Living Well with Type 2 Diabetes
Ellen Joseph, PhD, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Patricia Robinson, PhD, Mountainview Consulting Group; and Kathryn Kanzler, PsyD, ABPP, Baylor College of Medicine
Managing diabetes can feel overwhelming, exhausting, and frustrating. It’s no wonder many people can’t keep up with diabetes management and have a life at the same time. You must take medications, monitor blood sugar levels, exercise, eat healthy foods, and attend regular medical appointments. It can feel like your diabetes is taking over your life, like you are forced to choose between being healthy and living well.
It is possible to manage your diabetes and, at the same time, show love to the people you care about and do the things that are important to you. In fact, taking care of yourself and your diabetes can improve your life rather than getting in the way.
Coping with and Caring for Diabetes
Take a few minutes to consider three big areas of your life:
- Love – How does caring for your diabetes impact relationships with those you love? If you exercised a little bit more or checked your blood sugars regularly, how could that affect your spouse or partner? Your children? Your friendships? How could these changes impact your relationships today, tomorrow, in a few months, and in several years? If you’re not sure, ask your loved ones.
- Work – How does caring for your diabetes affect your work (paid jobs, household chores, volunteer activities, and/or schoolwork)? Do you care about these tasks? If you took your medication regularly or cut back on sweets or sodas, could that change how well you did your work? Picture yourself with stable blood sugars and good energy. How would that be for your life at work?
- Play – How does caring for your diabetes help you have fun? Think about how you might feel going out, doing your hobbies, or spending time relaxing if your diabetes were well-controlled. Imagine specific situations that would be enjoyable. How could better diabetes management improve those times and activities?
If left unmanaged, diabetes can negatively affect every facet of your life. Managing your diabetes, though a demanding process, can create time and energy for the things you enjoy most. When unmanaged, it becomes a significant hindrance to living well, which is challenging enough, already. Consider the obstacles presented by your diabetes and how self-management can (or does) help address them.
Diabetes Management Guidelines
Even acknowledging the potential positive impact of diabetes management, caring for yourself is easier said than done. It’s normal to want to give up entirely and let diabetes symptoms drive your life. Try these steps when you’re struggling to make a change:
- Pick one thing. With your values in mind, what is the one thing you might try to do better today? Pick one thing. Remember to start small and specific. For example, instead of telling yourself to “eat healthy,” set a goal to eat one extra vegetable a few times weekly.
- Reach out to a friend. Get some support! Managing diabetes is tough, and you’ll do better if you can enlist the help of a friend or family member. You can also talk to your healthcare providers to see if there are resources in your community, like support groups or educational classes.
- Remember your wins. Think about everything you have done to improve your health – even if they feel small or silly. These actions can definitely add up. Remind yourself of how far you have come and celebrate that progress!
- Get extra help. If it’s hard to manage your health because of depression, life stress, or other medical problems, consider working with a professional. You may benefit from a visit with a health coach, psychologist, nutritionist, or specialty physician. Talk with your primary care provider to learn more.
- Start again. If you haven’t done well managing your diabetes today – maybe you overate, didn’t check your blood sugars, or skipped your walk – don’t worry about it. You can’t control what happened in the past, but now is a new opportunity to start again. Every moment brings a new chance to choose to care for yourself in a new way. Remember what is important to you. Make the best choice possible for you at that moment.
- Remember your why. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment, say “forget it,” and throw your health goals out the window. Giving up can help you feel better for a little while but leave you feeling worse later. When you struggle to stick to your goals, remember why you want to make improvements. Taking a step back may help you choose to do what helps you feel better now and later.
Keeping in mind who and what matters to you may motivate you to improve your health and help you persevere. Managing diabetes is stressful, and remembering why it matters can make the difference! You can have diabetes and still live your best life!
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