To say that life with diabetes can be a challenge is something of an understatement. Realistically, diabetes is exhausting. It’s demanding. It never sleeps, and it never takes a break. It can be lonely, and it can be painful. And because there isn’t currently a cure for the condition, it can also feel incredibly overwhelming.
You might be thinking something along the lines of, “Thanks for telling me something I already knew.” And, well, that’s fair. Whether you’re newly diagnosed, have had the condition for years, or are here because you know and love someone who has diabetes, you likely already know how hard it can be. You already know it’s time-consuming and emotionally taxing. So, we’re not here to tell you that.
What we are here for, however, is to do our best to help.
How are we going to try to do that? By offering you some (hopefully) helpful tips to make your management just a little bit easier. If you’re already employing some, or even all, of these life hacks, that’s awesome! If that’s the case, we’d guess you probably have a few of your own that aren’t on the list below. Take a look and let us know if we missed any by sharing them in the comments!!
1. Get organized
Depending on your personal habits, this might seem like a no-brainer or an over-simplification. Organization definitely doesn’t come naturally to all of us. However, making even slight improvements in the organization department can yield huge results! Managing diabetes is complicated. Keeping track of appointments, medication, insulin, carbs, equipment… well, it can be a lot.
Try focusing on a few areas you’re struggling to keep straight. Have a hard time keeping your paperwork organized? Consider getting a designated binder to store all of your important documents. Difficulty keeping track of your devices? Establish a designated storage location, and find a way to make them stand out (i.e. a brightly colored case). Use more than one insulin pen and occasionally forget which is which? Use washi tape or a permanent marker to distinguish between the two.
2. Keep a journal
Journaling is not only an excellent way to process some of the feelings you’re having about your condition, it can also be vital to tracking your health. As you know, everyone’s diabetes is different. Making a note of how you feel and what your numbers look like after eating, exercise, or even a stressful day, can help tell you what’s going to affect your numbers in the future.
Journaling can also offer a big-picture view of your management. You might find that you’re snacking on junk food more often than you think and it’s affecting your numbers. Or you might be pleasantly surprised by how well you’ve been sticking to your management plan. Either way, that information can help inform your future decisions.
3. Learn to accept adjustments
Sometimes diabetes can be unpredictable. So can life. Maybe work has been extra stressful or you’ve been preparing for a big event. Or perhaps you’ve been grappling with a personal issue, like an argument with a loved one. You might find that stress makes it harder to control your levels. When establishing your schedule, don’t hesitate to make a plan B, so that if you find you’re feeling too overwhelmed there’s already a backup in place.
Maybe you already have plans. It’s been a tough day, but you have plans to meet a friend for dinner after work. Don’t be afraid to pivot. Cancel. Reschedule. Get the rest you need to feel great the next day. Be okay with your decision. Your health deserves to be a priority. You deserve to be a priority.
Ever feel overwhelmed by diabetes? Click “NEXT” for coping tips!
People with diabetes have done some incredible things. They’ve been Olympic athletes, tennis legends, and prima ballerinas. They can do basically anything a person without diabetes can do. Unfortunately, a chronic illness, like diabetes, can come with some limitations. Not all days are great days, and it’s important to acknowledge when you’re having a not-so-great day. The thing to remember is that everyone has their limits. However, if you have diabetes, recognizing when you’ve reached that limit is crucial. Knowing it’s time to slow down or take a break is essential to healthy management. Prioritize the things that must get done, and address the things you want to get done when you’ve had time to recuperate.
5. Focus on yourself
Whether you have diabetes or not, taking time to focus on yourself is so important. In our hectic lives, it can be difficult to take the time we need to do something we enjoy. Something that’s all about making ourselves feel good. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, rather than white-knuckling it, try to find a way to work in some “you time.” That doesn’t have to mean neglecting something else, but it can mean saying no to certain things.
Try to allocate time to do something special for yourself each week. Consider having coffee at your favorite coffee shop instead of rushing through the drive-thru. Maybe you’d prefer a walk in the park listening to a podcast or your favorite band… or drawing yourself a relaxing bath… or curling up with your favorite book at the end of a hectic day. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s a time dedicated to you.
6. Establish a support system
Finding a network of people who are sharing a similar experience can be incredibly beneficial. In addition to easing feelings of loneliness, it can serve as a great way to get tips and tricks for management that can make a world of difference. Consider an online forum or a support group.
7. Find healthy substitutions
Diabetes can leave you feeling like you’re spending all your time thinking about all the foods you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have. But the truth is, in most situations diabetes doesn’t mean eliminating your favorite foods from your diet altogether. For the most part, it’s all about moderation. However, finding some healthy (and delicious) alternatives to your favorite recipes can help take some of the stress out of meal planning. Love pasta, but carbs send your numbers through the roof? Try substituting spaghetti squash for your noodles. Got a sweet tooth? There are a ton of diabetic-friendly desserts you can try, like this sugar-free cheesecake!
8. Learn to love your health care team
Finding a doctor you like isn’t a hurdle unique to people with diabetes, but it is one that’s especially important to overcome if you have the condition. Maintaining consistent and open communication with your health care team is essential to early detection of potential management issues. Additionally, there are a lot of serious complications that can come from poorly controlled diabetes. Feeling comfortable with your doctors can ease some of the embarrassment of bringing up some of the more uncomfortable topics.
Struggling with aspects of management? These next tips really help!
9. Test before bed
More than 85% of people with diabetes report fatigue. This is more than just garden variety sleepiness. We’re talking about the kind of tired that leaves an individual unmotivated, struggling to concentrate, and totally depleted of energy. There are a lot of things you can do to help combat chronic fatigue, but one of the first things on your list should be to test before bed. Sorting out your numbers before you hit the hay can help you avoid interrupting your sleep later on.
10. Exercise in the morning
The idea of fitting yet another task into your morning routine might seem like a joke. But exercise is a great way to instantly give your body the energy boost it needs to start the day. It gets your metabolism going and has been shown to improve focus. Morning workouts also help you avoid scheduling conflicts that might develop as the day goes. Plus, if you’re anything like me, exercising early prevents you from having enough time to make excuses for why it’s better to just skip it.
11. Establish a morning routine that works for you
For as long as I can remember, my mornings felt insanely hectic. I loved the snooze button, and couldn’t drag myself out of bed unless I’d hit it a few times. When I finally got out of bed, I’d end up feeling rushed, and would inevitably forget something. I’d often be forced to skip breakfast, and I’d hurry to work feeling frustrated and stressed. It took years of this behavior before I realized that extra 20 minutes of low-quality sleep weren’t worth the crummy mornings that followed them.
So, I made some small changes. I now shower and put my lunch together the night before. I set my bag, with everything I need for the day, by the front door. I also improved my pre-bed routine, thus improving the quality of my sleep, making it easier to avoid the snooze button. These not-so-huge changes allocated me the time I needed to comfortably leave the house in the morning feeling as though I’m prepared for my day.
The point? Your morning can dictate how your whole day pans out. For example, if you skip breakfast, your numbers are likely going to suffer for the rest of the day. So, while the changes I made may not work for you, it’s important to take an honest look at your routine. Is it allotting you the time you need to manage your diabetes? Is it allowing you to start your day on a positive note? Ask yourself what changes you can make, and try to make them.
12. Be realistic
When so many of your choices feel like they’re under a microscope, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. You might find yourself trying to overhaul large portions of your lifestyle to be the perfect patient. From eliminating foods and drinks from your diet completely, to feeling like you have to become a finely-tuned athlete. But the truth is, for most people with diabetes, it’s all about moderation. Telling yourself you’re never going to eat another baked good when you love sweets, or that you’re going to run a marathon next month even though you strongly dislike running, is probably unrealistic.
Setting goals is a crucial element of diabetes management. However, it’s important for those goals to be realistic, or you’re most likely going to fall back into old habits fairly quickly. Being realistic about your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes can help you establish achievable goals, and focus on setting yourself up for success. So, if you don’t get any joy out of running, skip the marathon training, and find something you do enjoy. Once you’ve found that thing, focus on implementing strategies to ensure you stick with it.
13. Find balance
That thing I just said about it feeling like your choices are under a microscope? Well, that can be overwhelming to say the least. As a result, it can be really easy to find yourself on a rollercoaster of diabetes management– doing exceedingly well, and then plummeting because you’ve exhausted yourself. Finding a balance is so important for the success of your management plan. And yes, that means a balance with diet and exercise, but it also means personal balance (see #5). If your social calendar has been full lately, hit refresh by giving yourself some time at home. Been sort of a couch potato? Find something outdoors that really interests you. Getting bored by your typical morning walk? Balance it out with some yoga or an exercise class that challenges you.
14. Go easy on yourself
Remember that you’re human. You make mistakes. We all do. Be kind to yourself because dwelling on your mistakes is the fastest way to find yourself in a rut of poor diabetes management. Instead, take a moment to think about what led to the mistake, try to learn from the situation, tell yourself you’ll do better next time, and then– and this is important, forgive yourself.
L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.