A common claim is that “diabetes is a 25% position in your own company”. You will after all take over the job of an organ (read: the pancreas). If your blood sugar is unstable the percentage is higher.
By Hildegunn Fossheim
No one has asked for this position, but yet you’ve still got it. It’s a job without vacation – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It’s natural to experience times when managing your diabetes feels extremely difficult, at times impossible. People with diabetes are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
From my experience (as a diabetes educator) many have too high standards to how their diabetes management is suppose to be perfectly balanced with every other aspect of their life as well. So how do you relieve some of the mental stress?
Step 1. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else
The idiotic tendency we have of always comparing ourselves to others is incredibly self-destructive. There will always be someone “who does it better than me” (according to ourselves).
We read and hear about everyone else’s “success stories”, and feel that we are the only ones going through difficult times. We feel hopeless and unsuccessful – why can’t I seem to manage as perfectly like them?
We “talk down” our own successes by comparing them to (supposedly) others successes; “Yes, I guess I finally managed to lower my long term blood sugar by 1 percent, but that woman in that article had a HbAc1 value of 5.5, started her own company, has five children, and climbed Kilimanjaro”.
Every person is unique and different, and every diabetes unique! Just as we accept that all people are different, we must accept our own diabetes.
This is incredibly important; before we learn to appreciate our own accomplishments all other measures to cope with everyday life with diabetes is futile. Salute your own diabetes successes!
Step 2. Define your OWN successes.
What is success for my diabetes and me? Is success a number on the meter or the feeling I have based on my own efforts?
Diabetes is unfortunately not a mathematical disease with a general recipe consisting of accurate figures for insulin doses, carbohydrate intake and calorie consumption, and voila, the blood sugar is at a constant 6.5. As mentioned above, each diabetes unique, and some have a more difficult and unpredictable diabetes than others. Therefore, we must ask ourselves if it’s productive to measure our diabetes successes based only on numbers?
Misunderstand me right, you should not accept an extremely high or low level as this is extremely hazardous and can cause serious complications. But a well-regulated blood sugar doesn’t equal exactly 7.0 for everyone.
I believe that it’s the feeling we have deep inside that matters the most; sometimes you can admit to yourself that your efforts have not been the best, while other times you know you have given everything – you have measured glucose levels often, counted each carbohydrate and kept to your diet and exercising plans. So when the number on the meter still isn’t what you’ve hoped for, should all the pride you felt three seconds ago suddenly not matter at all?
If a number is solely the goal it’s easy to lose motivation and easier to give up. Since giving up isn’t an option I think it’s more useful to celebrate the successes you actually do achieve. In my eyes the greatest success is when you keep on going, keep on fighting and don’t let the challenges stop you.
Step 3. Break up your goals
You do not climb the entire Kilimanjaro, one of the world’s highest mountain, in a day, and you don’t achieve the “perfect” HbA1c value in a day either.
What about concentrating on your dinner mealtime dose first? When you feel that your blood sugar is at the desired level, a couple of hours after dinner, several days / weeks in a row you can concentrate on your next meal. You will of course measure and set doses to the other meals as well, but have the main focus in relation to goals and change on a meal at a time. Before you know it you will achieve goal after goal.
This tip applies to insulin dosage, as well as exercise and diet.
Step 4. Get to know your diabetes – find your blood sugar trends.
In order to set realistic goals and really appreciate your diabetes successes you must first know your own diabetes. You can do it the old fashion way and get a diabetes diary where you note down all your glucose levels and insulin dosages for a consecutive week. Or, there are glucose meters that look for trends in your glucose profile for you. Finding your blood sugar trends require that you measure frequently.
It’s good motivation to find your own unfortunate trends, to then make changes. If you first find the trends it’s easier to change the problems your experiencing, either alone or together with your diabetes educator. It requires some work, but is certainly worth it. Look at it as an investment in yourself and your own health.
Step 5. Care about yourself
You do not need to be the world champion in everything you do. Rather take into account your own mental and physical health. Listen to what your body tells you and put yourself first more often. If you are to have energy to cope with both life and your diabetes’ challenges it’s allowed to lower the requirements you set to yourself.
You must bake for your child’s school event or an evening with the girls, but you feel exhausted. Run by the store and grab something from the shelf instead. Your attendance is actually the most important.
Step 6. Care a little less
A Norwegian author, Per Fugelli, sums it aptly when he describes the modern society: “We put excessive demands on ourselves and our surroundings, so large that they can never be reached. This makes us unhappy. A good prescription for a good life is to care a little less” (my own translation).
It is completely unnecessary use of energy to worry about that you might have taken to little insulin during your last meal.
You are not perfect. And that’s okay! No one is perfect. The end.