How do you end the antagonism? How do you befriend your meter? The most important job will be to challenge your normal way of interpreting what your meter says and to realize that your meter does not have to be the enemy. Remember that there are no “bad” or “good” blood glucose readings, and that you cannot fail. In all cases, the reading is just a number. This can be tough to keep in mind, especially if you’ve also had years of comments from friends, family members, and perhaps even doctors that one particular reading is “terrific” and another is “terrible.”
People who are successful with monitoring view their readings as simple pieces of information and opportunities for taking action. They may be frustrated by a high blood glucose level at first, but frustration quickly turns to action. Think of the gas gauge in your car. When it nears empty, do you avoid looking at it? Do you yell at yourself for being so stupid as to allow it to get this low? Probably not. You don’t tend to think of the amount of gas in your tank as “good” or “bad”; the gauge is just providing information that allows you to make the best possible decision. And this is exactly the mind-set to use with your blood glucose meter. But how?
First, stop referring to the process as blood glucose “testing.” Instead, think of it as “monitoring” or “checking.” Once you stop viewing this as a test, you will be less likely to see your readings as grades. Also, stop referring to readings as “good” or “bad.” Instead, think “high” or “low.” This is more accurate and less judgmental.
Second, remind yourself how silly it is to let a blood glucose reading determine your self-esteem, to think that your meter is trying to control your life, or to think that it is tormenting you about the fact that you have diabetes. Challenge these automatic thoughts when they occur, and remind yourself that these readings are just numbers. One way to help this change process is to get silly and give your meter a name and, perhaps, a personality. Then imagine what this character might say to you: “My meter Fred told me that my blood glucose was 275 mg/dl this morning, and he went on to lecture me about what a numskull I am.” But don’t let him get away with talking to you like that; argue back!
Third, respond to your blood glucose readings by thinking about what action you want to take. For example, if the number is high, rather than thinking, “How did I mess up this time?” ask, “What can I do about this right now?” (If the answer is “I don’t know,” think about making an appointment with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn how to respond to high and low blood glucose levels.) By focusing on problem-solving, you can empower yourself and free yourself from self-blame.
Be reasonable about blood glucose expectations. You may have unrealistic expectations for what you can accomplish. To avoid becoming discouraged by a high or low reading, consider what a fair and acceptable range of blood glucose values would be for you. At what numbers would you consider your blood glucose to be too high or too low? In consultation with your health-care provider, decide how often you should be within that range to be successful.
For example, you and your doctor may decide that your goal for the next three months is to keep your blood glucose values under 150 mg/dl at least two-thirds of the time. Of course, it would be great if you could keep all your readings under 150 mg/dl. But if you have had no readings under 150 for the past three months, trying for all under 150 may be too ambitious right now. So while you may decide to tighten up your goals later, it is important that the target you choose now fit your current circumstances; it must be reasonable for you.