As I get older and add to the list of things I have to get done every day, I always feel like I need more time to do it all. I’ve noticed that time goes faster and days seem to fly by, especially since having kids.
A typical day with 2 kids, a dog, 2 cats, a full time job, meals to prep, exercise to fit in, and a house to take care of can easily take up all the waking minutes of a day. Oh – and yes, diabetes management is a sneaky little piece in all of this time management. Sometimes it seems to steal the show with time needed to manage.
How do you juggle diabetes and life at the same time? Have a plan and a backup for when the original plan needs to be adjusted.
People that I work with often ask – what is the trick to making diabetes management easier? Even with all the technology to deliver insulin and gadgets to monitor and tell us what our BG is, it really boils down to the time we put into our management. This has to be fit into our day to day plan of course. I tell people that while an insulin pump makes like more flexible, it is still really helpful to have a schedule. The body itself likes a habit for regular meals and activity time – so it makes sense that when we take the time to plan these into our day as much as possible, it makes diabetes management a bit easier too.
I don’t mean you have to have it all nailed down on a timeline, but overall, I’ve honestly found that regular meal times, food that is known, and a plan for when exercise is to happen keeps a lot of variables out of my personal management.
What are the key pieces that help me run a smoother day?
My Tips on How to Manage Diabetes:
- Start with the beginning of the day. Get your insulin doses set so that you wake up with an in target value. Evaluate basal insulin from bedtime to the time you wake up.
- Stoke your metabolism. Adding food to your day is like adding logs to a fire to keep it burning. Food is fuel and the first fuel you put in for the day has an impact on energy, attitude and BG levels. I have found a few breakfast meals that work well for me overall and I stick with them 95% of the time. It takes a variable out of my post breakfast time and means I’m not fighting BG control for the remainder of the morning or the day thereafter.
- Eat regularly. As much as possible, try to set a time frame for 3 meals/day. Give yourself about an hour time frame in the morning, around noon and in the early evening to get a meal in. The goal is to try to get 3 meals in through the day in about a 10-12 hour time frame. If you start with breakfast at 8a, then dinner should be eaten by 6p-8p. Aim for dinner to be the lighter meal of the day to aid with keeping things contained overnight.
- Evaluate how common foods work for BG management. I have evaluated most of my common foods to see how my body responds and how I need to strategize for bolus and timing. This helps to make other things that might be a variable after a meal easier to navigate. Most people have about 20-25 foods that they eat over and over through the week. If you can figure out the effect these have on your overall glucose, it adds up to about 80% (or more) of your glucose management. As you eat these over and over, it is a lot less variability to deal with which means a lot more time in range. And, in the end it leaves a lot of time left to do the other things in life you want or need to do that isn’t diabetes specific.
- Make a regular grocery list. Whether you go weekly or monthly, it helps to have a plan for what you are going to prepare and get the foods that work for your meals. Time spent setting up what will be eaten means less thought for getting food on the table after a long day.
- Plan exercise! This piece alone makes a big difference. The time you exercise (morning, after a meal, etc.) as well as how often will help you avoid too many variables during and after. Research shows that if you exercise at least every other day your insulin sensitivity stabilizes. If you find a time of day that you struggle with higher BGs (after breakfast for example) then plan exercise during this time to help stabilize and avoid need for extra corrections. Pay attention to type, duration and intensity and how you adjusted to find a strategy.
- Be prepared. My Dad was a Boy Scout Leader who taught my brother and me very well. Have a hypoglycemia plan. I use Glucolift glucose tablets for treating lows. They work super-fast and while they taste good, I don’t want to overeat them. I have them stashed everywhere – the kitchen cupboard, next to my bed, in my gym bag, at my work desk and in my purse as well as the kid’s library bag. It helps to avoid eating whatever is in sight and since they bring up my BG fast, I am not as tempted to eat more because I feel better faster. While you don’t have to use what I do, my recommendation is to keep something with simple sugars very handy all the time. This helps prevent those wild swings up after a low due to over treating with food that takes a longer time to digest.
- Keep notes for a few weeks. While it is tedious to do initially, keeping some records and notes to look at will help you fine tune and find trends. Once you figure out at least a few trends and adjust for them it will become more of a habit which means less time trying to figure it out as it happens. It leaves more time for the fun stuff.
I’ve realized there is no perfect management strategy. We are all a bit different and need to take actions that will work for our life personally. However, these little things do help keep us, our house and kids and pets well cared for on a day to day basis with time left for the fun. If you take some time to develop a plan of action for your personal lifestyle, diabetes management becomes more background habit and less of an in your face tag along.