Let’s face it – living with diabetes can be tough! Managing the disease requires 24/7 commitment, with challenges like meal planning and blood glucose monitoring often getting in the way of the natural instinct for spontaneous fun. Emotional support for diabetes management is one part of the puzzle that requires attention.
To make things worse, diabetes management is far from being an exact science. Even with the best intentions, wild blood glucose swings will often occur. This can result in family and friends turning into the diabetes police, and can lead individuals with diabetes to becoming self-critical and self-blaming.
Ban self-guilt and self-criticism!
Recognize that these feelings may occur and understand that they are not helpful! Instead, learn the importance of being kind to yourself. In psychotherapy terms, this model is referred to as self-compassionate therapy: care for one’s wellbeing.
Being self-compassionate starts with the need to be aware of your emotional reactions to distressing circumstances. Recognize that even when blood sugar levels suddenly miss targets, for example, there is absolutely no point in pointing fingers at yourself.
To understand the reasons behind some wild swings in blood glucose levels, read our article Blood glucose level fluctuations: not all blood glucose levels need to be perfect. If you know that the swing is due to certain actions you have taken – or perhaps not taken – tell yourself that tomorrow is another day. You can aim to avoid similar occurrences in the future and can start afresh with changed behavior in the morning.
Use positive self-talk
Learn to focus on the positive things you have done, and repeat them to yourself when you start to feel ‘down’. Reward yourself when needed. For example, you might say to yourself: “Yesterday I ate all the right things and enjoyed over an hour of physical activity. I am proud of myself and can feel good about how I am doing. Today I can replace that lunch roll with that small piece of cake that I am craving.”
Avoid being judgmental. Mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy teaches that you should accept that a behaviour occurred and this is what it is. So for example, if you went to a party and over-indulged in some way, it may mean accepting the behaviour and being able to change it in the future.
When negative thoughts start to crowd your mind, be mindful of the distress you are feeling and then push out the thoughts. Replace them with positive thoughts about your past progress or future plans for change.
If you are feeling particularly blue, focus some specific time on being kind to yourself. Curl up under a warm blanket with a favourite book, magazine or game – or soak in a long hot bath with your favourite oils or mineral salts. Meet up with a mate or spend an afternoon by yourself in a favourite place, whether it’s a coffee house, book shop or shopping mall.
Staying positive and being happy can have an enormous effect on your diabetes. So take some time to commit to your personal diabetes health and happiness.