How to Adjust to Life With Diabetes

How to Commit to a Diabetes Lifestyle

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. It is important to keep healthy snacks on hand  to avoid resorting to harmful foods.

Most of the time, we have a pretty good idea what we should do to maintain our health and well-being. The hard part is actually doing it. We're familiar with the drill: Brush and floss our teeth, exercise regularly, reduce fat and cholesterol, reduce stress, limit alcohol intake, see the doctor for checkups. But how many of us consistently perform these healthy habits? The answer is, very few! So it's no surprise that it is equally -- if not more -- difficult to manage diabetes consistently.

Fit Diabetes Into Your LifeLet's be honest. It's not easy to fit diabetes into your life without making it the center of your existence. The people who accomplish this seem to perform their diabetes tasks quietly, not making a big deal about them. They test their blood glucose routinely, adjusting their meals, activity, or diabetes medication according to their schedule. They have learned to work diabetes into their lifestyle. To them, diabetes care comes as naturally as brushing their teeth each morning. If you're having trouble getting on track with diabetes management, try these tips:

  • Stock the proper tools. Keep plenty of diabetes supplies, such as lancets, testing strips, diabetes medication, syringes, and glucose tablets or juice, on hand. Make sure you have replacement batteries for your glucose meter and an extra pen for recording your blood glucose results. A travel or cosmetics case can keep supplies together, organized, and portable. Consider having two meters, one at home and one at work for easy access.
  • Purchase appropriate foods to make diabetes care easy for you. If you must buy desserts and other temptations for your family, store them out of sight. Temptation that stares you in the face is hard to resist.
  • If you find yourself in a slump with your care, enlist the support of family and friends to remind you to keep up with your testing and medication. Bear in mind your testing does not become their responsibility; it is yours.
  • Devise ways to remind yourself. Leave your meter in an obvious location so you remember to test. Leave yourself notes in conspicuous places. Synchronize the testing and/or medication to coincide with other activities in your daily routine; for example, when the coffee is brewing in the morning, test your blood glucose.
  • Establish a routine. It sounds so obvious, but if you establish a routine for your care, diabetes management becomes an automatic response, even when you feel stressed or pressured by other events in your life.
  • Don't let diabetes care keep you from doing something you really want to do. With frequent testing and a good understanding of your diabetes care, you can participate in most activities you enjoy. 

People who are successful at diabetes control have learned to be good problem solvers. This is a skill that takes practice. It's important that you work at developing your problem-solving skills. Start by defining the problem and identifying the barriers to solving it. Be as specific as you can. Perhaps you fall off your program in the hectic hours of dinner time. You and your spouse have just arrived home from work; you've picked the kids up from various points: child care, soccer practice, the library. Everyone's hungry and a little tired; you had a bad day at work, and you're tired and cranky yourself. You want to hear about everyone's day, but they're all talking at once. You need to eat but dinner won't be ready for a while yet, so you grab the first item you see in the refrigerator. Then you realize you forgot to take your diabetes medication or check your blood glucose level. In this scenario, the problem is staying in good control around dinner time. The barriers to overcoming the problem are everyone's different, hectic schedules. Once you identify the problems and barriers, you find resources to deal with them. Keep healthy snack foods on hand -- cut-up carrots and celery, apples, granola bars -- to tide everyone over until dinner is on the table. Arrange for younger children to get a snack before you pick them up from child care. Older kids can pack a snack to take with them to school, and you can pack a snack to eat before you leave work. You and your spouse might prepare and freeze some meals ahead of time for quick preparation. Perhaps you need to work on some stress busters so you don't come home from work so wound up. Take a walk with your kids before or after dinner to hear about their day.

Do you see how this works? When you confront problems, you realize you have options to solve them. You will feel less manipulated and more in control of yourself and your future. If you find the solutions to your problems are not as simple as those outlined here, you may need to get help from books, classes, a counselor, or a diabetes educator. Do whatever it takes!

Do What It Takes

It's easy to be complacent with diabetes care, pushing it on the back burner as other concerns -- house, kids, family, school, friends, work, and so on -- take priority. But diabetes care needs to be important enough in your life so you continue to do the very best you can to care for yourself. Why settle for less?

What's more, your diabetes program should be dynamic, changing with your individual needs and the progress new technology and new research bring. Consequently, you probably will not follow the same management program for the rest of your life. Gone are the days when a person took one unchanging dose of insulin for 30 years. And unless you are in perfect control right now (not many people fall into that category), most assuredly you can take steps to improve your level of control.

If what you are doing currently does not give you optimal diabetes control, with your doctor's direction, move to the next level of control:

  • If you are on a diet and exercise program, consider taking an oral agent.
  • If you take an oral agent, your doctor may want to change your dose or try another agent.
  • If you have reached the maximum dose with oral agents and blood glucose levels remain higher than your target range, you may need to take insulin.
  • If your blood glucose control is not adequate, do whatever it takes to improve it -- such as taking multiple daily injections or using an insulin pump.

The biggest part of adjusting to life with diabetes is learning not to be a passive participant in your medical treatment. In the next section, you will learn how to take control of your care.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.