Managing diabetes can sometimes feel like walking a thin line between stable blood sugar and a stable social life. It’s not always easy to know what to do.
Of course, there are plenty who may feel that diabetes poses no problem for their social life. But there may also be others who feel that with diabetes, social events might just be easier to avoid.
We believe that diabetes shouldn’t have to get in the way of anything in life. That’s why we’ve put together some tips for how to feel in control of both your diabetes and your social life.
NOTE: This blog post includes suggestions which involve meeting with friends. However, during these times of social distancing, do follow your government’s advice on how many people may meet together. Take some of these suggestions as activities for after the pandemic is over. (There is, however, a “pandemic special” tip in this blog.)
An example of a diabetes social situation:
Your friend has spent several hours making a beautifully presented raspberry and pomegranate tart, especially for you. But you’ve recently had high blood sugar, and don’t feel like having to think about blood sugar again.
What do you do? Do you eat some of the tart and just deal with another high – as much as you don’t want to?
Or do you not eat it, and risk offending your friend? Or do you cancel the dinner altogether, so that you don’t have to make the decision?
You can see that the right move isn’t always clear. Let’s explore this more, so that you don’t end up like Ross and his British snack food.
Why is Finding a Balance Sometimes hard?
Social life often seems to revolve around two potentially tricky aspects: food or alcohol (or both). You may feel like you have good control over your own food or drink, but when you’re with friends, it might seem like both the timing and the amount of carbs is out of your hands.
Without preparing the food or drink yourself, it can be difficult to know what carbs you’re having, and you may feel the social pressure to join in.
This can be with the case of being polite and eating your friend’s homemade food, or feeling the pressure to join in at a restaurant to eat greasy food that will send your blood sugar all over the place.
Along with this, the timing might not be ideal for your blood sugar, which will potentially affect you for several hours after you’ve left your friends. This can make spontaneity with your friends feel more difficult – even if they’re not having food or drinks.
When others don’t understand, it can also be frustrating needing to deal with misconceptions or myths about type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. This includes people asking whether you’re “allowed” to eat something, or people being judgmental about injecting insulin in public.
Sometimes, people may feel anxious. Hypo anxiety, for instance, means fearing situations in which you might get low blood sugar – a fear that might make a person want to avoid social situations.
Diabetes, however, doesn’t need to be a limitation – it just means approaching social situations in a different way. If you feel like you’ve ever experienced some of the above examples, then see our solutions that might help you in future!
What can you do about Diabetes, Social life, and Friends?
1) Be open with your friends
Wouldn’t it be great if your friends actually understand what life with diabetes means? Much of the potential problems with social life could be resolved if your friends knew more about your situation.
So, talk to them about it.
You don’t have anything to lose by being open about your diabetes. It might also help your friends not worry about your condition.
It can certainly be difficult to take those steps to opening up about a personal condition – if you want some tips on this, read our blog post Talking about Diabetes.
Yes, it can be annoying to have to explain your condition to others, especially when they can quite easily read about diabetes online. Try to send them in the right direction – send them this blog post! Or maybe the other topics will be useful, such as our beginner’s guide to how to manage type 1 diabetes!
Ultimately, the more your friends know about diabetes, the fewer difficulties you should have.
2) Ask your friends to go out earlier
It might feel uncomfortable being the person who has to change the group plans. In most cases, though, you’ll probably find that your friends will be completely willing and understanding – the thought about doing things differently just hadn’t occurred to them.
Without diabetes, others might not think in the same way about a situation. So, help your friends help you by suggesting changes.
A useful change could be going out earlier. That way, you don’t need to worry about blood sugar affecting you during the night – you can then hopefully stabilise blood sugar a few hours before bed.
3) Find friends with diabetes
Even if your other friends do make the effort to understand your condition, it can still be a relief to hang out with others who truly understand what it’s like.
Try speaking with your diabetes healthcare team to see whether they know of any local networks for people with diabetes to connect.
4) Be helped in being spontaneous
If your friends want to be spontaneous, then let them pick up the slack by helping you get ready for a sudden road trip or weekend away.
If you feel like you don’t have the time, tell your friends to buy you snacks in case you go low.
If there’s a friend who you see particularly often, ask if you can keep a back-up diabetes kit at their house – in case you stay with them longer than expected, or so that they can bring the kit with them on a spontaneous trip with you.
5) Research restaurants
Researching restaurants might not sound like the most fun part of going out to eat. But there are plenty of ways it can benefit you!
First, it means that you can find a restaurant with food that is better suited to your needs – no greasy takeaway, but some cleaner food that you know you actually want to eat!
It can also be exciting to find different restaurants that you hadn’t considered before – and impress your friends with your knowledge of the gastronomic greatness in your area. If you’re going to be telling your friends to eat elsewhere with you, it helps knowing what the alternatives are.
As DiabetesStrong points out, many restaurants (especially chains) have nutritional information (including carb numbers) about their meals on their websites. If you wanted to feel extra-prepared, you could already decide what you want before getting to the restaurant.
Of course, you should still feel free to go to any other restaurant without stalking them first. To help with this, try to have an idea of how many carbs are usually in certain meals, so that you can still have a rough idea of how much insulin you might need.
6) Host your own dinner
Instead of concentrating on how, with diabetes, social life can be out of your hands, take back control: be the hostess with the mostess, or the host with the most.
When hosting a dinner, only you can decide what you will eat. In addition, you will have a good idea of how many carbs in your food. Our blog post How do you Count Carbs in Homemade food? will show you how!
Cooking can be a fun social activity in itself if you invite your friends to help you make dinner. Plus, they’ll be able to see first-hand how much effort goes into counting carbs!
7) Don’t let alcohol get in the way
It is possible to drink alcohol with diabetes – so, don’t feel like you can’t have a drink with your friends. As our blog post Diabetes and Alcohol explains, you just need to be cautious about how and what you drink.
At the same time, alcohol can be a hassle, and it’s understandable if you don’t want to have booze.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun! It can actually be quite entertaining seeing your friends getting drunk while you’re sober enough to appreciate the absurdity of their drunken actions.
And don’t forget that there are plenty of others who also don’t drink alcohol – on other medical, personal, or religious grounds. You won’t be the only one on a night out not drinking.
8) Suggest alternative activities
There are plenty of activities you can do with your friends that don’t involve alcohol or food. Suggest some activities to your friends – they will probably be glad of the opportunity to do something different!
How about some of these activities, for example?
- Play team sports. (Exercise does affect blood sugar, and so, there will be questions, such as “does exercise lower blood sugar?” – but exercise is so beneficial that it’s worth it!)
- Go paintballing. The classic “adult” activity.
- Discover your local area with bike rides.
- Go for a massage together – especially since relaxing will help alleviate the high blood sugar that comes with stress and diabetes.
- Have a movie night – at home or at the cinema, both will do!
- Go to a museum. They don’t have to be your standard museums – your local city will almost definitely have at least one extremely peculiarly niche museum. After all, Copenhagen has a “Nasothek”: a collection of noses.
- Create a workout routine together – or get your legwarmers and watch Jane Fonda tapes.
- Play games in the garden. This activity is not just limited to children. In fact, in Scandinavia, we often play kongespil: it involves avoiding hitting a wooden king with another piece of wood, and then trying to hit the king at the end anyway. (We know, it’s odd, but that’s what makes it fun too!)
- Play games indoors. It’s not just about Scrabble. There is such a dizzying array of board games available that you’re sure to find something to everybody’s tastes.
- See what’s on at your local theatre. When was the last time you went to the opera? Exactly.
- Pandemic special: make your own quiz and be a quiz master for your friends via online chat.
9) Don’t feel ashamed
Ok, so you can’t simply stop feeling a particular way. But it’s important to bear in mind that with diabetes, social life and negative feelings are not unusual.
It makes sense to avoid activities that you are fearful of. And it’s ok to say no to events. You don’t need to make yourself feel any worse by feeling ashamed of emotions that are perfectly natural.
If you want some general tips on how to approach diabetes distress, have a look at Stress and Diabetes.
If you do find that you continuously have negative feelings about social life, do reach out to your healthcare team to see how they can help.
10) Make the most of not going out
You can do what you want, and it’s absolutely fine not to meet with friends. In such situations, make the most of being by yourself.
Don’t forget that you’re in control. Your diabetes doesn’t decide whether you meet up for a social event; you do.
As Paul on healthtalk.org explains, he goes out for drinks far less than before he was diagnosed with diabetes. He is clear that he made that decision himself – for the benefit of his health.
So, enjoy what kind of healthy life you can benefit from by not always going out for drinks or eating overly carby foods. Find a new hobby that can take up your time by yourself! Cook exciting recipes! Find good television shows! (We know at least one good television show that also useful for gifs.)
At the same time, it’s important to find a balance. Paul says that it’s important that he goes out to meet friends at least once a week. He has to make a rule to do so. Otherwise, he feels that he may get into a rut.
Enjoy your alone time while ensuring you get in some face time with others too.
A Social life Filled with Possibilities
A social life is what you make it – there are no rules about what counts as a good social life. Remember that a social life is part of a healthy, balanced life. That means having a social life that works for you.
Try to be honest with your friends about your situation and your feelings, try to find activities that you’re interested in doing, and enjoy the company of your friends.
You deserve a good social life, and diabetes won’t get in the way of that!