10 Things to do when feeling overwhelmed by diabetes

stress

We know that diabetes is stressful and can be overwhelming at times. The day in and day out grind of carb counting, injecting insulin, and checking on blood sugar levels can wear a person down. That is why it is so important to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. Here are a few things that myself and others have done over the years to help from feeling overwhelmed by diabetes.

Cry, scream or yell in the shower

cry

Whether you are the person living with diabetes or you are helping someone you love, there are those days when you have had it. You want to kick and scream. You just don’t want to “diabetes” anymore.

Guess what? That is okay! In fact, it is pretty darn healthy! It isn’t healthy to keep those feelings and frustrations bottled up, however.

When you are completely overwhelmed by diabetes and want to throw in the towel…do it! Find a private spot, like the shower, and just let out all of that pent up emotion. Allow yourself to cry. Go ahead and scream at the universe. Yell at diabetes itself. Simply vent and then…let go. I promise you that while it won’t fix everything, you will feel a little better.

Go for a walk when you feel overwhelmed by diabetes

walk when feeling overwhelmed by diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

We all know that we are supposed to exercise. Did you also know that it really can be good for your mental health?

Take some time to join a gym, sign up for a yoga class or just take the dog for a walk. Do something to get moving and get out of your head for a bit. Shake off the cobwebs as you stretch or lift. Allow all of that stress to hit the pavement as you go for a walk. Taking in some fresh air and taking some time for you will help you to improve your overall health.

Go out on a date

date  when feeling overwhelmed by diabetes

Go out for a lunch date with a friend. Meet your significant other for a lovely meal. Take one of your children out for a playdate that involves just the two of you. Simply get out and put diabetes on the backburner.

If you are living with diabetes, you will sadly still have to bring it along but, for just an hour, make it sit at another table. Don’t complain about it. Don’t worry about it. Just focus on the person you are with and leave the rest behind for 20 minutes, an hour, whatever you can spare. Recharge yourself with someone you care about.

Grab a glass of wine

enjoy a beverage when you feel overwhelmed by diabetes

At the end of the day, allow yourself to unwind with a glass of wine, a shot of rum or simply a great cup of tea. If you enjoy essential oils, make sure you have your favourite blend diffusing. Light a candle. Just breathe and relax. Let your mind go blank for a bit and simply unwind. It is okay. Diabetes can be overwhelming. You need some me time. You deserve it.

Enjoy a book

read your favourite book when diabetes is too much

Take a few minutes to unwind with a good book. Put on a Netflix show. Turn on your favourite music and let it flow through you. Dance a little if you like or allow the music to put you to sleep! Do something that requires minimal thought and maximum relaxation.

Live life 4 hours at a time

take life 4 hours at a time when dealing with diabetes

This is advice that truly kept me sane through toddlerhood, preteen years and the teens. Live life 4 hours at a time.

When living with diabetes, there can be highs and lows that appear out of nowhere. There can be highs and lows that show up because you got a bit of air in your tubing, you injected into a different site, or you counted the carbs in a meal wrong. There are more reasons for highs and lows than the average person can imagine. Obsessing over them can drive you completely insane and leave you feeling overwhelmed by diabetes.

My advice is simply to deal with them in short blocks. Rapid-acting insulin has a life of 4 hours (on average). Take your day and break it up into those four-hour sections. When you get up and check your blood sugar, that is the start of your first four hours. If that reading is perfect, do a happy dance and get some breakfast. Savor the victory over the diabetes gods.

If you find that you are running a bit high or low, you treat with food or insulin and move forward. By lunch time, you will either have everything under control or you won’t but that is a four hour time period that is behind you. It is something to look at later and see what you could have done differently. It is not something to dwell on. You have another 4 hours to deal with.

In those next four hours, you can celebrate in range readings. You can ponder out of range numbers but know that there will be another four hours for you to look at and you will get through.

Download our guide to getting through life four hours at a time.

Give diabetes away for the day

share

Seriously, give diabetes away for the day. Have someone else think about the blood checks and carb counting. Take the day off.

If you are a parent of a child with diabetes, have your partner or a family member do your child’s care for the day. Remember that they will do things differently. That is okay. As long as your child is okay and you can rest, it will be okay.

If you have diabetes yourself, ask your partner, good friend or even parent to deal with everything for a day. Okay, maybe you won’t be able to handle an entire day but let them scan your sensor. Have them push the buttons on your pump. Let someone else do your site change. Give your brain a break for an hour, an afternoon, a full day if you can!

Join a support group

diabetes supports Diabetes Advocacy

No matter what, there is nothing like talking to people who get it. If you are on Facebook, join one of the many online groups that are there. Most are private or secret so that what you say in the group will stay there.

If you are a Twitter person, look for the hashtag #DOC or #DSMA and join in diabetes chats. It is a great way to share and meet other people who live the same life as you.

Some people prefer to meet in real life. Check with your diabetes clinic for support groups or diabetes-related events in your area. There are many conferences and camps for both adults and youth that are worth checking out.

Journal about feeling overwhelmed by diabetes

journal about your feelings around living with diabetes

It can be very therapeutic to simply write out your feelings. Start a journal online or in your favourite notebook. Write about your victories and your frustrations. Get your feelings down on paper so that you can better handle them in your daily life.

Seek help for depression and burnout

Finally, if you are still feeling overwhelmed by diabetes, please look into finding the help of a professional. There are mentor programs for teens. You can connect with diabetes educators in other areas who will help you tackle getting blood sugars in a more manageable range. You can also connect with therapists who will assist you in person or via remote networks. Some of them like Virtue Bajurny and Joe Solowiejczyk are not only therapists but live with type 1 diabetes themselves.

No matter what you decide to do. Remember that you never have to do it alone. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone or contact us. We will try to help you to find someone in your area who may be able to help.

Looking for help to unwind? Download our guide to living life four hours at a time.

It’s okay to cry…or scream..or just take time for you

diabetes is hard

Diabetes is hard.  Whether you live with the disease or you are the parent of a child with diabetes, diabetes is hard! I know, I said it twice because it is true. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. There is never truly a time when you can relax and say “whatever will be will be.”

There are times when you want to relax. You want to throw in the towel.  There are times when you want to simply say “ENOUGH!!!” and hide under the covers for a the day.  I am here to tell you to do it! Seriously, take a minute or an hour or a day and just throw in the towel so that you can pick it up again with more strength than you had before.

It’s in your best interest and the interest of those you love to take time for you.  Take time to just let it all go.  Here are five easy ways to reset yourself so you can continue on your journey with diabetes.

1. Hideout in the shower

cry

The shower is an amazing place.  You can lock the door.  The water pouring over your body can be calming and soothing.  It washes away your tears gently and without judgement.  The sound of the running water also drowns out your anguish.

When things seem bad…When you are tired and just want a break… take 5 minutes and hang out in the shower.  Cry or vent.  No one needs to know. No one needs to see.  You can simply let out all of that pent up anxiety  and allow it to flow down the drain.

After you are finished crying and yelling, you can dry off and get on with your day!

2. Go for a walk

walk

Ideally, go for a walk by yourself but if you can’t take the kids and just go!  Power walk at first until you have spent all of that stress and tension out of your body.  Let all of your frustrations be released in your strides. Slowly let everything go until you can slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Breathe and just let it be.

Your heart will thank-you and so will your psyche.

3. Pass the buck

Alternate site testing

Whether you have diabetes or you are the caregiver, let someone else deal with things for an hour or a day.  Let them do the blood checking and the injecting. Give the meter or CGM receiver to a trusted companion or family member for a bit.  Allow them to deal with things in their own way.  Allow yourself to forget just for a bit.

It can be hard at first.  Diabetes is so all consuming but it can happen.  Don’t be concerned if the other person is  doing things differently than you would.  Let go.  As long as no one’s life is in danger…let it go.

I have done this for my son before.  There would be a day when I would do all of the testing, bolusing and carb counting. He would simply hand me a finger or his pump.  Diabetes was not something that he was going to actively concern himself with managing for that time period. He loved the break.

4. Enjoy a date night

have fun

If you are a parent of a child with diabetes, this is super important.  Make time for you and your partner.  If you are single, then make time for you and your close friends.  Take time once a week or at least once a month, to focus on relationships.  Leave diabetes in the hands of someone you can trust.  Do not spend all of your time looking at your phone or texting home.  Focus on enjoying yourself and recharging your batteries.

5. Meet up with other D-peeps

This one may seem a bit strange.  If you are overwhelmed by diabetes, why or why would I suggest that you hang out with other people who are just as stressed as you? Because they get it!

Seriously, meeting another person who lives with diabetes can be so liberating.  They truly do understand carb counting and pump problems.  They  are the ones who understand the A1c report card and so many other aspects of your life.

Go to conferences, events, or socials.  Talk to that co-worker who also has diabetes or that Facebook friend you met in a group.  Share with each other.  You won’t just talk about diabetes but they will understand that diabetes factors into so many other aspects of your life.

These are just a few things that can help to relieve some of the stress of living with diabetes.  There are many other things that you can do.  If you reach the point of feeling completely overwhelmed, please consider talking to your doctor or a therapist.  Diabetes is hard.  You need supports.  Make sure you find them and use them for the sake of you and all of those who care about you.

Dealing With Diabetes Burnout….A book review

Dealing with diabetes burnout

Ginger Vieira recently released her third book. I was privileged to be given a copy of it to read. As I prepared to write my review of Dealing with Diabetes Burnout,  How to Recharge and Get Back on Track When You Feel Frustrated and Overwhelmed by Diabetes, I took a glance at how many pages of interest I had marked off. There were a lot!

Who would this book help?

Originally, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when reading this book.  What would I learn? Would much of it apply to me as a parent of a child with diabetes? Who would this book be targeted for?

I learned quite a bit. I gained a new perspective and I can think of quite a few people who this book would help.  Most importantly, however, it is a great hands-on resource for people who live with diabetes–Type 1 or Type 2.

Ginger provides real tips for dealing with burnout in your life.

This book doesn’t just give you a bunch of information and feel good stories.  It is filled with exercises and activities that Ginger challenges you to do to help you deal with your own diabetes burnout. 

She doesn’t chastise you for the fact that “I haven’t checked my blood sugar in three weeks (ehh…months)” —a fabulous title of one of the chapters of the book.  Instead, she reminds you that you are being asked to manage something that your body is supposed to do on its own based on a variety of other physiological and hormonal processes. (page 21). 

Ginger Vieira tells you in her book Diabetes Burnout, to look at all of the great things that you are doing and praise yourself for the one thing you are getting right. “Developing the ability to step back and see what wasn’t working–rather than blaming yourself–is the trick to creating a new plan that will lead you to your goal.” (Page 33)

Create your own pickup plan to refocus during times of stress.

This theme is further emphasized by all of the great chapter titles like “I want to be perfect by tomorrow (or I’m giving up!) where Ginger notes that some times are not ideal for change. She suggests that you create your own personalized “pickup plan” to help you refocus in times of stress.

Ginger offers tips on how to handle support from well-meaning people who really don’t get it as well as how to best make use of people who do get it and do want to help.  She shows you how to use technology to make your life a bit easier as well as great real-life tips for those of us who would just like to live a healthier lifestyle but find ourselves giving up too soon.

The challenge of raising a child with diabetes

Being a parent of a child with diabetes, as I began to read this book I felt horrible.  I was a failure.  I was the parent who struggled to understand how you could “forget” to do something that you have done all of your life.  Did I push too hard?  Should I have been calmer when his doctor praised him for testing more than once per day and I was looking to see 8-12 readings per day? I was sure that I had totally ruined my son’s childhood.

Thankfully I got some reprieve from my incredible guilt when I moved into the chapter called “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”.  Here Ginger talks about raising a child with diabetes and how truly difficult it is to do. She highlights many of the fears that we have.  The torture we go through when our child is low and disoriented or the failure we feel when they are high and we are positive that we alone are responsible for the kidney damage they may one day have. She offers more wisdom and options to dealing with our children and how to get through to our teens. I was left knowing that I hadn’t scared my child completely…well at least not in that realm.

Nearing the end of the book, I came across one of the very best quotes I have ever read on the issue of diabetes care and one that should be framed and read by everyone dealing with this disease (especially us guilt laden parents)….

“Doing the best any of us can do in life with diabetes does not have to mean perfect blood sugars all the time. Sometimes our best is awesome and sometimes it’s not quite so awesome but it’s still our best in that moment.  And that’s okay.  It has to be, because “perfection” is a crazy expectation.” 

Dealing with Diabetes Burnout is a fabulous resource. If I had one criticism of the book it would be having too many personal stories illustrating various points in the book. Reading through page after page of examples of other people’s burnout was taxing on my incredibly shrinking attention span. That said however, I have no clue as to how I would have cut back on some of the submissions that were used.  They were often very powerful stories that needed to be shared.

Who should read this book? Anyone living with diabetes because as Ginger Vieira notes, at one point you will go through some form of burnout.  To a lesser degree, parents of children of diabetes (no matter what age your “child” may be).  This book will give you insight into the emotions that your child may be dealing with and will also give you a few tips to help you in your own life as well.

Dear Diabetes

Dear Diabetes;

I am done. Finished. Resigning.

We have been doing this dance for 13+ years now and instead of getting easier it’s getting worse.

My son is now almost 16 years old.  I can no longer keep him safe and with me at all times. I can no longer do all of his testing, carb counting, and bolusing. I have to let him go off on his own and stumble (or even fall) and I HATE IT!!

I have already done this “letting go” thing with my first son. I get that. He chose to live with his father for his last two years of school. I learned how to parent from a distance.  I learned how to let go a bit more when he moved across the country a few months ago.  It was hard but I understood it was/is part of life with children.

I worried when he started to drive and got his first car.  I survived the call that said “Mom, I was in a car accident. I wrote off my car.” I made it through the phone call that said “I was out drinking with friends at a festival. We got separated and these guys jumped me.”  I was okay with the calls to pick him up the next morning because he had been out drinking all night, celebrating the end of his course, and had passed out at a friend’s house. These are all things that can happen when we have children. They are part of our lives as parents.

Diabetes, you change the rules and the level of worry.  I worry about my son with diabetes anytime he is away from me. I know that he will try to pretend that you don’t exist. He will skip testing. He will bolus for some of his food but will try no carb food to avoid drawing attention to himself and his pump. He will do his best to appear “normal” to his friends and will treat you as if you are not even there.

When he comes back after time away, instead of simply reliving his adventures, I am stuck dwelling on missed bg tests, high readings and diabetes care neglect. I feel panic levels rising as I know what damage you can bring Diabetes.  I know how dangerous you can be when neglected. I try to remind him.   I know that he wants to forget though. For those few days when he is away, I almost get to forget but he can’t. You are too dangerous, Diabetes.

He is now at an age when I have to worry about drug and alcohol experimentation.  The worry goes up ten fold because you are there.  Diabetes, you are not a helpful friend. You are an insidious enemy ready to further sabotage his attempts at stretching his wings and experiment with life. I am lucky.  My son has not showed a lot of interest in wild parties and such behaviour but thanks to you, I have a hard time focusing on how lucky I am.  I am forced to fret over how you are impacting his life when I am not there to stand guard and act as a buffer.

Diabetes, we have been doing this dance for a long time.  You jab, I duck.  You hit, I push back.  I have been forced to demand things of my second son that I never did of his brother.  “Did you bring your meter? You are NEVER to leave the house without it! This is non-negotiable.”

“Did you remember to bolus for that food when you were out? How many carbs did you figure for it? Did you factor in the activities that you had been doing before/after?”

“Is that a new site? Make sure its secure before you start swimming.  Do you have a spare just in case? You may need more than one. Make sure you have someone to watch over your supplies.”

These are all conversations that have been had with my son since he was old enough to head off on outings without me.  His brother has never had to worry about the fat or calories in his meals.  He has never had to carry anything beyond his cell phone in order to stay safe and alive.

Diabetes, you have robbed us.  You have stolen my son’s innocence. We have been cheated out of a carefree lifestyle.  You have made us both worry and obsess over his health when he should be concerned with looking good for this week’s love interest, not worrying about his blood pressure.

Diabetes, I have had enough.  Really, I am done. Please move on to a rock or some other inanimate object.  People don’t get you and even those of us who have been forced to…well, we are just tired of you.  Life is enough of a challenge.  Your constant presence just makes it that much worse, that much more painful.  Its time for you to leave. Please leave no forwarding address. Please take everything that belongs to you and simply go.

Sincerely;

A Tired D-Momma

Diabetes is HARD work!

Yesterday I finished reading Gary Scheiner’s new book “Until there is a Cure“.  I will be writing about it in more detail later this week but one thing struck me as I read–diabetes is hard work! As I have mentioned numerous times, I have been at this game for over 13 years now. I should kind of have an idea of just how hard this diabetes thing is to handle but seeing it in print made it worse.

I was tired and overwhelmed by what I read.  I worried about my son once again.  There were complications to concern yourself with as well as preventing complications.  There are reading before you eat and after you eat.  You need to try to eat lower glycemic food (I am only just figuring out how the glycemic index works after years of a mental block of the concept!). Some times you should graze, sometimes you should pre-bolus, sometimes you should….throw your hands up and say I can’t do this!!! I am not a pancreas! I am not God!!! I am just a fallible person!!!

Yes that was my foot stomping,  with childlike screams, and ranting on my sleep deprived Monday! Now granted after making me feel inadequate, overwhelmed and an underachiever, Gary notes the many great online resources out there. He never suggested that I am a failure. He doesn’t judge or say that you have to do this, this and this or else but just reading about the various types of insulins, meters, trending software, complications, and preventative care initiatives, I was exhausted and sad.

Diabetes asks so much of us. People think that diabetes management means that  you inject once a day, avoid sugar, and lose weight.  That’s no big deal.  Those of us who live with diabetes know the real story.  Parents of children with diabetes have the added grey hair, extra wrinkles and bags under the eyes to prove it! photo