Experience is also a wonderful teacher. The more you carry out the various parts of your diabetes care regimen, the better you will get to know your body and how to take care of it. You will also learn from experience how best to fit your diabetes care tasks into your life and when to seek help from others.
Planning is key. Having a daily routine — with fairly regular mealtimes, activities, and bedtime — can make diabetes management easier; you can pretty much do the same thing every day. When you break from your usual routine, however, keeping your diabetes in control will require more planning. Activities such as vigorous exercise, eating out, staying out later than usual, drinking alcohol, etc., are likely to disrupt your blood glucose control unless you make some changes in your diabetes care regimen.
Your health-care providers and your experiences will help you determine what adjustments in your diabetes plan may be necessary for different activities. Keeping written notes on how you altered your routine — and how well those alterations worked — can make planning for the next time easier. Over time, you may develop specific plans for activities you enjoy occasionally or frequently, such as taking a weekly dance class or spending a day hiking.
Certain events or circumstances require special planning. Sick days and traveling are two that affect just about everyone at some time. Life transitions such as going away to college or planning a pregnancy are also common. Once again, acquiring knowledge and having a plan are key for coping successfully with such stressors.
Sick days. Getting sick with a cold, the flu, or some other common ailment is inevitable. And because even a common cold can affect blood glucose levels, everyone with diabetes should have a written sick-day plan that spells out how to care for their diabetes while sick. If you do not have such a plan, let your doctor or diabetes educator know you’d like one, and arrange an appointment to develop one.
Travel. Travel tends to involve all kinds of changes that can affect diabetes control: changes in time zone, activity level, daily routine, food choices, stress level, and more. While it may be impossible to predict exactly how a trip will affect your diabetes, knowing that it can makes it that much more important to plan ahead and make sure you have extra diabetes supplies with you when you travel. Monitoring your blood glucose frequently will allow you to see how your trip — and any adjustments you’ve made to your diabetes regimen — are affecting you. If you’re not sure how to adjust your diabetes regimen for travel across one or more time zones, ask one of your diabetes care team members for help.
Life transitions. Big changes of any kind — positive or negative — can be mentally and physically stressful, but if you know they’re coming, you can plan ahead for how to cope. Your diabetes care team can help — with specific instructions or information, or with referrals to other health-care providers, if necessary. Even if you don’t anticipate that a transition or change in your life will affect your diabetes care, it’s worth mentioning it to your diabetes care providers. They may have suggestions for making the transition go more smoothly or advice about what to look out for in your diabetes control.
Because diabetes can cause complications that develop over time, it’s important to think beyond daily care at times and to focus on prevention. Part of that is having regular medical appointments, which can be stressful in itself since appointments require planning, time, and money. Ideally, though, if you stay on top of getting the checkups and screening tests that are recommended, your medical visits will remain minor stresses instead of major ones.