The 24/7, 365 non-stop of life with diabetes can be a mental struggle to manage. Sometimes it can feel like we live under a raincloud of things to manage and evaluate among the other things we have to do in our day to day life. So how can you take a breath and find a sense of gratitude for life with diabetes? How can you focus on positives with so many things to consider in your day to day management?
I came across a study published in the current issue of Health Psychology by Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University that looked at ways for people who cared for loved ones with dementia to find joy in their day. The goal was to impart positive emotions while living in a stressful setting or dealing with daily stress of disease management. Her research also looked at hundreds of stressed out individuals with health conditions of all kinds: cancer, diabetes, depression and HIV. They took a 5 week skills class to learn techniques to bring a sunnier outlook to the daily hassles of life.
There is a lot of hassle in the day to day management of something that can be affected by all of life’s variables. The study made me think of a friend I met in 2009 at an athletic training camp for people with diabetes. We all introduced ourselves and noted a bit about our life and feelings with diabetes, and she noted that she tried to impart at the start of the day what she called PMA – Positive Mental Attitude. And the techniques used in the study seem to speak to this completely. Essentially changing the way we view our life with diabetes, since it is always there, can in some ways reduce the stress of managing it, even when we have a bad diabetes hair day. While there are 8 specific techniques used in Moskowitz’s study, I feel like even using some of these strategies when you manage a chronic condition like diabetes will bring a more positive light to each day. And with positive attitude stress levels come down and overall blood sugar tends to stay more stable.
A summary of the eight techniques used in Moskowitz’ study is as follows:
- At the start or end of the day identify one positive thing that you look forward to or that did happen.
- Share this positive happening with someone else – even sharing on social media can help you enjoy this moment more.
- Journal daily to note things you are grateful for, even if it is as simple as the glorious sunrise or a day you spent all in target on your CGM report.
- Evaluate yourself for a personal strength and reflect on how you’ve used it today or in the past week.
- Set a daily goal (maybe a diabetes specific goal) and track your progress. Moskowitz notes “… research shows when we feel progress towards a goal, we have more positive emotions”. The goal should be simple to be able to see progress. Maybe your goal is to remember to pre-bolus daily for meals for the next week for example.
- Identify and reframe an event or daily activity that you see as a hassle with a more positive attitude. Example: If your commute to work on the train is long, maybe make use of one day a week to look at your weekly glucose records. See the time you put into your management as being beneficial for long-term success.
- Practice random acts of kindness daily. It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone or giving a compliment. When we share kindness it makes us and other people feel better.
- Be mindful of the moments and transitions through the day. Practice a 2 minute breathing exercise before you head off to your lunch break or when you step into the shower. There are many apps that also help you to take a minute to breath and may remind you to do so through the day.
It takes a lot to keep it all together, but if you can start your day with a bit of PMA it may be a way to renew your attitude about thinking more like a pancreas.