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Sandwich Break! Taking a break from Type 1 Diabetes self-management.

Self-managing my own Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), helping my 14-year-old son manage his T1D, helping my family with caregiving 24/7 for my aging parents, working full time, raising 2 sons, and so on.  Often it feels like each day passes by in a fast-forwarded blur.  In the “old days” or “back then” as my kids like to call it, we had commercial breaks on TV.  They were sometimes loud and annoying.  However, aside from marketing, they did offer something very important that we are missing from our lives in general nowadays. A break. 

When a commercial came on you would take a bathroom break or go get a glass of water or a snack.  You could make a quick phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment.  You could go outside and stretch for a few minutes.  You could decide to turn off the TV because during the commercial break you got your brain back focused on the here and now and realized you had other things that required your attention.

Now we live without commercial breaks in general.  We stream our shows, our movies, and our music. We cram our schedules as full as possible from wake-up to bedtime. We work through lunches.  We go to bed too late.  We aren’t trained to make our own “commercial breaks” along the way.

Have you noticed some days your brain feels fuzzy and foggy, like you just need….SOMETHING?  You note that you are forgetting things (your keys, your lunch, a meeting).  You are generally tired more than you are feeling refreshed when you get up in the morning.  These are symptoms of a common issue called The Juggling Act of Caregiving.  You may hear people say, “Oh, you are at that Sandwich Stage of your life.”  Sandwich Stage means you are squeezed between raising kids and helping aging parents.  Add in your own T1D, or the T1D of a child(ren), or your parents, or any combination of people with T1D you are helping(!) and instead of living in the Sandwich Stage, it is more like being squeezed into the middle of a heavy Triple Stacked Sandwich.

triple stacked sandwich

What can you do if you are in the middle of this Triple Stacked Sandwich?

The safety instructions in an airplane include the statement:  Should the cabin pressure drop, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.  For obvious reasons, this makes clear sense.  What steps can you put in motion now to put your own oxygen mask on with a goal to alleviate and reduce the amount of stress or pressure you are living with every day?

1) First, if you are anything like me, you likely need to drink some water.  Go ahead, take a drink!

2) Second, stop and take some slow, deep breaths.  This slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and lowers the stress hormone levels in your body.   Try square breathing.

    Square Breathing

    Square Breathing

    3) If you aren’t scheduling in physical activity most days of the week (at least 5), look at your schedule again.  It is ok to start small.  5 minutes? 10 minutes? GREAT! List it in your schedule as an expectation and a required part of your day.

    4) Already regularly active but for a very short time? Go ahead and adjust your schedule now to add an additional 5-15 minutes each day now.

    5) Next, find 10 minutes in your day to look at your to-do list.

    – Is there something on the to-do list that has been there too long?
    – Is there something on the to-do list that you can get done in just a few minutes?
    – Start with either of those two items, then complete the other.
    – Then look at your list again.

    *Is there something on the list you could delegate to a family member or a friend?  No, they may not do it just like you will. Perhaps that is ok for this task. Let it go. Take a deep breath.
    *Is there something on the list you planned to do but it isn’t really a priority? If so, cross it off the list now.  As an example, I could write down “learn how to do 3 yoga poses each day.”  Sounds like a great idea.  However, I will be healthy following a yoga app through whatever yoga poses they have at the ready for a short yoga session. No Googling, watching videos, deciding if I’ve learned that pose before or not. It is far less time required of me to do it “the easy way.”  I don’t call it cheating.  I call it being resourceful or prioritizing the important things.

    – Add goal due dates. Re-prioritize that list.

    6) If you are feeling frazzled, stressed, tearful, overwhelmed, or any other strong emotion often, schedule a visit with a Mental Healthcare Provider.  If you haven’t tried this out yet, this one step is as important as anything else on this list!!!  YES, it is one more thing to do. YES, you will need to schedule and attend a visit.  YES, it is WORTH IT!

    Taking the time to do these essential items will help you regain a sense of control over some of the items that are within your ability to control.  It will help improve your mental clarity and hit the ‘refresh’ button on your body and mind.  These essential steps will help you be able to help them more efficiently without as much burnout along the way.  It will help you to have your oxygen mask on which will allow you to allow yourself to pay a little more attention to your own T1D self-management needs and/or the T1D management need of your child(ren) or parents.

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