Happy 2020! Whether you set new year’s resolutions or not, for many this is a time to start anew and plan to be better.
I’d like to take a minute to reflect on diabetes and how to set ourselves up for success this year.
If you’re anything like me, you like to have control of any given situation. You like to have a plan, and you may have a Type A personality. I’d venture to say that if you’re reading this blog, you fit into this category. While this can be a good thing and can lead to better control of your diabetes, there are some important things to keep in mind.
Learn to let go of Perfectionism
Perfectionism isn’t doing your best or having high goals; rather it’s setting yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations. Perfection is impossible. With diabetes, perfect for me may not be perfect for you. Even when it comes to goals for A1c or time in range, they are different for everybody. I find it helpful to set lofty goals, but always make sure they’re also realistic. I heard recently from a podcast called Better than Happy, by Jody Moore, that she aims for B+ work in whatever she’s doing, rather than A work. Aiming for B+ work means that when you do something, you allow it to be good, but not necessarily perfect. If you have the time and energy, you can always do better, but not expecting perfection in every aspect of life (diabetes included) can free up your time and mental bandwidth for other things. I find this works for me in many aspects of my life.
Perfectionism frequently stops us from starting something, and likely from finishing. For example, when I wake up with a great blood sugar, and I stay in range for most of the day, I find the perfectionist in me cringe when I get my first high or low alert for the day. I sometimes tend to not be as careful with carb counts the rest of the day because I know I’ve already had a less-than-perfect day. Letting go of this perfectionist mentality allows me to have a good day and do my best, without the added stress of being perfect.
There is no bandwagon
Along with avoiding perfectionism, the phrase “fell off the bandwagon” can be harmful. There is no bandwagon. Setbacks are normal and should be expected. Success comes when we’ve failed enough times that we learn what works for us and improve.
Letting go of the “All or Nothing” Mentality
Again, going along with perfectionism, it’s important to get rid of the all or nothing mentality. I find it helpful to try not to think in extremes. For example, yesterday I set the goal of cleaning my basement, where the toy room and tv are. It been relatively abandoned for a while and needed some tlc. After I finished the basement, I moved onto the kitchen, then decided I’d clean the bedrooms too. Rather than going to bed when I should have, I adopted the all or nothing mentality and went to bed late because I wanted to finish the laundry. Sometimes this can be ok, like the fact that I’m happy to the house is clean and there’s no laundry to put away today, but frequently it can set us up for failure.
Another example is getting in 10,000 steps per day as a goal. A few years ago, I was a nurse diabetes educator at a busy hospital in Salt Lake City. The tallest building in the hospital was 12 floors and I had the goal of never using the elevator, but rather always taking the stairs, and always getting at least 10,000 steps per day. I had a fitbit that counted my steps, and I was pretty good at meeting my goal. One day I left the fitbit home on accident. That day I took the elevator! I felt that “if it didn’t count, why try?” The health benefits of reaching my goal were mine regardless of the fitbit counting the steps or not.
It’s ok to not reach 100% all the time. Life is hard, diabetes is hard, and starting is usually better than never starting at all. Remember, B+ work can be your goal.
Know when to say it’s good enough
It’s important to know when to stop and say it’s good enough. Sometimes when things seem to go right with blood sugars and A1cs, we want to do even better. There’s nothing wrong with improving, but I think it’s important to know when to say good enough is good enough. Now I’m not saying that you should be complacent with your diabetes control, but if you allow it to, diabetes can control your life. It shouldn’t. That leads me to:
Have a life in conjunction with your diabetes
I say “in conjunction with” because as we all know, diabetes can’t be left home, or put on pause. The better we can get at making diabetes a part of our lives the better. Soon after I was diagnosed at age 13, my Pediatric Endocrinologist kept pushing me to get more physical activity. I’d always been one of the slowest runners in my PE classes and didn’t find exercising necessarily fun. I did enjoy swimming though, so I decided to join the swim team. Doing so was a turning point in my life and has become something I’ve enjoyed doing since then. It was a big challenge for me to manage my blood sugars during practice and at meets, but I learned that diabetes doesn’t run my life; I run it! I was able to be successful at swimming, which has run into other areas of my life. Yes, most things are a little more challenging with diabetes in tow, but they’re definitely possible.
Know that your value isn’t linked to your blood sugar!
Lastly, it’s important to remember that your value is in no way tied to your blood sugar or A1c. They’re just numbers and say nothing about who you are as a person. I’m not saying that they aren’t important, but rather that they say a lot about how you bolused for your last meal, if your basal rates are right, and if the stress you’re dealing with is affecting your numbers. I find it helpful to be curious, rather than judgmental when I get back results that I don’t necessarily love. Separating them in this way helps me avoid the drama and look at things objectively.
Remember that here at Integrated Diabetes, we’re here to help you reach your goals, and can be an important part of your diabetes management. If you or someone you know haven’t used our services before, give us a call and see for yourself how we can help!
Annette Valle is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator who also serves as an English/Spanish medical language interpreter. She has lived with T1D since age 13. Annette has personal experience and is certified to train on all models of insulin pumps, CGMs and hybrid closed loop systems.