Stress of Exams
Type 1 Diabetes may prove to be challenging to cope with during a
person’s everyday life. Consequently, the exam period is stressful on its
own, adding diabetes to it incurs a lot more stress than one may expect.
Having done countless exams myself,I have discovered, mostly by trial
and error, certain methods and ways throughout the years that have made
this frustrating phase more manageable. When exam season approaches
it is important to take certain precautions to ensure, as much as possible,
that this condition is properly controlled.
No one person has the same reaction to exams and stress, however one thing is for certain; exams cause stress and stress does not pair well with diabetes. It is therefore very important to find ways and means how to de-stress in order to cope well with both diabetes and exams. This may involve simply going outside and sitting in the sun for a few short minutes. Moreover, any type of physical activity is a good de-stressor, and it does not necessarily need to be strenuous and long, a 30 minute walk is just fine. It is important to take regular breaks in between studying to avoid a buildup of stress. Another useful way is to know what may trigger a panic attack. That way, you know when it is the right time to stop and take a break, in order to diffuse the panic attack.
Another essential aspect of controlling your diabetes
during exams is to check your blood glucose regularly.
Blood glucose levels are known to rise due to stress alone,
so if you are snacking all day while being sedentary for most
of the time, this will continue increasing glucose levels. On the
other hand, stress and exams affect every individual differently,
so the opposite effect, where stress suppresses the appetite,
may also occur. This may lead to several hypos if a person
doesn’t test his or her blood glucose levels frequently. Controlling blood glucose levels implies that one may need to take extra or higher doses of insulin, or that one may need to consume a snack even when they are not hungry. Even though both situations are frustrating, it is ideal that blood sugar levels are kept as normal as possible during exams, simple because of the fact that both hypos and hypers reduce concentration, which may lead to more stress being induced. There may be the need to re-adjust the insulin dosage, both of the basal and bolus insulin. The basal insulin acts as background insulin, and regulates blood glucose in the absence of food and also in the presence of emotional stress. Therefore, due to the increased stress during exams, one may need to increase this dosage. With regard to bolus insulin, which is taken when food is consumed, one may need to alter the insulin-to-carb ratio according to how stress affects that person’s appetite. This modification may be safely and properly done with the help of the diabetes team which often includes diabeticians and qualified nurses.
Last but not least it is important to check the various policies that exist and are enforced within the school, university or workplace that one attends in order to identify how these can affect diabetes and what necessary precautions need to be taken. Most policies state that alterations can be made to accommodate people with chronic conditions and special needs. It is wise to obtain permission to keep your insulin, blood glucose meter and a sugary drink near you whilst sitting for the exam. Additionally, a special permission may be requested to allow for extra time in case of hypos or hypers.
Exams are something that every student has to sit for which makes this time a yearly concern for type 1 diabetics. Because of the significant amount of stress that the exam period brings along with it, it is imperative to learn how to cope with the condition during this challenging period. With the right attitude and the help of the diabetes medical team, blood sugar levels will be mostly controlled, whilst the stress coping skills that you will learn throughout the years will prove to be a useful life tool, as they will help you in other stressful situations which are completely unrelated to exams. Last but not least, the most important thing to remember is that during exams, it is very easy to blow things out of proportion, but in reality, exams are not the end of the world!
Maria Muscat, 22, Malta