Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Taking a Zen Approach to Diabetes

by Glenn M. Callaghan, PhD

Another practice you can try is to focus on doing one task at a time. We are incredible multitaskers in this culture, and that has some major advantages for getting things done. However, it can also pull a person in multiple directions at the same time. If, when it is possible, you focus on one task at a time, that can make things feel a bit calmer, a bit more manageable. Thinking of all of the things you have to do to manage diabetes can get overwhelming. It may even make you want to just give up. The goal here is to try to slow yourself down and focus on what you need to do right now.

Of all of the millions of things we try to get done, it may be useful to simply take on one of those tasks at a time, and then move to the next one. This may even help us decide which things are most important and which we may not need to do, even though they seem tremendously important at the time.

Like all of the strategies suggested here, these are going to be easier said than done. It is one thing to say “I should cut back on how much time I spend at work,” and another thing to actually do that. There are many factors that influence our choices such as rewards and punishments that keep us running at a breakneck pace in this culture. Still, there are some things that, when we stop and examine them, we can really let go. This can help us to feel calmer and allow us to engage in life in a much more purposeful way.

This idea of simplifying and sticking to our values, what we honestly care about, goes for managing diabetes as well. If you care about your health, and you truly want to live a full and healthy life, then you need to make time to do the things that allow that to happen. This includes committing to monitoring blood glucose, taking medicines, eating healthier foods, being as physically active as your body allows, and continuing to talk to your health-care provider.

I will be the first to admit that there are many, many other things that feel more important in the moment than going to a doctor or making healthy food choices. My mind can give me so many good reasons not to do those things or others that I honestly need to do: “I am too busy,” or “I will do that tomorrow, when I have more time.” The problem is that we are often choosing something that we really don’t need to do simply to avoid those activities that will help us live a longer, healthier life. We may create or continue in our busy lives to avoid those choices. More plainly said, we remain in chaos to avoid the choices we have in the present moment.

This is what we mean by “Stop.”

Slowing ourselves down
Now that we have “stopped,” what then? The answer is to be here, right now, and to try to go a little bit slower.

Being in the present moment is a phenomenally basic concept. “Be here now” is an expression many of us hear but rarely engage. The present moment in fact is terribly fleeting. Let me give you an example. Are you ready? OK, this is the present moment. Now that moment is gone. Good news, though, here is another one coming up. Oh, there it went. Now, that is just a playful way of saying that the moment is always here. The challenge we have is that our minds, our self-chatter that is always going on “upstairs” in our head, can sometimes pull us out of the present and send us flying into a past or future that actually does not exist in the way that this moment, where we are right now, actually does. But it really feels like the past and future we create do exist. If we let our minds wander, we can end up so far into a past event, something that happened hours, days, even years ago, that it feels like we are actually there. We can lose entire days to this process. The same can be said of the future. We are often so engaged in thinking about how things will be that we have lost track of what is.

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