Let me be clear: living easier with diabetes does not imply it’s easy to live with diabetes. Living with diabetes takes thoughtful, intentional planning and attention virtually most of the day and night (I love my Dexcom especially for the nighttime. Takes the worry out of sleeping). We must monitor what we eat, our activities, our exercise, our stress level, yada, yada, yada, since our bodies no longer regulate our blood sugar levels for us.
Here are some other tips to make living with diabetes easier. So besides the typical tips such as exercise on a regular basis, I’ve included a few others that, through my experience as a psychologist and a person with type 1, know make a difference.
Tip #1. Accept your moods. It’s a fact that diabetes affects our mood, and our mood affects our diabetes. So tip #1 is to accept the moods that accompany diabetes. When our numbers are on track, we feel good. When they are not, we are often upset. Lows make us crabby. Highs make us crabby. If we fight the mood or feel like we shouldn’t feel the way we do, we actually increase our stress level, which makes it even worse. When we tell ourselves not to feel the way we feel, we make ourselves feel even worse. However, when I say accept our moods, I don’t mean take them out on someone else. It is one thing to acknowledge that I am crabby because my numbers are running higher than they should; it is another matter entirely to be crabby to my husband because of that. So the challenge is to accept the mood and yet control it so we don’t act it out towards others. This takes practice and awareness. So don’t fight the way you feel: accept it and control it.
Tip #2. Develop a positive attitude. Focus on what you can do. Focus on what is important to you. Although it is true that we need to focus on diabetes management, focusing on what is positive in your life will help you balance the difficulties of your diabetes. Research on happiness says to increase happiness, you need to focus on those things in your life for which you are grateful. Keep a journal and every day write down three things for which you are grateful. You will notice, in a week or two, your level of happiness will increase.
Tip #3. Find balance in your life. Extremes don’t work for people with diabetes. Oh, sure, they will for a while, but then, our numbers are whacky, our stress level increases, our tolerance for everyday living decreases, and our functioning is less efficient. Think of what the airline flight attendants say: when the masks come down, put yours on first before you help others. We can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves. So kids, work, bosses, home life, all must be balanced with our own mental and physical health. Sometimes we need to come first – it is important now and then to be selfish. We need our own time out, put ourselves in our own room for a bit, take a break, then resume the rest of life. So what do we need to balance? Food, exercise, chores, life decisions, work, family-all those everyday things that are all a number one priority. How do we balance priorities when they are all number one? We juggle them. Today might be work, but tonight might be family (so we turn off our computers and go the soccer game). Be creative. Ask for help if you need it. Don’t forget sleep. It’s a top priority. Sleep deprivation is one of the worst things you can do to your body, your life, your physical and mental health. Your brain needs to rest and renew in order to function properly and keep those glucose levels in line. Balance. An easy concept, tough but necessary to put into play.
Tip #4. Organize. Why is this on the list? Organization saves time and energy. It helps keep us focused and prepares us for whatever the day may bring. Being disorganized can throw off our diabetes control; not being able to locate our supplies when we need them increases stress and decreases ability to manage our glucose levels. When we exercise, when we go to work or school, when we walk the dog, when we travel: being organized and thinking ahead helps us manage this difficult disease. In Susan Wiener’s book, The Complete Diabetes Organizer, she says “heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and stroke can all be the result of poorly managed diabetes.” She then offers strategies to help you organize your diabetes, your blood sugars, and improve your health. I created yadaBags because I wasn’t able to easily organize and carry the diabetes supplies I needed on a daily basis. Organization clearly makes a difference in my life.
Those of us who think ahead never are able to travel lightly. Somehow, I always end up with three carry-ons. When TSA stops me, I tell them that one is a medical bag with all my diabetes supplies inside. No one at the airport has ever given me a hard time about that. So organize-when you know what you need and you know where it is, your diabetes control is that much better. So is your stress level!
Living with diabetes is never going to be easy, but using these tips could make it easier.