Choose to fight
When people are diagnosed with a lifethreatening form of cancer, some choose to fight, while others choose to give up. Being diagnosed with diabetes, even though it’s hardly a death sentence, shares some similarities. If you had a close relative who suffered serious complications from diabetes, you might throw your hands up and assume you’re going to suffer the same fate. Or you could take the attitude ‘That isn’t going to happen to me’. The choice is yours. Just remember, there is no good reason to give up. Diabetes is very manageable, and most aspects of managing it are under your direct control.
There are no two ways about it: taking good care of your diabetes requires some determination. Using imagery can help. Sit down and close your eyes. Visualise what you want to see yourself doing in the future. Do you want to be alive and fit and healthy enough to play with your grandchildren as they grow up? Do you want to retire and lead the sort of life in which you’re not limited by health problems, so you can enjoy a game of golf, a day’s fishing, foreign travel, walking holidays or whatever it is you love? Thinking about your dreams and aspirations for tomorrow can help to stoke the fire under your motivation today.
Think of yourself as a person with diabetes, not as a diabetic
According to psychologist Dr Mary Cerreto, ‘If you think of yourself as a diabetic, what comes first? Being a diabetic. Instead, if you say, “I’m a person with diabetes”, then diabetes is part of your life, not the whole thing.’ View your diabetes as you would being short-sighted. It’s a condition you have, but it doesn’t define you.
Make a list of goals and update it once a month
Start with three specific, clear, short-term measures. If you have just been diagnosed, taking your medication on time and checking your blood glucose when you’re supposed to might be enough to deal with at first. Once you’re used to your routine, you can add another goal, such as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, or taking a 30-minute walk three days a week. Specific, realistic and limited goals will stop you from becoming overwhelmed.
Stop dwelling on ‘poor me’
Almost everyone has at least one major problem to deal with in life, be it a health problem, a financial challenge or marital difficulties. If you catch yourself feeling sorry for yourself because of your diabetes, remind yourself that no one’s life is perfect. Remind yourself of the future you’ve visualised, and tell yourself that it’s up to you to make it happen by eating healthily, staying active, monitoring your blood glucose (and acting on the results).
Spend 10 minutes in the morning contemplating the day ahead
Sit with your cup of coffee or tea, and set positive and conscious intentions for the day ahead and what you’ll need to do to make sure it happens. Do you have your medications organised and your monitor ready to go? When will you fit in your daily walk? If you haven’t packed a healthy lunch, what are your arrangements for buying one? If you have a hectic day ahead, think about specific strategies you’ll use to help you stay calm, such as deep breathing. Remember that keeping your stress levels in check will help you to manage your blood glucose better. You can write down your thoughts and answers, just think about them, or – if you have faith – pray to a higher power to help you to succeed.
Get into the habit of giving thanks
Before you get out of bed in the morning, prior to eating a meal and also when you’re preparing to go to bed, take a moment to appreciate the things you might take for granted, such as having a home, regular meals, clean water, clothes and friends. Don’t forget to be grateful for top-rate medications and the ability to improve your health with diet and exercise. Counting your blessings will help you to cultivate a more positive attitude.
Say ‘no’ to your inner sceptic
When a negative thought threatens to drag you into the deep, fight back. If you find yourself thinking that you’ll never lose weight or get your blood glucose under control, tell yourself ‘no!’ in your firmest, most commanding voice, whether you do it in your head or out loud. Sometimes this is all it takes to stop nagging, negative thoughts from snowballing into a defeatist attitude.
Now think again
Once you’ve successfully stalled a negative thought, it’s time to put something more positive in its place. If you were thinking along the lines of, ‘I’ll never change’, or ‘I’ll always be unwell’, try to be more objective, specific and fair with yourself. For example, ‘I’m feeling under the weather right now. Maybe my blood glucose is low. I’ll check it and see if I should have a snack.’
Focus on all the reasons why you’ll succeed, not the reasons why you’ll fail
You’re eating better, you’ve started exercising more, your doctor recently put you on a new drug or changed the dosage, you’re checking your blood glucose at useful times and, in general, you’re a competent person who’s succeeded at other things in life. In short, the cards are stacked in favour of you succeeding at managing your diabetes. Focus on these ‘success’ cards in the pack, not on any perceived ‘doomed-to-fail’ cards, like your weakness for chocolate cake or past problems with your weight.
Keep a positive image, a peace lily or a beautifully shaped stone on your desk
Choose something that, for you, symbolises positive energy, tranquillity or victory, and keep it where you can see it during your day. Maybe your object is a shell from a picturesque beach or a trinket that’s a sign of your faith. If you hit a difficult patch in your day, hold, touch or simply look at your object and think about what it means to you.
Put a picture of someone who inspires you on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror
People who were successes despite huge obstacles are great reminders that ‘you can do it’, no matter what you face. Your hero could be a legendary figure or someone in your own family. You’ll get an instant morale boost when you stop to comb your hair or make a meal and you see his or her face.
Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else
Many of us are so used to being hard on ourselves that we don’t even notice that we’re doing it. What do you say to yourself when your blood glucose rises or you forget to take a tablet? Is it helpful or belittling? If you wouldn’t say it to a friend there’s a good chance that you’re not being fair to yourself or helpful to your cause. Think of what would be helpful and encouraging and use those words with yourself.