Sometimes putting yourself first means asking others to do so, too. For example, there may be times when you need to ask your family members to change their plans to accommodate your needs. Maybe you need a different mealtime or restaurant selection than they’ve chosen, or you need someone else to perform a certain chore that you usually do.
If you find it hard to make requests such as these, remind yourself — again — that you’re not being selfish. Don’t apologize for making healthy choices. Keep in mind that your family members will ultimately benefit too from the healthier choices you make. You might also practice formulating your requests privately so you feel more comfortable making them. Or you may want to enlist the help of a friend or therapist in learning to be assertive about your needs.
Ask for help. Asking for and accepting help is an important part of coping with chronic illness. The members of your diabetes care team are among those who can provide both practical help and emotional support as you make the effort to cope with your diabetes. Your family and friends can help, too, although they may need you to tell them how. For example, they may need to know that you’d like for them to take on certain household responsibilities, help with certain diabetes care tasks, be willing to listen sympathetically when you say you need to vent, or be willing to leave you alone at times.
If the stress of coping with chronic illness becomes more than you can deal with on your own, or you think you might be depressed, ask your physician to refer you to a mental health specialist. Meeting regularly with a mental health professional gives you the chance to express yourself without being judged, to feel understood, and to learn how to better cope with the challenges you face.
Seek out others with diabetes. Knowing that there are other people dealing with the same feelings and frustrations that you have can be a big help, and a good way to connect to other people who have diabetes is through a support group.
Support groups can provide information, allow for personal contact, and offer a way to compare experiences and share problem-solving skills with others who live day-to-day with diabetes. Most formal support groups are coordinated by a health-care professional and attended by people with diabetes and sometimes their family members or friends. They may meet in a clinic or hospital meeting room, church, YMCA, community center, or some other public setting.
Online forums and message boards are another option for seeking support. Online groups have the appeal of being available at any time and from virtually any place. Most forums and boards have a moderator, to maintain certain standards and keep out disruptive users, but they may not have the involvement of a health-care professional. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) hosts a variety of message boards on its Web site, www.diabetes.org, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) hosts a social network for adults with Type 1 diabetes called Juvenation, at http://juvenation.org.
To locate local, in-person, support groups, talk with your diabetes care team, and look for announcements in local newspapers or other outlets for community information, such as local radio stations. You can also try calling your local health department or clinics or hospitals in your area to see if they have a support group that is close to you. Also check with your local chapter of the ADA; call (800) 342-2383 for contact information. For support groups for children or parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, search on “support groups” on the Web site of the JDRF, www.jdrf.org, or call (800) 533-2873.
Use relaxation techniques. Practicing a relaxation technique regularly can help you cope with life’s stresses. Meditating, praying in a meditative fashion, or practicing the Relaxation Response can all lower your overall stress level. Other techniques and activities can have a similar effect: Aerobic exercise, yoga, tai chi, visualization or guided imagery, massage, and other mind-body techniques, when done regularly, can provide a regular dose of stress relief. (Click here to learn more about controlling your stress level.)