Monthly Archives: October, 2011

How to Manage Anxiety Caused by Diabetes

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Guest post by Ryan Rivera.

Anxiety as a whole is a natural response to stress. It’s your body’s way of telling you that you are concerned, as it activates your fight/flight mechanism and feeds your body with nervous energy. But for most people, that anxiety quickly goes away when the stressor goes away.

But when you suffer from diabetes, the stressor doesn’t go away. Like diabetes, your anxiety needs to be managed. It’s common for those with diabetes to suffer from some degree of anxiety, and unless you are able to keep it under control it can become a considerable mental health problem.

Starting at What Not to Do

There are plenty of drugs available for those living with anxiety, but ideally you do not want to be stuck on one of these powerful medications the rest of your life, along with all of your other health concerns you deal with on a regular basis. You can and should seek therapy if you need help coping, but you never want therapy to be your only long term solution. So what you need to do is find fun and interesting coping strategies so that you can manage your anxiety more easily during your daily life, and suffer from less stress in the long term.

But before you can even start exploring new coping strategies, you need to start the process of avoiding things that cause anxiety. Anxiety is additive, so the anxiety you feel because of your chronic health condition is exacerbated by the little things in life that fuel natural anxiety. It’s not just major things either, like dealing with a stressful job or getting out of a stressful relationship. The little things are important as well, which means:

  • No speeding on the freeway.
  • No watching horror movies.
  • No playing poker.

Any small, relatively minor activity that may cause some degree of anxiety should be avoided, because it will only increase the amount of anxiety that you are already feeling, and could potentially lead to panic attacks. Like diabetes, anxiety does require some life changes, and while none of them are substantial, they will make a big difference in your day to day life.

Finding Your Strategies for Coping

Your next step is to find strategies for coping that work for you. There are numerous creative and interesting coping strategies that you can implement, and the reality is that if you find something that works for you then you should do it, provided it conforms to the following principles:

  • It’s Healthy – Gambling, smoking, drinking, shopping for expensive clothes, or getting into various shenanigans are all not acceptable long term solutions for managing your diabetes. On the other hand, jogging, sitting outside by the lake, or playing the game “Go” with strangers – these are all healthy and productive coping strategies.
  • It’s a Useful Long Term Solution – Anything that helps you cope is worthwhile, but you should especially be looking for strategies that you can employ at any time, whenever you feel the anxiety or panic coming on. The easier the coping strategy, the better.
  • You Enjoy It – No coping strategy is going to help you for very long if you aren’t enjoying it. So you also need to find an activity that you can enjoy regularly.

With that in mind, there are a variety of avenues that you can choose. Most people choose one of the following ways of coping:

  • Art – Art, poetry, and other forms of create expression are arguably the most popular, and potentially the most useful. They’re a healthy way to express emotion, an enjoyable activity, and one that you can continue to enjoy while you’re living with diabetes. It’s also a skill that you can work on over time, giving you something to look forward to every day as you continue your chosen craft.
  • Sports – If you’re feeling up to it, you can also engage in sports leagues. Try to stay away from sports you get too competitive about (since that may lead to a bit of anxiety), but if there is a sport that you have fun playing win or lose, it can be a healthy way to release energy and spend time with interesting people.
  • Relaxation Exercises – There are several relaxation exercises that you can also use to calm your mind and body when you’re feeling stressed. With deep breathing or visualization, you can quickly relax when you’re feeling stressed and use it as long as you have a few moments to yourself.
  • Small Gatherings – Social support is a big part of dealing with both diabetes and anxiety. Having friends over for conversation helps as a distraction from the day’s events and gives you a chance to bond more with those that are important to you.
  • Thought Journals – When you live with chronic illness, one of the primary causes of anxiety is simply the worries and thoughts you have about the day. Thought journals help with that a great deal. It’s been found that part of the reason your mind obsesses over worries is because it doesn’t want to forget them. By writing it down, your mind is less concerned with remembering it, and you can relax your mind a little.

While the above list represents some potential ideas for coping with chronic illness, anything you enjoy and can do easily is useful. Some people find skipping stones to be extremely relaxing, while others simply need to curl up with an interesting book and scented candles. These are all perfectly acceptable long term strategies, and perfect ways to reduce your anxiety.

Living with Diabetes and Anxiety

When you suffer from anxiety because of a chronic illness, you want to ideally stay away from powerful medicines, and while talk therapy is always a great solution, time and budget may get in the way. But the reality is that when you have diabetes, or any chronic illness, the key is simply finding productive coping strategies to manage it, and cutting out those things that lead to an increase in stress in your life. Do that, and you can focus on living a happy life and simply managing your diabetes.

 

About the Author: Ryan Rivera has long been victim to a number of anxiety related conditions and panic attacks. He shares information on these issues and more at www.calmclinic.com.

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Thanks, Ryan, I’m going to start on some of these tips right away!

A Type 1’s Decision Not to Have Children

Being a type 1 and open to pregnancy was a decision I didn’t take lightly or without many tears of worry.  It’s a personal decision and whether a woman does or doesn’t choose to have children, the emotional turmoil and heartache involved definitely exists.  Today, I’m so grateful to have my friend and fellow type 1 diabetic, Stacey Divone guest post.  She blogs at The Girl with the Portable Pancreas, is married to Joe, has had type 1 for almost 30 years , and she has decided not to have children.  In keeping with our Fabulous Friday topic of self love and respect, I asked her to write about her decision and a heartfelt and honest post from her is what follows.

Stacey and Joe

Diabetes. It’s something that was once, a very long time ago, a death sentence. And although the tools available to monitor glucose levels has improved dramatically, the risk of complications still exist.

Pregnancy. It’s something that crosses the mind of every women in one way or another. That’s one of the reasons women were put on this earth; to bear children.  Even the pregnancies of the healthiest women carry some risk of complications.

Diabetes + pregnancy. It’s not always an ugly equation. Healthy babies are born to diabetic mothers all the time.  However, putting two risky elements together, change the entire decision making process.

As if there wasn’t already a ton of effort involved in managing diabetes on a daily basis, that effort doubles or even triples while working to maintain a healthy pregnancy.  The endless testing, carb counting, insulin dose adjustments, logging, doctor visits, worrying.   For 40 weeks.  I’ve been doing those things to some extent for almost 30 years.  But the life or well being of a child growing inside me has not been dependent on it. It has been a great challenge for me to get my a1c below 7.  It has only happened twice that I remember in recent years.  My body has been through a lot in my diabetic life.  And so has my mind.   Also the prime child bearing age has begun to slip away from me. We are not in any way resolving to the old fashioned theory that women with diabetes cannot have children.  But to stretch the stress even further, especially since complications are beginning to creep into the picture for me, is something that neither Joe nor I want to put me through.  It may feel like the right decision for us but it certainly wasn’t an easy one. Or one to be happy about.  I can’t help but wonder if it weren’t for diabetes, if I would have a child. Or two. I can’t help but feel like I’m robbing my husband of fatherhood.

Yes, there are other options for having a child that doesn’t involve a pregnancy. But there are a ton of different pains endured with those as well.  Adoption is a long, exhausting process that entails spending a significant amount of money with the possibility of repeated heartache. Surrogacy is a very complex situation that requires money as well as an indefinable trust with someone outside your marriage. These are not effortless options.  Nor are they realistic for everyone.

It’s painful to know I’ll probably never be a mother.  It hurts when I hear of new pregnancies.   Especially from diabetic friends. It’s upsetting to be surrounded by friends and family with all their children; hard not to feel like an outcast.  But I try to remember the good things of being childless. I can spoil my nieces and nephew without having to actually support them. Joe and I can plan a night out or vacation any time we want. I worry about when I get home from work to be with my husband but not stressing about picking up a child by a certain time. I can focus on my diabetes management. I can sleep.  These are the things I remind myself of when it gets hard to accept.  And treasure the time that I get to spend with Joe.

Having a baby changes everything.  For everyone.  But if the bad changes can possibly outweigh the good ones, I don’t think it’s wrong to want to avoid that.

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Thank you so much, Stacey.  I really appreciate you sharing this with us.  Can anyone else relate?

Wednesday Revisit: An interview with my husband

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Wednesday revisit is meant to check the past because things change, we change, and information and opinion always needs reevaluation.  Plus, you may have not read the early posts!

Here I interview my husband after a year of marriage,  The topic is diabetes during the time we dated.  I was curious about his insight and thought I’d post it so that others might relate or get an idea as to what a partner might be thinking about us and our diabetes.

Oh and stay tuned, I’m going to interview him again and this time, tougher questions will be asked!

Originally posted on December 19th 2009,

An Interview with my Husband

DSMA October Entry Post

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The question is: What types of decisions and frequency of diabetes related decisions do you make in any given day?

My initial reaction to this question is, “Ugh, where do I begin?”

You see…because my type 1 diabetes involves so many decisions each day, many of them are kind of innate.

I feel this is a good time to share something.  You may think I’m nuts or a liar or both (or maybe you do this, too!) but for example, I never consciously carb count.

Seriously.  I can’t remember the last time I “carb counted”.

Before you think I’m psycho…have you ever driven to work or someplace usual and realized as you parked, “I don’t remember driving here”.  In other words, you were not fully present in the act of driving some place because you do it all the time and just go through the motions.  Ever done that?

That’s what I do with carb counting.  When I realized this today, I checked out my meter.  This past week I’ve tested about 8 times a day, averaged 130 on my meter for the past week, and had 3 lows (62, 53, and 58).  So I’d say that my insulin has been approximately on target for what I eat.  This tells me that I’m aware enough to do a pretty decent carb count, just not aware enough to remember the steps.  It’s a dangerous place to be because that’s how I’ve also given 20 units of fast acting insulin instead of Lantus.  On um, two occasions in the past.  I’m on autopilot so much and in those instances I grabbed my insulin and just dialed the units, without giving much thought to how many units or which insulin I had. I’ve also tested, walked away from my meter and 20 minutes later said, “Omg, I don’t recall looking at my blood sugar result” and have had to check the memory on the meter for the last result.  Suffice to say I’m working on being more mindful when I test and give insulin and prepare to know how many carbs I’m going to have.

If you have diabetes you already know all of the decisions I make and how often I make them.  Because you make them, too.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to discuss a personal phenomenon of mine, one I’m trying to break.  After 17 years of looking at food and automatically scanning it for carbs, it’s a difficult change to make.  However, I’m pretty sure it’s a habit that needs to be adjusted.

Any of you do this?  Just look at a plate of food and subconsciously add up the carb count, translate that to insulin units, and give the insulin?  If you do and if it’s any consolation, it’s like we diabetics are a new breed of human.  Kind of magical, even.  Now if only I could clean the house without even being aware I’m doing it.  THAT would be magical.

Check out more DSMA October carnival posts here!

Welcome to Fabulous Fridays

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We women are something else.  We often try to do it all and be it all.  We often put our partners and children first, our families and friends and jobs first, and worry a lot over a billion different things each day.  And it’s no wonder.  I think today more than ever, we’re expected to work, raise children, keep a house, be a great host, be interesting, stay fit, do what we love, cook a knock-out meal, and look glamorous all the while.  It’s not realistic, it’s too much, and I don’t know about you but even before I had kids, I found myself cracking a little underneath the pressure to be so many things.

I felt a lot of relief when I put more focus on self love.  For many, the concept of self love seems quite selfish.  The idea however, is that we appreciate ourselves for who we are.  This includes embracing the good and the bad-yes even the bad, because that’s the only way to take care of the dark parts of ourselves and allow the light to triumph.  This means we can be honest about who we are and who we are not and become more aligned with our true selves.  And that means we can stop feeling so much pressure to be everything.

Personally, I’m on a journey to come to terms with who I am and am not and so far it’s been liberating.  Doing this reveals our authentic self and the more I do that, the more people are accepting of me.  They’re like, “Oh yeah, this is YOU!”  Because our authentic self shines through whereas our fake or undiscovered self always seems a little off or a little lost.

Ana and I will be supporting your path to self love each Friday by posting a short story, a picture, a quote, a fun tip, a question, a product we can’t live without, or an interview, etc.  But it will all focus on you and your path, or rather, our journey, to fully loving and accepting the fabulous women we already are.  I think that’s ultimately our key to the health, happiness, and joy we seek.

So thanks for reading and stay tuned!

XOXO

Wednesday Revisit: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Diabetics

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Wednesday Revisit has returned.  It’s about revisiting the past, revising what I wrote, possibly editing it, because we all grow and change and that includes what we think about life with diabetes.  Plus, I find that I catch more typos if I edit my stuff months after I wrote it.  So inconvenient but better late than never!

This post is one of the most popular on this blog since I wrote it.  It’s obviously inspired by Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  It’s one of my favorite posts because I reread it from time to time and it always helps me back on track.  That Stephen Covey is one smart guy.  So if you didn’t catch it the first go round, I’d be honored if you read it now and maybe give me your feedback on it…  Happy Wednesday!

Originally posted on February 13th 2010

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Diabetics

100 Year Old Marathon Runner Renews My Perspective

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I just read about Fauja Singh, 100 years old, who just completed a full marathon.  By the time I lifted my jaw off the floor I had read all I could on the man.  He’s a vegetarian, eats a low fat diet, won’t consume rice or caffeine, and runs 10 miles a day in training.  He strives to be positive, doesn’t get offended or angry, focuses on charity work, and advises that to be happy and live long we must do what we love, give back, live stress free, and eat to live, rather than live to eat.

It occurred to me this man is an example of someone who eats what fuels him properly and doesn’t eat what doesn’t fuel him properly.  I think we all need a different diet and discovering what that diet consists of is no easy feat but it sounds like he’s done it.  It’s clear he also knows how to live a stress free life, something I have always seen as impossible.  Yet, here is someone who has endured stress.  He lost his wife a long time ago.  His son died prematurely.  He used running as a way to get busy and focus on something, as a way to cope.  He doesn’t have much education, was a farmer in India before he came to live in England, but he seems to know all the secrets to happiness and health and actually practices them.

For some reason his story provides me with a lightening bolt of a paradigm shift.  I feel renewed energy to eat only when I’m hungry, not paying attention to people who say one should eat often in order to avoid feeling hungry and then binging.  Hunger doesn’t make me want to binge, it makes my food taste better.  I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the Kenyans who run amazing races or people who stay active into their 90’s like this man.  Yet, why not?  We’re human just like them and what these people do with their bodies is inspiring.  I know that I am at my current level of fitness in part because I grew up thinking that a mile was a long distance on foot.  Whereas people who grow up walking several miles to and from work or school each day don’t see a mile as a long way at all.  Their knowledge of a mile is so different and as a result, what they see as possible is very different from what I see as possible.

This man’s story provides me with a renewed perspective in how I think about our bodies and what is possible.  Surely I can run more if a 100 year old man can complete a full marathon.  Perception is key.  If I believe a 10 mile run is doable, does that make it more doable?  I once thought that keeping my blood sugar below 250 most of the time was impossible.  Then I looked at it different.  I believed keeping it around 100 was doable.  It’s not easy, and like running each day, it takes discipline and preparation, but I did it.  When I stopped the discipline surrounding what I ate and when I did or didn’t do something, that level of glucose management fell away.  However, I know it’s within my reach again.  All I have to do is firmly know it’s possible and act on that belief, ignoring all others.

Sing The Blues and Let them Go

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Things I’m worried about right now:

The kids not yet talking (they’re 28 months)

The house looks like the tazmanian devil spun through it.

My health, as usual.

The bills, as usual.

The cold weather and the way it freezes me in place, making it more challenging to exercise.  Sounds pititful but I’m serious.

My 13 year old brother who is passing two kidney stones at the moment-hang in there bro!

 

Why I’m going to let those worries go:

The kids, aside from not talking yet, are on point developmentally and prove their intelligence by constantly working together to conspire against me.  One distracts and the other acts, basically.  Very clever.  Not to mention they speak in their own twin language-which is supposed to count.

The house doesn’t have feelings and will be fine until I get around to it.  Isn’t that nice to know?

My health and the bills are being taken care of and that’s all one can do.

The cold weather means I need to get me a Zumba video to do inside my warm home until the weather gets back to normal-I mean warms up.

I know my brother’s issue is just genetic because he eats so healthy and I know from now on he’ll drink more water and continue rocking out like this:

Throwing the worries away now…

Ahh…..

 

Happy Friday, everyone!

Learning to Put Diabetes First

I feel like I say this in every post now, but I’m so busy ALL the time. At least that’s what it seems like because I always have things to get done. Balancing so many responsibilities is tough and definitely stressful and my diabetes control is suffering a little because of it. I admit that recently I’ve been letting my diabetes take the back seat. I may need to give insulin, but if I need to catch the bus, I’ll wait until I get to class to give my injection. I eat at random times and my meals are not always wholesome–a consequence of working around classes and meetings (and weather sometimes…). During nights when I have to stay up doing homework, I tend to get hungry and I snack. Only in the morning do I regret doing so, once I see the 250 on my meter. Sometimes I skip lunch and then eat too much for dinner. The list goes on a little further, but I’ll stop before I make myself look worse…

So what I’m trying to say is that we need to learn to put diabetes first. If you think about it, it makes sense to. The way we feel determines whether our day will be productive or not. If you don’t monitor your bloodsugar levels and give your insulin on time and eat nutritious foods at consistent times, it’s going to make you not feel so good later on. And let’s face it, when you don’t feel good, you don’t feel like doing much. At least I don’t. I would rather lay in my bed and watch movies or sleep. Especially if it’s raining, too.

I’m finally getting into more of a routine here at school and learning better time management so now my goal is to get back on track with my diabetes control. The picture above is of a meal I made for myself a few days ago. I was having frequent stomach aches and thought that plainer foods such as a salad and some pita bread and hummus would be good to eat. I made my own vinaigrette as well. That meal was delicious and I felt really good afterwards. The only problem is that it took a fair amount of time to prepare. Time that I don’t always have!  I feel like I rarely have time to make food for myself so I resort to microwaveable food. But again, it’s a matter of prioritizing. I can make time if I really try. If I need to, I’ll wake up a few minutes earlier so I have enough time to give insulin and eat breakfast in the morning. I will pack lunch when I know that I’m going to paint in the studio in between classes. I will finish homework earlier if I can, so I won’t have to stay up late and be tempted to late-night snack. As you can see, the common theme here is planning ahead. Unstable control can be a hugely stressful part of your life. By planning ahead, you can make your life much less stressful. I’m up for anything that will do that!

The Coffee Replacement I’ve Been Looking For!

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I haven’t been this excited in a while.  I’ve written a few times about how I’m very sensitive to caffeine and how even a tiny bit will fuel anxiety and drive me bonkers (and just plain mean, ask Alex).  I’ve been trying to find something that replaces the huge hole that coffee has left in my heart and belly.  I tried hot chocolate but the packets I find have hydrogenated oils and too much sugar, the homemade version takes me too long (I’m kind of lazy), and tea is so…watery and…clear.

At the whole foods store the other day I picked up some organic fair trade coffee for Alex and something called “Teeccino” caught my eye.  I noticed it was an all natural “herbal coffee”, with no caffeine, 75% organic, and it came in delicious flavors like vanilla nut and almond.  I took home the almond amaretto flavor and brewed it just like coffee this morning.  I put a tiny bit of cream in it and took a sip.  It’s thick, flavorful, deep, nutty, and slightly sweet.  I really don’t have appropriate words to describe how it tastes except to say that I’ve found the coffee replacement I’ve been looking for.  It’s super delicious.  It’s something that even the kids can drink and only has about 20 calories per serving.  It’s low on acidity which is something that coffee is high in (and if you’re wondering, being too acidic is not ideal).

If you’re looking to cut down on caffeine or remove it altogether, try this stuff and gradually brew coffee mixed with this while adjusting the ratio of coffee and Teeccino in favor of Teeccino until you’re happy where you are at.  Seems like a painless way to do this.  If you feel fine and happy with your coffee, then cheers to both of us enjoying a morning brew.  I was beginning to feel left out.

Check out Teeccino.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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