I’m not trying to sound negative in the least bit, but I want to be totally upfront about diabetes management. The reality is that effective diabetes management requires a good deal of time and attention. It’s been calculated that people with Type 1 diabetes may make at least 300 diabetes management decisions each day on top of all the other decisions we make each and every day.
Nutrition decisions alone can add up to more than one hundred. Think about it — we need to take into account each blood sugar reading and make a decision on how to go about our day. Is our blood sugar trending down so that we need to hold off on going for our morning walk, or is the blood sugar rising, and we need to rethink what we will be eating for lunch? Or the weather is raining tonight — how will we get our typical evening walk that helps lower our overnight blood sugar reading?
I hear you. Managing a chronic condition like diabetes that is centered on lifestyle behaviors can get overwhelming, boring and/or frustrating.
When I was pregnant, I remember having some of these feelings. Don’t get me wrong, it was super important and very joyful to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. But, I distinctively remember laying in the hospital bed after having my son, and feeling a sense of relief to be able to “let go” for 48 hours and allow the medical team at the hospital make the decisions for managing my diabetes. As I often find myself saying, there is no vacation from diabetes. This is a condition that is affected by our daily lifestyle routines lifelong.
[See: 10 Myths About Diabetes.]
Tips for Managing Diabetes
Now for the good news regarding what you can do to help ease the diabetes management tasks. Keep in mind this is a list of choices — you don’t need to do all of these all at once. We don’t want to be overwhelmed. I suggest trying one or two of these ideas to see if it helps to relieve some of the constant thinking about diabetes tasks.
Find a breakfast and lunch that work for you. Work for you means that you enjoy the food, and it works well with keeping your blood sugar levels in target range. Then, eat that breakfast and lunch every day so the decision “what am I going to eat today?” is already made.
This also helps with your grocery list since you will already know what food and beverage items you need every week for those meals. If you want to add variety, and as a dietitian I recommend this, switch up your fruits and vegetables according to the best picks of the season. This is an easy and economical way to add variety.
Find an activity that you like and set a time of day that you will participate in that activity. The activity can be walking, riding a bicycle, doing an exercise video, lifting hand weights or using a stretch band while you watch television.
The purpose is to be physically active. Try to be physically active for 30 minutes on five days of the week. If you are short on time to be active make your activity a double duty activity like doing laundry, vacuuming, or dusting the house all with intentional body movements.
Make sure you are checking your blood sugar to problem solve above- or below-target readings. If you check every morning before breakfast just because that’s what you always have done, think about it. If your morning readings are in target, then you can ease up on checking at that time of day. Move your blood sugar checking to another time of day to help you find out how your body is reacting to food, exercise, stress, etc.
Taking your Medication
Set a routine centered around taking your medications. After a couple weeks of taking your medications at the same time of day, it will become more automatic and this will ease the burden of “remembering” to take your meds.
You may require some type of prompt for taking your medication. You can leave your weekly pill box in the kitchen where you eat breakfast as a prompt to take your morning meds or set an alarm on your cell phone with a reminder to take your medications at specific times of the day.
Finding ways to make some of those 300 diabetes management decisions we make each day into just automatic behaviors can help ease the burden of thinking through all those decisions is key. Focus on the good results more than you focus on the imperfect results. This can help relieve anxiety and creates a positive feedback loop to motivate diabetes management. I saw a quote recently that really resonated with this topic: “Don’t wait until you reach your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take.”
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