With the hanging of the new 2014 calendar, many of us take time to commit to new goals, re-visit previously held plans, or tell ourselves its better not to resolve anything new.
The diabetes "pillars of care," as I call them, give us ample "resolution material" - four key areas which decades of research show can improve our well-being with diabetes, and reduce the risk of vascular complications down the road. You know these areas well:
- Medication (for those of us with type 1, this is always insulin; type 2 can have an array of options).
- Activity (I prefer this term to "exercise", because really, any movement helps us manage our blood sugar in both direct and indirect ways. My blood sugar went low just yesterday while I was vacuuming out the fir needle debris scattered around the back of my car, which could hardly be called exercise!).
- Nutrition (some call it "diet" but that word is so loaded for many people, and connotes limitations vs possibilities; nutrition is nourishment for this amazing gift of our body).
- Stress Management. (Try taking three deep, gentle, loving breaths right now. Pause.... Great work!)
As well as we might intellectually know these "simple rules," it can be extremely challenging to keep these Pillars in balance every day. Since diabetes is (among many other things) relentless, fatigue can set in. We can get burned out on anything that we do repetitively over time, so why should diabetes be any different?
That's why my "intentions" around diabetes usually involve more of an internal look at my relationship with diabetes. What IS diabetes to me this year? Is it the same as last year? Or five years ago? For me, the answer is "no." And in making the time to reflect, I can update my personal plan for caring for my diabetes so that it matches what "IS" for me, versus what I want it to be or what it used to be. Think of it as my own personal version of the diabetes Christmas Carol story. I visit the versions of my diabetes past, look to the version of my diabetes future, then get real with what "is" for me now, and take stock.
What comes up for you when you create space for that fill-in-the-blank (with no wrong answers!!!). Diabetes Is......
You might try this right now. Jot down the first many things that come to your mind, without censoring or forcing or judging. My work as a diabetes wellness coach and mental health counselor is strongly influenced by Positive Psychology (as are my generally-happy-genes). However, this does not mean that I only focus on the "positive" aspects of diabetes! It is important to be real about what diabetes is, the good, the bad, the ugly, the scary, the beautiful - the whole shebang. We then drive our self-care-plan from "what IS" versus some fictional version of our lives.
In looking honestly at how we relate to our diabetes, we can create a truly meaningful plan for our wellness. The most important aspects of last change are actually our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations. Change can start any moment we choose, not just in the new year, obviously! But these long dark nights can actually provide us time to reflect honestly on our challenges and also, our opportunities.
For example, one client's list of "Diabetes is....." contained a multitude of feelings and realities!
- Always needing glucose nearby
- Friends who understand
- Making me healthier
- Something I do
- Mine to control
- Just a number
You see how this can work? Few things in life are "all good" or "all bad." One beautiful thing about the Chris Dudley Foundation is how it takes something that can be so hard - NO ONE would wish for the diagnosis of diabetes!! - and provides some positive experiences and examples for living well - in spite of, or even because of - diabetes.
From this list, my client was able to find her intrinsic control over her life, instead of feeling controlled BY diabetes. She was able to consider some small but powerful "experiments" to try, in order to move from a place of 'stuck in the muck" to feeling a little bit better. My coach training taught me the value of the word "experiment" versus "goal." In experimentation, there is no failure!!! We learn. We try, we observe, we learn, we correct. This takes practice, but this mind-shift can really help support our efforts instead of leading to a sense of failure. Neuroscience tells us we can change our brains over time, with practice. Why not start now, one small experiment at a time?
Research clearly shows the value of support in facing our challenges. As far as I can tell, no one has ever lived a life free from challenge; and in truth, it is our challenges that make us stronger and more resilient, as well as connect us to each other in our common pain. When I consider the amazing, inspiring, courageous people that I have met through my journey with diabetes, it brings tears to my eyes and my heart swells with gratitude. The gifts of connection, of sharing my pain with others who "get it," of finding - and later, giving - support in the community of the folks out there with pooped-out-pancreases.....I would not give diabetes back if I had to lose those people, those moments, those lessons.
So while diabetes is a whole lot of work, and can be a whole lot of really unpleasant things, I hope you are able to find a few gems in your "Diabetes Is..." list, and in 2014, you can try a few new experiments to move your life in the direction of "thriving." Good luck!