Diabetes Self-Management Articles

These articles cover a wide range of subjects, from the most basic aspects of diabetes care to the nitty-gritty specifics.

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Your Diabetes Management Plan
Why It Pays to Have One

by Michael Weiss and Martha Funnell, MS, RN, CDE

Create a self-management plan and try it out
Once you have learned about diabetes and established your treatment goals, you are ready to work on creating a self-management plan or fine-tuning the one you are currently using.

As you carry out your plan, note what works and what doesn’t. You will probably need to make changes as you go along. One common barrier to carrying out a diabetes plan is trying to make too many lifestyle changes at once. If that seems to be the case for you, you may need to prioritize the items in your plan or scale back in some areas. For example, if your original plan was to exercise every day and you haven’t exercised once since then, try revising your goal to exercising twice a week or to whatever you feel confident you’ll actually do. In fact, every time you set a goal, ask yourself how confident you feel about achieving it. If your answer is “not very confident,” revise your plan until you’ve come up with an action you’re sure you will do. Breaking large goals into smaller steps often makes them more manageable.

It’s also common to try to make a particular lifestyle change because your health-care provider or family is encouraging you to do so. If your heart isn’t in it, however, you are unlikely to do it. But that doesn’t mean that all is lost. Rather than trying to ignore the parts of your plan that aren’t working, examine them more carefully to see if you can figure out why they aren’t working. Maybe you need to focus on another area of your diabetes right now or talk with your health-care team about an alternative approach.

Make sure your concerns get addressed at your doctor appointments by making a list of questions or topics you’d like to discuss before each appointment. This includes dealing with the emotional side of diabetes as well as the physical side. If something has happened in your life that has affected how you care for your diabetes, let your health-care provider know. Be sure to tell your doctor at the start of the visit that you have some things to discuss. Remember that your health-care providers are there to help you create a plan that will work for you, not to judge you on your ability to carry out a particular plan.

Seek out support
Once you have diabetes, you have it for life, which means that you need to care for it every single day. There may be times when you feel burned out by the demands diabetes puts on you. When this happens, it’s good to have people to turn to for support. For many people, family members and close friends are the people they turn to first. The people close to you may be able to offer emotional support, if that’s what you need most, or practical help with carrying out diabetes tasks. It makes it easier for both you and them if you are able to tell them exactly what you would like in the way of help. Maybe you need someone to listen without judging or offering advice, or maybe you want a friend or family member to perform a specific activity, such as accompanying you to a doctor appointment. The clearer you can be about your needs, the more likely you are to have them met.

Your health-care providers can also be a source of support. They, too, may be available to just listen, or they may be able to refer you to resources you weren’t aware of. It can also be helpful to talk to other people who are living with diabetes, either in a support group or online, through a message board or chat room devoted to diabetes.

While you never want to forget your ultimate goals, whatever they may be, it often feels less overwhelming to focus on the choices and steps you will make today. Some days will be better than others, and you will probably feel disappointed and discouraged from time to time. Celebrate your successes and learn from the things that do not work as well. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, too, every now and then. You’ve taken on a responsibility that you never wanted and that most people don’t have to deal with. Give yourself credit for learning as much as you have about diabetes and for all of the efforts you make every day to stay in good health.

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