Manage Stress: Dealing with Diabetes Fatigue

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Successfully managing a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes requires making hundreds of decisions each day, over and over again, without end; this is exhausting. Some days this is no big deal: I eat well, I exercise, I laugh with friends and family, and I test my blood sugar when I wake up plus before and after one of my meals. Other days (sometimes for several days at a time) it’s all I can do to keep up my exercise routine – the eating, stress management, and blood sugar testing all go out the window. This phenomenon is sometimes known as “diabetes fatigue”: basically, you are burned out from all of the decisions required to successfully manage your disease every day.

So, what can you do to fight diabetes fatigue?

  • Get outside for some exercise at your own pace. You don’t have to run or power walk in order to benefit from exercise, particularly mental health benefits. Moving your body, even at the lightest intensity, will release endorphins inside your body and that will automatically lighten your mood. Besides, changing your surroundings can help change your thoughts.
  • Speaking of changing your thoughts, when you catch yourself painting your diabetes self management efforts with the “all or nothing” paintbrush, change the dialogue going on inside your head. If you’re anything like me, you are your toughest critic. Some days I have to catch myself and stop the negative self-talk. Instead of saying things like, “Managing my diabetes is too much for me, I just can’t do it,” or, “My blood sugar is high so I’m a bad diabetic,” I change my thoughts to something more positive, even if I have to fake it. “I’m doing my very best to make good decisions for my diabetes,” or, “Let me look at my food journal to see why my blood sugar is high right now – more great data that will help me make better food choices.”
  • Take extra especially good care of yourself. In addition to modifying your self-talk to be more nurturing and less perfectionistic, how about going for a facial or pedicure? If spa treatments aren’t your thing, try going to bed an extra hour early – you’ll rebuild your strength and stamina at the same time you turn off your conscious mind for a few hours, so it’s a win-win. If you have a favorite tea or other hot, calorie- and- carbohydrate-free beverage, make yourself a mug and enjoy it mindfully.
  • Chat with your general practitioner, your endocrinologist (diabetes doctor), a certified diabetes educator (CDE), or a psychotherapist. Never underestimate the power of sharing how you’re feeling with someone who can actually help you improve your situation – they’re there to help and they’ve certainly heard the same problems you’re experiencing from other clients in the past.

What you don’t want to do when the disease wears you down is give up on all of the healthy choices you are making. I know it’s challenging to keep making the tough decisions about getting some exercise versus an extra hour of sleep or having a hard boiled egg with part-skim string cheese for breakfast instead of that gorgeous blueberry scone you saw in the pastry case at your favorite coffee bar, but no one has ever regretted making those trade-offs once they are past the immediate temptation; be strong and remember that you’re worth it.

Have you ever experienced diabetes fatigue? What advice would you give someone dealing with this challenge?

p.s. If you’d like to read more about my daily life, visit my personal blog.

Nourish Your Body: What can I eat with Type 2 diabetes?

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One of the most common questions I hear when someone finds out that I am diabetic is, “Wow, what can you eat?” I generally say that I try to limit processed foods, foods made primarily from sugar or flour, and white starches (white potatoes, white rice, white pasta) while eating reasonable amounts of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and almonds, and lean meats. Of course, that’s not the whole story, but that’s what fits into the average person’s attention span.

The truth is that there is not a single “diabetes diet” because everyone’s body reacts differently to different food. For me, most fruits are fine, even pineapple and bananas, both of which are fairly high in sugar, but that’s not the case for many diabetics. I love black beans but I have to be careful not to eat more than 1/4 cup at a time because they will most certainly raise my blood sugar; others might not have that problem or might not be able to eat even a small amount.

How can you tell which foods work well for your body? By testing before and after meals every time you try a new food, to see what effect it will have on your blood sugar. Testing “in pairs” (both before you eat and two hours after you start eating) is the only sure way to know which foods your body will tolerate without spiking your blood sugar and that is the name of the game when it comes to diabetes self management.

There are some foods that seem pretty universally well tolerated in terms of blood sugar maintenance and those foods tend to be low-to-no carbohydrate foods. Lean meats, healthy fats, some fruits and non-starchy vegetables all fall into that category.

Which fruits and vegetables are unlikely to raise your blood sugar? Specifically:

  • Cherries, grapefruit, plums, peaches, prunes, apples, dried apricots (unsweetened), pears, and grapes*
  • Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, onions, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and raw carrots

*Important note about fruit: keep in mind the serving size when making your choice – generally, one cup constitutes a serving of fruit but one grapefruit is 2 servings of fruit, while two plums are one serving, and one peach or one apple or one pear is one serving; paying attention to how much you’re eating is as important as what you choose to eat.

Are there specific questions you’d like me to answer about food, eating well with diabetes, and how to make good nutritional choices for your body? Leave a comment on this post or send an email so that I can cover your questions in a future post.

Five principles of effective diabetes self management

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People sometimes stop me during the day - at work, mostly - to ask what my "secret" is. I used to get embarrassed by the question but now I realize that folks are looking for a blueprint to create their own healthy life and while there's no secret to it, I do know what works for me in maintaining good control over my diabetes. Today I'll introduce the basic … [Continue reading...]

Effectively managing stress

Do you know someone who never seems to react to the craziness around them but rather stays calm and serene at all times? While I want to be more like that, my more common response is to let the energy of my surroundings - whether calm or chaotic - dictate my mood and feelings. In the past, this led to my using food to soothe or distract myself, but after … [Continue reading...]

The Future

When I started to blog, close to 12 years ago, my life was very different. Even in the last year, things have changed a lot for me, in so many lovely ways. The need to lose weight is no longer a constant companion - I lost just under 100 pounds and am happy (most days!) with the way I feel in my body My diabetes is well controlled I have achieved a … [Continue reading...]

Diabetes and exercise: A powerful combination

The biggest factor for me in taking control of my Type 2 diabetes has been making moderate physical exercise - primarily walking - a part of my daily life. While changing what I eat has certainly helped that effort along - it takes less effort for my body to burn off smaller amounts of food than it did when I used to binge eat with every meal - it's the … [Continue reading...]

Exercising for diabetes control: Doing something scary

This time last year, I was dealing with pre-race jitters and preparing for my first duathlon. Tomorrow morning, I'll complete my second duathlon and, while my preparation has been lackluster at best, I'm in a very different place than last year. I remember being absolutely terrified that I either wouldn't finish the event or would finish dead last. This … [Continue reading...]

Living With Diabetes: Remembering to take medication

Talk About Your Medicines month

I was approached by The American Recall Center to participate in "Talk About Your Medicines" month, a public service effort during the month of October. I received no compensation nor other consideration for this post and the ideas expressed are entirely my own. For several years, I took between five and nine different medications at a time as part of … [Continue reading...]

Diabetes & Depression: All in your head

Depression makes everything feel harder

It's estimated that as many as 30% of diabetics also suffer from clinical depression. While the "which came first"/"which causes which" argument hasn't been settled at this point, it's clear that treatment and care plans for diabetes should make provision for the complicating factor of doing what needs to be done to avoid diabetic complications while … [Continue reading...]

Gaining weight and self knowledge

On June 14, before starting a 10 day trip to the southeast followed by a 5 day trip to Seattle, I stepped on my scale to find that I’d officially dropped belong 150 pounds and 26% body fat, representing a loss of 95 pounds and a 50% reduction in how much of my body is composed of fat since starting this journey in February 2013. When I weighed myself last … [Continue reading...]