box. Some days it’s easy; on others, it’s heavy and feels like two boxes instead of one. And then there are days it feels like the box has morphed into many boxes!

It’s okay to feel not okay about diabetes. It can be complicated, sometimes scary, and uncomfortable, and you never get a day off. Just because something worked once doesn’t necessarily mean it will work the next day. This can be hard because you might have done all the ‘right things’ yet still feel disappointed.

When you have one of these days, or the boxes are stacking up, be kind and patient with yourself. 

“I used to feel like I only went to clinic to get my HbA1c done. I’d just say I’m okay and didn’t tell them how I was really feeling. When I finally opened up, they arranged for me to see a social worker. Now I feel I can talk about the problems I’m having and ask for help when I’m feeling burnt out. I no longer think I’m being judged or that my diabetes has to be perfect.”

Angie, 17 years

If you’re having a frustrating day, some of these ideas and activities might help



Run, swim or kick a ball with friends, punch a boxing bag, or go skateboarding. Exercise releases happy hormones that make you feel better.


If there’s one thing for sure, diabetes is something you always have to think about. Be kind and patient with yourself – don’t expect perfection.

Ask for help

Ask for help

Sometimes you might feel mad, sad or fed up with diabetes. You might even feel like a human calculator every time you eat. For example, working out things like counting carbohydrates (carbs) or insulin doses. Talk to someone and tell them how you feel. Just saying it out loud can ease some of the bad feelings. Managing diabetes is a big deal; your friends and family will want to support you in any way they can. Ask your diabetes health professionals for help.

Make a diabuddy

Make a diabuddy

Living with diabetes is different for everyone. Having a chance to talk to other young people who also have diabetes can be really helpful. The NDSS and Diabetes Australia have day activities for kids. JDRF have programs that offer peer support and connection with those that have diabetes.

Think positive

When you think you can’t do something, stop and tell yourself, “I can’t do that yet”. That little word ‘yet’ opens the door to change and achievement, even if it means learning a new skill or asking someone to help you.

Get help from a psychologist

If managing diabetes feels too much, talk to a psychologist familiar with diabetes. They can help you find ways to adjust to the changes in your life. Ask your doctor or diabetes health professional for recommendations, or check out the Australian Psychological Society website at


Get support through a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan. This will give you a rebate on the cost of seeing a psychologist.

Journal it

Journal it

Jotting down your thoughts in a journal can be a powerful way to process your emotions. You can keep it private or share it with someone you trust – it’s up to you!

Get enough sleep

Being overtired makes everything feel worse. Check out our top sleep tips here.

Telling other people about your diabetes

Some people are comfortable sharing with everyone about diabetes. They do school projects on it and even give a talk to the school.

Others might prefer to keep things a bit more private. That’s perfectly fine too!

If you’re feeling a little nervous about telling your friends about your diabetes, that’s okay. Take a deep breath and think about who really needs to know right now. It could be your closest pals, your boss at your part-time job, or your coach and teammates at weekend sport.

When diabetes gets you down

Diabetes and depression

If you’ve been feeling down for some time, it could be a sign of depression. Contact your doctor or diabetes health professional to get the help and support you need.
Managing stress and anxiety

Managing stress and anxiety

Stress is part of life, but coping with diabetes on top of everything else can be a lot! Stress can raise blood glucose levels and increase other emotions such as anxiety, depression, tension, or anger. Learning how to manage stress is important for your diabetes and your wellbeing. Talk to someone about your worries and check in with your doctor or diabetes health professional about ways to cope with anxiety.

Using Bite Back, a FREE self-guided online program for young people aged 13-18 years, can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety and increase wellbeing.

Emotions and food

Living with diabetes places a big focus on food. Sometimes, this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, disordered eating or, possibly, an eating disorder. If you’re worried about how you think and feel about your eating, food or body image, seek help from your doctor or diabetes health professional. They can help you identify if there is a problem and give you the best advice. It’s good to remember there is no special diet for people with diabetes. You follow the same Australian Dietary Guidelines as the rest of the population. You can enjoy all foods, including cake, in moderation! Want to find out more about eating well? Check out the eating and drinking pages

Eating disorder treatment and management plan

An Eating disorder treatment and management plan is for people who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. It provides a rebate for sessions with a dietitian and a mental health professional.

Diabetes stress

Did you know people with type 1 diabetes make up to 180 extra decisions a day? No wonder this can lead to decision fatigue and stress.

People without diabetes don’t have to think about the many things you do. They don’t have to think about counting carbs, insulin doses, or the impact of what exercise, stress, illness or life will do to their blood glucose levels. But for you, it’s part of everyday life, every day, 7 days a week.

Managing type 1 diabetes can be challenging and frustrating. What works one day may not work the next.

Despite your best efforts, managing blood glucose levels can feel hard some days, especially during stress and illness. And in today’s fast-paced life, full of time pressures and competing priorities, it only adds to the pressure of managing type 1 diabetes. It’s common to think the numbers have to be “right”. If we do everything correctly, our blood glucose levels will be perfect, right?

It’s not so easy! Some days, diabetes seems to have a life of its own.

So what can we do? How can we build resilience during challenging times to keep on going?

Top tip

Show yourself the same kindness and encouragement as someone you care about. What would you tell them? How would you best support them when they need help? Remember, you’re not alone. There are people who want and can support you.

What happens to our body when we're stressed

When we’re stressed, our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is released, the following things happen:

  • Our breathing rate increases to get more oxygen into our body.
  • Muscles tense to protect us against injury and pain.
  • Our heart rate increases to pump more blood around our body to prepare us to run.
  • Our digestion slows down so blood from our digestive organs is sent to the muscles in our arms and legs to help us ‘fight or flight.’
  • Our liver changes glycogen (a stored type of glucose) back to glucose in the bloodstream that is used for enery for ‘fight or flight’. This causes blood glucose levels to rise.
Living with diabetes can be stressful. But there are things you can do to help to reduce stress and look after your emotional wellbeing.

“When I speak with people living with type 1 diabetes, I am quite often left in awe of just how people manage so well.” Congratulate yourself for doing so well. Look at what you managed to do 24/7, every day of the week. You are amazing! You have managed finger pricks, calculating dosages and insulin injections as well as a myriad of other things on top of managing what is probably already a busy life. Think about the number of people who have said to you “I couldn’t do that.” But you have!

Paula, diabetes health professional

Recognising diabetes distress

Living with diabetes every day can be hard. It can lead to feelings of frustration, guilt, sadness, or worry. But it’s important to know you’re not alone if you feel this way. In fact these feelings are so common they even have a name for them, called diabetes distress.

Diabetes distress is the emotional burden of living with and managing diabetes. It’s important to recognise these feelings and get help early so they don’t start impacting daily life or lead to burnout.

How does diabetes distress feel?

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Being angry, frustrated or feeling overwhelmed about managing your diabetes

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Being worried about not taking proper care of your diabetes

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Avoiding appointments or checking blood glucose levels

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Making unhealthy food choices on a regular basis

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Feeling alone and isolated or loss of interest in activities

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Having unexplained blood glucose fluctuations

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Being worried that you are ‘failing’ with your diabetes management

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Feeling guilty when your diabetes management gets ‘off track’

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If you feel this way, talk to your diabetes health professional or family. They can help you figure out ways to manage your feelings and prevent them from getting worse.

Recognising diabetes burnout

Burnout can happen if diabetes distress worsens or continues for a long time. Burnout is where a person is so emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed by the demands of their diabetes that they stop looking after their diabetes.

Diabetes burnout is very common. More than 3 out of 10 people with diabetes say that they feel burnt out by managing diabetes.

With so many extra decisions every day compared to someone not living with diabetes, it’s easy to understand why people with type 1 diabetes can develop diabetes burnout.

The risk of diabetes burnout is that people can become so emotionally exhausted by the demands of their diabetes that they stop looking after their diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes burnout

Avoiding diabetes management activities such as monitoring your blood glucose levels, taking medications or insulin, or going to health professional appointments

Feeling alone and unsupported with your diabetes or being unable to cope with your feelings because they are overwhelming

Feel like diabetes is managing you rather than you’re managing your diabetes

The good news is there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting diabetes burnout.

Recognise the signs

First, know the signs and symptoms of diabetes distress and burnout and act early. Remember, it’s common, so don’t feel worried about reaching out for help.

Manage your expectations

Sometimes life gets in the way. And you may not be able to do all your usual activities to manage your diabetes or have perfect blood glucose levels every day. Don’t sweat it. Think of your blood glucose levels as “outside of your range for now” rather than as “good” or “bad”.

Checking your levels is not a “test” that you can pass or fail. It just gives you information to help you manage your diabetes.

Get support for your diabetes

No one expects you to manage your diabetes on your own! Share the load by talking. It’ll help reduce the stress. Talking about what it’s like for you to have diabetes to family, friends, teachers, or a diabetes health professional is part of the journey. You may feel like you’re the only one with diabetes, but you’re not alone.

Sleep well

Sleep well

It’s really important to get enough sleep. Sleep helps your body repair itself, stay healthy and feel good. The amount of sleep you need varies from person to person but also depends on age. Here is a general sleep guide:

  • 6-13 years need 9-11 hours
  • 14-17 years need 8-10 hours
  • 18-25 years need 7 to 9 hours.

Wellbeing self-care

Here are some more self-care tips you can can take with you anywhere, anytime!

Like many skills, looking after your wellbeing can take practice. Practising wellbeing self-care every day, whether you’re experiencing a ‘down day’ or not, can reduce how often you experience ‘down days’. This can help you build resilience for when you experience ‘down days’. Taking time each day to practice wellbeing self-care will help you make ‘deposits’ into your wellbeing account! In time, your wellbeing account will grow and help protect you from the effects of stress.

Anytime you feel stressed and want to feel calmer, try this research-backed tool!

You do it like this: a double inhale through the nose, and typically, the second one is shorter, but it is still really important, and then exhale long through the mouth.

Take 1, 2 or 3 sighs to bring your stress level down and feel calm.

Here are some wellbeing self-care you can do anywhere, anytime to help grow your wellbeing account.

Take time for yourself.

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Have compassion for you.

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Look at challenges from different angles.

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Get active and share good habits with family and friends.

Talk to a friend.

Wellbeing quiz

How are you coping with your new type 1 diabetes diagnosis?

This information is intended as a guide only. It should not replace individual medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health, or further questions, you should contact your health professional.


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More resources

NDSS Helpline
1800 637 700

Call the NDSS Helpline for information about diabetes, programs, support services and subsidised diabetes products. Ask to speak to a diabetes educator or dieititan.

Head to Health

Head to health gives access to a range of mental health information, advice and treatment options. It can help you seek support in times of need, or when it is most convenient for you.

Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

Beyond Blue provides information and support for people with depression or anxiety, or anyone going through a tough time. You can get support services via phone, email or live chat, including online forums where you can connect with others.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Lifeline offers 24-hour confidential phone and online crisis support. You can contact Lifeline for a range of reasons, including feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Headspace on
03 9027 0100

Headspace is a mental health foundation for youth. It provides early intervention mental health services for young people aged 12–25 years. Information and services are also available to your family, friends, and diabetes health professionals.


There is a lot of support you can access through Medicare for your diabetes management and emotional health. A GP Mental Health Treatment Plan gives you access to rebates for the costs of seeing a psychologist. An Eating Disorder Plan gives you access to rebates for the costs of seeing a dietitian and a mental health professional.

There are a lot of apps that might help

Check out some of these:
The Headspace App

The Headspace App

Everyday mindfulness

Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind

Guided meditations and lets you track your progress

7 Minute Workout

7 Minute Workout

Daily workouts that change everyday

Sleep Ninja App - Black Dog Institute

A scientifically proven app to help young people improve sleep and build better mental health