Well, here it comes: The hardest time of year for people with long-term health conditions like diabetes.
How bad can the holidays be? Well, when I worked in emergency rooms, we knew we’d see more strokes, more heart attacks, more accidents, and just about everything except sunburn during the holiday season. The patient list usually included a fair number of people with hyper- or hypoglycemia.
It’s easy to see why. During the holidays, there’s always lots of food, lots of alcohol, and lots of people. Sometimes you’re traveling; sometimes you have guests coming to you. It’s hard to keep on a self-management routine when your situation keeps changing, when it might be harder to find time to exercise and harder to stay on your meal plan.
There may also be emotional issues with family members that can stress you and throw you off. Even people you love can make you a little crazy if they’re fighting with each other, bringing up old issues, or pushing your buttons. Some may not accept your diabetes and go out of their way to make it difficult for you, like when Aunt Helen says, “I made this chocolate cheesecake, just the kind you like,” and implies that she’ll be very hurt if you don’t take a big piece.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just one night. But it’s more like six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. (Nine weeks if you start with Halloween like my family does.) The cookies, candies, and cakes just keep coming. So do the visitors and special events.
For people who don’t have family members nearby, or are not on good terms with them, loneliness can turn the holidays into a sad time. So can lack of sunlight—these are the shortest days of the year. Darkness is depressing, and depression interferes with self-management.
Not All Bad
Holidays can also be times of healing. Families and friends coming together can share love and resolve old hurts. We can gain good feelings and memories that can motivate us for months or years to come. We don’t want to avoid the holidays, but we do want to experience them in the healthiest ways we can.
Maybe we can help each other get through the holidays and get the most out of them. What have been your holiday self-management experiences? What has caused you the most problems? What have been the greatest benefits and joys? What solutions and strategies have you come up with? Share them with us here, and maybe we’ll all have a great six weeks!