Managing diabetes in the time of COVID-19 – COVID-19 and diabetes
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19 for short, has
forced millions of people indoors and into isolation or quarantine. At
the same time, it has created an infinity of questions about both
physical and mental concerns for people living with COVID-19 during
In order to provide you with useful information in these times where
many are forced to go into quarantine and avoid the outdoors, we have
put together a few tips and suggestions you might find useful.
In this article you will find links to third-party material not
owned or controlled by Novo Nordisk. We are not responsible for the
content or the accuracy of the information provided and have no
If you are living with diabetes, you are not more likely to get
COVID-19 than the general population. However, COVID-19 can cause more
severe symptoms and complications in some people living with diabetes.
It is extremely important that you follow your local regulations, wash
your hands and avoid contact with other people. By staying at home, we
can help ourselves and each other.
Check out more
information about COVID-19 and diabetes on the International Diabetes
Federation website and always rely on your local trusted
Are you concerned about not having constant access to your diabetes
medicines during this unusual time?
General advice is not
to start stockpiling medicines. In line with the advice we all receive
about shopping for groceries, try to stick to your normal routines
when it comes to your medication. Many people with diabetes offer
advice online on how to manage during the lockdown, such as Renza on
If you are interested in further
information about medicine supply, go to novonordisk.com
1. Shopping for groceries in the time of COVID-19
If you have seen news reports on people “panic buying” at the local
supermarket, you may have wondered: Is there a need to change the way
I do grocery shopping? And what food items should I favour at this
particular moment in light of my diabetes?
First off, if you already have a meal plan that works for you, there
is no need to let extraordinary conditions force you to give it up.
When shopping for food, why not explore items containing carbohydrates
with a low Glycaemic Index. These carbs are also called slow-acting
(or slow-release) complex carbs, and here’s
a blog post that tells you all about why they’re important.
Here are some foods rich in slow-release carbs: brown rice, oatmeal,
quinoa, farro, millet, bulgur, pearl barley, peas, beans, lentils,
sweetcorn and pumpkin. “Wholemeal” breads, pastas and crackers should
also be on your shopping list.
A great idea is to look up exciting recipes online so can you give
your low-GI ingredients the best possible culinary framing. For
instance, did you know that pearl barley alone opens up a wealth of
mouth-watering possibilities. You can find some great inspiration here.
If you put new-found time to good use by developing your kitchen
skills, you may even gain relief from moments of anxiety or boredom.
2. Feel like snacking all the time?
When you are working or spending a lot of time at home, the fridge
might seem closer than ever. This can make it difficult to keep to
your regular snack schedule. A great way to challenge yourself is to
see if you can add any new delicious and healthy snacks to your “classics”.
There are plenty of exciting recipes online that are healthy and
diabetes friendly. At one webpage we found recipes for pear guacamole
with pistachios, BBQ deviled eggs with turkey bacon, roasted zucchini
fried with parmesan, cucumber bites with hummus and tomatoes, cold pea
soup with crab and mint, smoky black bean dip and more… Mmm! Sound
delicious? Discover more here.
When preparing snacks, try to include these ingredients:
Meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheeses and butter
Aspargus, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers
If you want to get
creative and invent some new snacks yourself, bear in mind that there
are very few carbs in meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheeses, butter,
asparagus, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers and avocado.
3. Feeling anxious?
Being forced to stay inside with a limited social calendar can cause
your mind to act in unexpected ways. Add to that an undoubtedly very
serious pandemic like COVID-19 and it is not surprising if you feel
anxious. The problem with anxiety is that it can distort your thinking
and affect your behaviour in ways which may in the long run prevent
you from living the best life you could be living.
So while responding with anxiety to something is sometimes
reasonable, let’s discuss different ways to reduce the risk and impact
of anxiety and discomfort.
Breathing exercises are a highly effective way of improving your
mental health and minimising anxiety. Aside from helping you become
more mindful in general, these easy-to-learn exercises come with a
number of benefits:
They help you relax and focus more.
They are proven
to (help you) reduce your stress levels.
They increase your
control of emotions.
They can help you sleep better at
A few tips before you start your breathing session:
Be mindful of your posture. Sit or stand straight, without
stiffness, and keep your shoulders back.
attention to observing your own respiratory movements.
aware of each inhale and exhale and focus on the sensations you feel
as air enters your body through your nose and throat and fills your
When you notice your thoughts drifting, redirect your
attention to your breath without giving the distraction a second
Breathe ”through your stomach”. In other words,
pretend that you’re inflating your belly by inhaling, then swell
your chest. As you exhale, reverse the process.
reassuring thoughts while breathing. A useful example is: “I am
inhaling calm, I am exhaling stress”. But you can of course get
creative and create your own silent mantra.
As with everything, practice and patience are key. So why not
experiment and find out what works best for you? You are likely to
feel more relaxed and in charge of your body and mind the longer you
stick to your mindfulness routine. There are plenty of mindfulness and
breathing exercise apps that you can download, for instance Headspace,
Calm, Breathe, Zen Calm, Panic Relief, Aura and many more.
Anxiety can for some people be worsened by isolation. If this
matches your experience, there is a simple piece of advice: Connect
with friends, family and colleagues online, put your phone to use,
turn on your webcam and send messages to check up on friends and
family. This is a time to explore and be grateful for all the forms of
social interaction that apps and the Internet have given us. Ever
tried simultaneously watching the same film with friends in different
locations and doing a little live commentating on webcam while
4. Tips for exercising at home
Exercise can make it easier to manage stress as well as the symptoms
of diabetes. Many people are able to live well with diabetes thanks to
a combination of medication, health education, a food plan tailored
just to them and exercise. Regular exercise can increase insulin
sensitivity, which means that your blood sugar is allowed to enter
your muscle cells and provide you with energy instead of causing
hyperglycaemia – aka spiking blood sugar levels. Exercise also
increases the ability of your muscles to store and use sugar for
energy, even without insulin, which has a stabilising effect on your
blood sugar levels.
In times of restricted movement, for instance during a lockdown or
quarantine, you can still do weight or strength training at home. If
you don’t own a set of dumbbells, use water bottles. If you need
something heavier and have the option to go for a walk, then try to
collect pebbles or sand to put into empty milk jugs or plastic
bottles. If you happen to have any elastic or resistance bands, these
are also useful but not a must.
Scientists have found that weight training can lead to better blood
sugar control and lower the risk of complications for people with
diabetes. This is because weight training builds muscle mass, which
makes it much easier to achieve steady blood sugar levels.
A few extra tips to build your muscles indoors:
Start out with a few simple stretching exercises. Exercise
your joints and muscles for 5 minutes in the morning and 10 in the
Why not look for good videos that match your
fitness? Many fitness centres make such videos available
Try to do 3 sessions per week, and remember to
schedule a rest day between workouts.
Stay hydrated and pay
attention to your blood sugar levels before, during and after
Try to get your pulse up too. Doing
steps – up and down stairs or on a stepper – is a great way to
manage diabetes in the privacy of your home.
also take this opportunity to reach out to your network online and
ask them for tips. There are many untapped indoor exercise
possibilities – from yoga and tai chi to pilates and zumba. Again,
many fitness centres offer great video material for free.
COVID-19 is a challenge for us all
In periods of uncertainty, healthy habits and good routines are
crucial. Make sure to follow your meal plan, stick to your exercise
routine (or start a new one), look for pleasure in indoor activities,
connect with others virtually and put yourself in the best physical
and mental shape possible.
The #STAYHOME Wellness Challenge
To help you do those things at home at a time when COVID-19 has
forced people to adopt quarantine-like conditions, the #STAYHOME
Wellness Challenge (inspired by Personal Revolution Fitness) has got
Don’t accept boredom as a new part of life. In this digital age you
can actually combat social isolation during quarantine. Why not get
ambitious and motivate each other to do something new? View your
newfound time as an invitation to challenge yourself and those closest
to you – all while having fun!
Here’s how the challenge works:
Print out the scoreboard (link below) and hang it on your fridge. Or,
if you challenge people remotely, send them a link to a Google Doc and
use that instead.
Each participant scores a point each time he/she performs a task on
the sheet. Every week, keep track on the scoreboard of who is leading.
The winner of the challenge is the person with the highest score after
Be creative when designing tasks.
Motivate participants to compete! Choose a prize worth winning.
You design the challenge yourself, so get creative! Here are some
suggestions for how participants can score 1 point:
Get 7 hours of sleep.
Do a 5-minute warm-up session
in the morning. Either agree on which exercises to do or let
Get a proper lunch break. Sit at the
table and try not to pay attention to your phone or other
Get 10 minutes of fresh air. If a walk is not
possible, sit on the balcony or in a garden.
afternoon workout for 10 minutes either by following a workout video
on YouTube or using a fitness app. You can also try to
If you have kids, include such child-friendly tasks as:
Reading a story
Cleaning 5 toys
Don’t forget to announce a prize for the winner of the 4-week
challenge. You may decide to stimulate participants’ motivation by
awarding small prizes at the end of every week too.
The #STAYHOME Wellness Challenge is just one example of how friends
and family members can stay motivated and healthy at a time when, due
to quarantines and cities in lockdown, it is extra important to find
something meaningful to do, stay healthy and manage your chronic
condition the best way possible.