Diabetes management takes a lot. It isn’t just about taking medication and looking at blood sugar and counting carbohydrates. There is a mental management to diabetes that not many people talk about. I tend to call it my Inner Diabetes Monologue. The thoughts that are there all day that you may not verbalize but that are a piece of how you strategize for almost anything. Sometimes it is background noise and other times, when things get out of order it is more up front and, in your face, even if you don’t know how to deal with it.
Because mental health deals with 3 main factors – emotions and relationships as well as situations, you can see how diabetes can impact psychologically. We feel a lot of things emotionally in our day related to our management. The relationship we have with activity, food and even other people is relative to diabetes and situations like going out to a friend’s house to eat or starting a new job, etc. involve strategizing for diabetes management. The mental toll this takes can be considerable. It is not something that is often brought up in visits with doctors or educators. In fact, I can’t remember the last time my Endo asked me how I think I’m handling all the ins and outs of my personal management.
The past 1-2 months, depending on where you live, has brought a lot of change for many people. Some are heading back to work in an office space where they haven’t worked in months. Parents of kids with diabetes are navigating the waters of virtual or in person school and the schedule shifts that this brings. Or, maybe like me you are the parent with diabetes, and you have to take care of yourself amidst all these changes. These adjustments are a load on top of the new normal that people have tried to adapt to for their management strategies while being at home the past 5-6 months. Our habits have to change yet again and that means the way we manage diabetes will change as well. It takes a mental toll.
I know I’ve not done well with my strategizing in the past few weeks since my son started virtual school. The good habits I had have been disrupted as I start the day differently now, have activity at a different time or for a different amount of time and I haven’t gotten into a groove yet with the new normal.
I have noticed the mental struggle with diabetes in the mix of so many changes to our routine. I know what needs to be done, but with some fatigue in the mix as well as trying to juggle the different schedule the mental and glucose management of diabetes has taken a hit. Good habits seem to break easier than bad ones!
There are good resources though, no matter what mental assistance you feel like you need to get back to healthy management. There are people to talk to and reach out to in the diabetes world and the online community can be good support in navigating.
This weekend I have set time aside to figure out what my new plan of action is going to be to get back to feeling less mental drain around my daily management. I know changes I need to make and what works best for me and I know I can get back to feeling less like I’m constantly thinking about my next move to keep things contained.
If you are struggling with your management, consider some of these great resources. Reach out to talk to someone, read a book or look for some great podcasts that can help you get reconnected with healthy mental management which in the long run will help you do a good job with the day to day glucose levels. There will always be effort in managing diabetes, but if you are in a good place mentally it can help you use the tools you know work well even better.
Books: Dealing with Diabetes Burnout – Ginger Vieira Diabetes Burnout – Dr. William Polonsky Balancing Diabetes – Kerri Sparling Bright Spots and Landmines – Adam Brown Diabetes–How to Help: Your Complete Guide to Caring for a Loved One with Diabetes – Gary Scheiner and Diane Herbert
Integrated Diabetes Services, Director of Lifestyle and Nutrition.
Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Biology from the University of Wisconsin. She is a Registered (and Licensed) Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Certified Trainer on most makes/models of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems.