Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Taking a Zen Approach to Diabetes

by Glenn M. Callaghan, PhD

You tell yourself, “I don’t want this diabetes.” That makes perfect sense. Of course you don’t. Now, as you have that thought, try to be aware of it and of all the feelings that come with it. Breathe in. Breathe out. Notice that thought and your feelings. Now, in this moment, can you let them be there and still be present to what you want your life to be about? Can you, in this moment, with all of this awareness, take action in your life that will serve you and help ease your pain? Can you be aware of how hard it is to have diabetes and with that be aware of what you need to do for yourself, your loved ones, your health?

Stop. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be aware. Now, do. Take action. If you decide you don’t want to check your blood glucose in this moment, then be fully aware that it is you deciding to do this. If, instead, you decide to check your blood glucose, make a healthy food choice, exercise, or something similar, be aware that that is also you making that choice. As you are fully present (or as much as you can be in that moment) you become central to your own life. You are taking committed action. You are living what some call an intentional life. You can choose things that are less helpful, even self-destructive. You can choose what will assist in having better health. In either case, it is you taking action, being mindful of your experiences, your surroundings. It is you that is doing.

Practice, practice, practice
As I mentioned earlier, this is all easier said than done. Sometimes this may feel helpful in your life; sometimes it may not. One way to understand the central tenets of Zen practice are as a method to ease human suffering. Our suffering comes and goes. It is not permanent, and neither is our skill at using strategies like mindfulness and meditation. This all takes practice.

The expression “practice makes perfect” may not be completely accurate in this context, at least not to me. However, continuing to practice (and practice, and practice!) can be very helpful. As life gets chaotic, you are invited to consider simplifying your life and focusing on one task at a time. To help calm your mind, you may try noticing your breathing and your thoughts and feelings. You may try to become present to the experiences you are having in this moment. And you may find these help you take action in a way that allows you to better manage your diabetes and live a full, healthy, intentional life.

I would invite you to do this: Stop. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be aware. Do.

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