Top 10 Ways to Live Joyfully with Diabetes
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1967, yet I have very mixed emotions about how this month is handled. I grow weary of the constant stream of negativity shared related to all forms of diabetes. The standard message shared contains words such as, “devastating,” “deadly,” “stressful,” “all consuming,” “terrifying,” etc.
I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes almost 50 years. None of those words or phrases applies to my life. Never has. Never will. Please know I’m not passing judgment on the views that are shared. I’m simply stating that those views are not a version of my truth. My heart breaks for those for whom it is true.
Based on the negative perspective I see shared so often during National Diabetes Awareness Month, I decided to share my personal tips for avoiding the potential stressors related to diabetes. My hope is that these tips will help you find joy and maintain peace in your journey with diabetes.
Here are my tips for maintaining sanity and finding joy while living with any form of diabetes:
- Work through the anger and let it go: It is perfectly normal to be angry about having diabetes. Did you hear that? Completely, totally normal. Being angry is a standard part of the grieving process that follows diagnosis. Problems result when the anger becomes all-consuming and/or doesn’t dissipate with time. I experienced a lot of anger as a result of having diabetes. I didn’t start working through that anger until about 20 years after my diagnosis. The result of facing and working through the anger was profound. Getting rid of the negativity and learning to find joy in the daily trials of diabetes changed my life. Releasing the anger enabled me to let go of lots of negative junk that kept interfering with my ability to live abundantly. It also helped me finally accept the diagnosis instead of constantly railing against it. My health in general improved as a result. My clients with diabetes often find that emotional release work enables them to lower their A1Cs and feel better in general.
- Stop expecting perfectly normal blood sugars: We all know how important it is to maintain blood sugars that are as close to “normal” as possible; however, you will never know peace if you become frustrated and upset each time your sugars stray outside of the normal range. I get that it can be frustrating to do everything right and have your blood sugar dip or spike for no apparent reason. Part of living with diabetes includes accepting that our bodies will rarely do what the text books say they should. Learn from the unexpected lows and highs and move on.
- Decide and choose to live abundantly: Many people receive the diabetes diagnosis and instantly decide their life is ruined. That may partially be because ignorant medical professionals often tell newly diagnosed diabetics their lives are over and they will never be healthy again. That is not true. Living joyfully and maintaining peace with diabetes requires that we maintain a positive, hopeful attitude. Living with diabetes can indeed be stressful at times. Choosing to keep a good attitude and maintain a positive perspective on life makes a huge difference in how we function on a daily basis.
- Don’t let diabetes become your identity: You are an amazing person with the capacity to live an amazing life. The fact you have some form of diabetes is absolutely irrelevant to who you are as a person. I meet many people whose entire identity is based on the fact they have diabetes. Everything in their life revolves around and is limited by a diagnosis. It doesn’t have to be that way. Having diabetes does not need to and should not affect every aspect of your life. Learning to control diabetes instead of letting it control you is key to maintaining joy and peace in the midst of the potential challenges. Living joyfully is a choice, plain and simple. You can choose to let diabetes control every facet of your life, or you can choose to live your life abundantly and make diabetes a very small part of who you are. It is possible to live that way and maintain good control. I promise.
- Learn to laugh at your frustrations: Many aspects of diabetes are hilarious, but it takes a special person to learn to laugh at their frustrations. Commit to finding humor in the myriad of situations that can pop up while living with diabetes. Your entire perspective will change. You may also find people enjoy being around you more.
- Take time to count your blessings every single day: I realize that advice is given far too often and may sound a bit cliche. In spite of that, taking time each day to remind yourself how incredibly blessed you are truly helps you live with joy. Focusing on our blessings instead of our challenges helps transform our perspective, attitude and outlook. Don’t believe me? Try it.
- Take time to help and encourage others: It doesn’t make much sense, but taking time to help and encourage others is a great way of lifting ourselves up. Taking our focus off of our own problems and making an effort to encourage and help someone else automatically makes us feel better. It works every single time. As a wise man once said, “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”
- Stop expecting the worst: I work with a lot of people with diabetes who assume blindness, amputations, heart disease, and other complications are inevitable. That is NOT true. Complications are possible, not definite. I find that people who expect to have complications wind up having them, while those who assume everything will be fine have far fewer. Our body has a funny way of listening to what we tell it. Assuming complications are inevitable and living our life waiting for them to happen increases the likelihood they will. I’ve seen that play out in people’s lives over and over again. After almost 50 years with Type 1 Diabetes, I don’t have any complications. It is possible.
- Celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments: Living with diabetes can be a challenge. Take time to celebrate your accomplishments! Celebrate and give yourself a pat on the back for everything you do that you thought might be impossible due to diabetes. Also take time to celebrate accomplishments other people foolishly said you couldn’t achieve. Short of a few legalities, there is nothing you can’t accomplish with diabetes. Travel across Europe by yourself? Got your motorcycle license? Worked a 15-hour shift with no highs or lows? Celebrate the heck out of that! Make a list of non-food rewards and reward yourself for every accomplishment you achieve.
- Consider what you wouldn’t have without diabetes: Most of us can admit there are aspects of our personal development and life we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t been diagnosed with diabetes. Many of us eat healthier, exercise, and take better care of ourselves as a result of the diagnosis. Some of us have increased self confidence as a result of defeating the challenges of diabetes. Most of us have wonderful people in our lives we would never have met if we didn’t have diabetes.Take time to honestly assess the good things you’ve become or received as a result of living with diabetes. Remind yourself of those benefits when you’re tempted to get frustrated..
And one final word of advice:
- If you need help, ask for it: Depression is more common in folks who have diabetes than those who don’t. If you find you are having trouble coping or have sunk into a “funk” you can’t lift yourself out of, please seek professional help. There is no shame in that. Blood sugars directly affect brain chemistry. Depression is not something you can simply think your way out of. Counseling, a support group, or medication may be necessary. Accept that and get the help you need.
You are amazing. I know living with any form of diabetes can be challenging. If we choose to rise above those challenges and live abundantly, nothing can stop us. Go live abundantly!
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