Managing diabetes can be an hour-to-hour challenge. One day a person living with diabetes can feel great, blood sugar levels are running within the target range and the next day a completely different picture presents itself. Frustration occurs and the questions arise: today is the same as yesterday, why are my sugars running high? The person has eaten the same foods, exercised the same and nothing out of the ordinary occurred. From working with people with diabetes these situations happen often and it can be very frustrating. I then take out a sheet with items on it that explains other events in one’s life and how our body’s behaviour can affect the sugar levels. The following list are only some of the items. Each list can be individualized - what would your list include?
- Brain/thoughts: thinking about an activity that has occurred or may occur in the future
- Weather: the cold weather may not have any effect on the sugar levels whereas very hot weather does.
- Food: high amounts of carbohydrate or sugars may cause an increase
- Hormones: can cause an increase (e.g. glucagon, corticosteroids) or decrease (e.g. insulin) in sugar levels
- Sleep: not enough sleep can cause as increase
- Exercise and activity: causes a decrease
- Stress +++: may cause an increase
- Sickness: usually causes an increase
- Medication: may cause an increase or decrease
- Alcohol: causes an increase and then a decrease
- Street drugs: may cause an increase and may prevent one from taking the required diabetes medication.
Trying to understand and become more aware of how one’s body responds to external and internal changes helps greatly to the understanding and the controlling of one’s diabetes. For most of the items on the list one has very little control of how events will play out on a certain day, especially when weather can change within 20 minutes.
There may be days where you are still feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the frustration of diabetes self-care. This feeling is known as diabetes burnout. This is a natural feeling. Taking a break/holiday from diabetes management may help, but you will still need to take your diabetes medication as required. (Please consult your doctor if planning to do this.) See my blog Diabetes management break - is it possible?
Here are some tips to help understand factors that affect one’s sugar levels:
- Talk to members of your diabetes teams about the above factors
- When feeling frustrated, take a break, go for a walk, and take a slow deep breath several times to reduce the anxiety of managing diabetes
- Attend a diabetes support group in your area/chat with the diabetes care community
Be compassionate to yourself and praise yourself for what you have been doing for yourself as you manage your diabetes.
What would your list comprise of?