“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” — Pablo Picasso
Inspirational quotations online. Post-it note messages to yourself. Blood-pumping tunes. Meditation. We all have different ways to help achieve goals for diabetes self-management.
You’ve probably encountered the classic SMART mnemonic for goal-keeping: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. The aspect of Specific is especially useful for those with diabetes since they are constantly spinning plates.
Those with diabetes have a number of responsibilities to consider which can feel overwhelming; it may feel easier to focus on specifics rather than diabetes as a whole.
Instead of the general “I will manage my diabetes better”, it will be helpful to do so in a specific way, such as “I will paint still life for thirty minutes twice a week for a month in order to relax” (reducing stress helps make blood glucose levels more manageable).
Another method for setting realistic goals for diabetes self-management is keeping a to-do list. With diabetes, there are certain responsibilities to fulfill in order to maintain a healthy life. Every year, it is important that a person with diabetes has medical check-ups. Here is a list of the essential goals:
- Dentist twice a year
- Flu shot once a year
- Foot exam once a year
- Eye test once a year
- Blood pressure check at least once a year
- Lipid panel test once a year (a blood test that measures aspects such as cholesterol levels)
- Kidney test once a year
- HbA1c readings (a check-up of blood glucose levels ideally every three months)
- General check-up with a doctor 4 times a year
Pick Goals for Diabetes Self-Management
Aside from the essential medical to-do list, you may want goals that will help you grow as a person. A healthy life is not only in terms of managing your diabetes, but is also to do with being an all-round healthy person: mentally, spiritually, and physically.
The following suggestions for goals are based around managing diabetes but they can lead to a new, more satisfying way of life. So, grab life by the horns and try one of these goals for diabetes self-management:
1) Find friends with diabetes
Not everyone quite understands what diabetes is or how it affects you. But another person with diabetes will know exactly what you’re going through. It’s inspiring to see how a friend manages the matters which you might otherwise have felt alone in dealing with.
Your healthcare professional can be your first port of call – they might be able to set up a mentor for you, or give tips on how to find local friends with diabetes. Alternatively, they could refer you to a mental healthcare professional such as a counsellor or therapist, if you feel like you need to talk to someone.
Online networks are a great way to feel more connected to those with diabetes, such as the College Diabetes Network, with its blog entries written by students with diabetes. Alternatively, diabetes.co.uk runs The Global Diabetes Community including forums and its own Facebook group. Another Facebook group worth trying is Diabetes Support.
Plus, having friends with diabetes means that you can share delightful diabetes memes with one another such as this one:
2) Try new recipes, cook healthier food
A healthy diet is beneficial for anyone, regardless of whether it’s type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Take the opportunity to eat healthier by getting creative with your recipes. Find ingredients that make you passionate about what fuels your body.
Diabetes.org.uk has a large list of suggestions for recipes, while we have some of our own recipes too. Of course, you can also give Hedia’s food database a try – it contains over 1500 food items and will assist you in assessing carbs. Get a taste of the app from Google Play or the App Store!
It’s important for everyone. Every person needs 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 days a week. With diabetes, exercise helps with maintaining blood glucose levels and avoiding cardiovascular diseases.
Find some exercise encouragement from Christel Oerum, a fitness enthusiast who we’ve interviewed about exercise and diabetes.
Not the sporty type? Then find a physical activity that you haven’t tried before that you think you could enjoy. If not football, then hiking. If not jogging, then dance classes. Even just a stroll will affect your blood glucose!
4) Quit one of your vices
We all have our guilty pleasures. But if smoking is one of those, then it’s vital to quit to improve diabetes control and general health. Smoking puts strain on the blood vessels (along with numerous additional hazardous effects on the body), a strain that those with diabetes don’t need.
Or, maybe your vice is an infatuation with fast-food, or an over-consumption of coffee. Try quitting, and see how your body thanks you!
5) Take more control
If you happen to feel like you’re not in control, try looking at which areas you could feel more in control of. This is particularly the case for people who may have grown up with diabetes.
Instead of letting your parent or loved one tell you when to check your blood glucose, have enough confidence in yourself to know that you can do it! You can try Hedia’s diabetes tracker to help get control of the different areas of diabetes self-management.
Of course, everybody needs help, especially when it comes from those who care for your well-being. But it may feel empowering to take control of one small aspect that you didn’t feel confident in before. Equally, if you feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask a loved one for more help. The key is finding a balance.
6) Make diabetes management a habit
Establishing a habit will mean diabetes management feeling like less of a chore and more like second nature. Making habits is hard, but after about a month of doing something – even just a small something – an action will start to stick!
For those with insulin-dependent diabetes, splitting your bolus is a habit that can give more control over blood glucose. This method can be used if eating carbs or fatty food with a low glycemic index. It involves taking the first dose of insulin at the meal, and then another 2-4 hours later. Ask your healthcare professional for more advice.
Testing blood glucose regularly is also an important habit. If you want to help your body, you can only be effective if you know what your body is doing.
And if you want to know what your body has been responding to, get into the habit of making a log of your meals. As you probably know, there are numerous helpers out there to make recording meals smooth and easy. You can read more about our diabetes logbook here.
7) Be kinder to yourself
Pancreas, blood glucose meter, ketones, carbs, insulin… There’s no two ways about it: diabetes means there is a great deal to think of.
Even when you feel like you have everything under control, you can often end up being hard on yourself for not doing more. Instead, consider what you have accomplished each day and be proud of it. Focus on your strengths.
Being kind to yourself is just as important as any other kind of self-care. In fact, taking a moment to reflect is helping yourself not only from a mental point of view, but from a physical one as well. Stress increases blood glucose – so, relax and Treat Yo Self. You’re doing great, and Leonardo DiCaprio agrees.
8) Do whatever you want
You’re not defined by your diabetes. So, don’t feel limited to goals for diabetes self-management. Go hang gliding. Learn French. Take up gardening. Join a Leonardo DiCaprio fan club.
The Route to Success
You don’t have to do everything on this list. Be SMART about your goals for diabetes self-management – be specific. Any specific healthy goal will benefit your diabetes in different ways.
Want to try 15 minutes of rollerblading – once in the morning and once in the evening – five days a week for two weeks? Then do it! That will make you fit, make blood glucose levels easier to control, make you more conscious of healthy eating (in order to have the right fuel for your exercise), allow some relaxing you-time, and establish a habit, all while enjoying yourself.
Choose your goal and own your diabetes!
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