Fighting Diabetes Stress with Diabetes Zen


Zen means whatever you think it means.  This is pretty much how Zen priest Susan O’Connell summed the meaning of Zen up during a recent interview.  Literally it means one can gain enlightenment from meditation or intuition rather than from faith alone.  In this article I’m talking about the more popular meaning for Zen which has to do with peace of mind, calmness, and simplicity. 

We all probably want peace of mind and to feel calm.  But, not all of us see the benefit of less is more and I think that this is because we live in a fun tech filled world that never stops (neither does the consumerism).

There is a major movement happening around the world right now.  It has to do with a newly inspired focus on achieving simplicity and peace.  Why?  Because we have 3 year olds interviewing for private schools, mothers multi-tasking to the point of breakdowns, and quantity assurance taking the place of quality assurance.  Is all the busyness, extra stuff, and running around really worth it?  Aren’t all those yard sales proof we have too much stuff at home?  The fact that I can’t buy a toaster that works properly for over a year? (I’m going on my third)  What about our need to buy tons of fun “green” products which are only fueling more and more harmful production?  And why can’t we just do less and enjoy more?  Why do we slave away for a golden retirement we may never see?  It is all interrelated and I’m loving the idea of being part of the movement to simplify life. 

Due to all of the above many people are starting to de-clutter their homes.  They are buying better quality items and maintaining them rather than frequently replacing them.  People are going home at 5pm instead of staying in the office until 6:30pm.  Some are part of a Slow Food movement that is rapidly spreading and creating an awareness and a link between which foods we choose to buy and consume and how we eat those foods-slow and mindfully, with our health and our community’s best interest in mind. 

Personally, I’ve been trying to take baby steps towards a more peaceful and less complicated existence.  I’ve been getting rid of clothing I don’t use often enough and household items that are not crucial and just get in the way when I’m trying to clean.  I don’t shop at Walmart because they pay their employees less than other places I can get groceries.  I also try hard to buy unprocessed foods and organic produce in order to support healthy farming methods.  I try to buy fair trade products which help support small farming communities everywhere.  I eat organic and humanely raised meat and poultry so I don’t have a hand in animal cruelty.  (These things are not easy to do considering the extra costs involved but the key is to do what you’re comfortable with)

The great thing about trying to simplify life is it can be done to your own standards-meaning there are many different levels suited to accommodate any of us.  Just do what you can.  A great way to begin is to think about what would give you more peace and joy.  Less clutter?  Eating dinner more slowly?  Maybe without the TV but your favorite relaxing music instead?  Maybe you want to focus on spending more money on fun experiences for the family instead of new clothes or gadgets.  It has been said meaningful experiences makes us happier than shopping.

I try to capture this entire idea of “zen” in my diabetes management routine.  I don’t use an insulin pump because it doesn’t suit me personally (if it does you-then great) and I find it more relaxing to give an insulin shot and not worry later if I have a knot in my tubing or an infusion site that won’t stay put.  I also enjoy sticking with minimal supplies-test strips, insulin, and syringes.  But again that’s just me.  It is what gives me peace, perhaps not you.  Having a good A1c gives me a lot of peace as well-perhaps more peace than anything else.  This is why I try to eat simple foods like fruits and vegetables, meat, and poultry which I find much easier to cover with insulin than I do processed foods.  And along the same lines I don’t want to stress over not being able to afford my healthy food and basic diabetes supplies so I have had the same cell phone now for four years (something people love to pick on me about) and my husband and I share the smallest phone plan available.  There isn’t a lot of money for extras but, being healthy is worth having as a top priority so more money goes to support that.  I remove the thoughts from my mind that tell me I cannot exercise because I can’t get out of the house with the twins on my own.  I try to remember that I can do some push ups and squats in my living room instead of give myself excuses as to why I am out of shape. 

So how can you “zen” your diabetes life?  By taking really small steps and thinking about what makes you healthier and what makes your diabetes routine less complicated.  Some people need their insulin pump and CGMS and yes that includes considerable supplies but there isn’t a need to linger on that.  Instead, if this is you, think about how you can clean out the space you have set aside for your diabetes supplies.  Can it be organized a bit more so you never have to rummage through to find your meter’s batteries?  Is there a way you can synchronize your supply orders so you don’t have to worry about ordering six different prescriptions throughout the month?  Or perhaps we can all begin by just living more in the moment and being very aware of our actions.  When I don’t live in the moment I tend to eat and give insulin without much thought and next thing I know my blood sugar is high or low and I’m wishing I had paid more attention.

The funny thing is, once you find a way to simplify a few things, you’ll often find a way to simplify more and more.  It is truly a liberating feeling.  And something that just happens to be very important to me is that simplifying things in life usually leads to an easier time cleaning and picking up.  Amen to that.

2 thoughts on “Fighting Diabetes Stress with Diabetes Zen

  1. Maria Morales

    So true! More and more lately I think twice (or more) before I buy some new clothes or anything for that matter and think hard if it is necessary; after all I can use that money to help someone or save for the vacation.

  2. Emilia Klapp, RD,BS

    Hi Sysy,

    I love your article. If all of us will take life a little more like you describe in it, we could prevent or get rid of many of our ailments. Many times, our health doesn’t come from outside in, but from inside out and a peaceful attitude works wonders for our organs and the control of blood sugar.

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