I don’t think I am a typical parent! I start getting excited for this time of year. I love the fact that my kid is getting out of school. I don’t dread this time, instead I get a lighthearted feeling when summer arrives. Perhaps it stems from the monotonous routine of daily diabetes care that we all must endure. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we all forget the rules and neglect our health. I rather suggest that we take this time to ease our schedule and loosen the leash on the diabetes hold. It is time to take some steps to reframe your life with diabetes.
Loosening the reins on diabetes management can happen whatever your summer plans entail. If you are in the workplace with no summer vacation plans or if you are trying to manage a houseful of kids and summer activities, or travel, you can reframe diabetes. The idea is to reframe your mindset. Don’t toss the rules to the side but use these days to reframe how you think and plan to approach the autumn season with your healthcare. This can be done in a series of steps. Some people with diabetes might need to use all the steps or perhaps just focus on 1 to achieve a better healthcare approach in the fall. Bring on the dog days of summer!
1. Stress management
I think this is one of the most overlooked aspects of our diabetes healthcare. Try to develop a habit of better sleep. The favorite TV series have finished for the season. Try to tackle sleep an hour earlier with a cool down period for 30 minutes even before that process starts. We have all heard it before, but during these summer months, take it to heart.
• No electronics (other than the insulin pumps and CGMs of course), so turn off the tv’s and put away the laptops and phones with any social media or news feeds.
• Practice having your low Blood Glucose (BG) supplies at the ready. Have water by the bed.
• In the 30 minute cool down mode, check your insulin pump reservoir levels, battery levels, etc. I hate climbing into bed exhausted and realizing that I only have 5 units left in my pump and I need to plug in or change batteries. Take the summer months to establish this pre-sleep routine and you will be amazed at how it translates into a lifestyle change.
Most articles about summer focus on upping your level of exercise for better BG control. I agree with this theory, but not for the sake of this article. I want you to focus on stretching your bodies this summer. The wonderful part of this practice is that it usually doesn’t send your BG level crashing; it calms, strengthens, and relaxes the body.
• When you get out of bed, whether rushing off to work or sleeping in for the lazy days of summer, stretch while you are still on your mattress. Lengthen your body and point/flex as much as you can before you even lift your head. Then from a sitting position, straighten your spine, circle your neck and stretch your arms. Open and close your fists. Get that blood flowing.
• If you already have a regular exercise routine that is great, add this anyway. It is about helping your body, but it is more about creating a mind- body connection. Take the few minutes during the stretch practice to be thankful for your body, even if it is more beat up than you want to admit. You still have it and have been given this day. So stretch, feel the strength in your muscles, recognize the pain if it exists and do not curse it, but make a note of what needs extra TLC that day. Stretch those parts that are a little stiff, sore, or tight.
• Carve out time for at least three more stretching sessions in your day. Sitting at a desk, at lunch, coming home, being with your other family members (spouses and children can participate) and especially before you start the 30 min cool down at night.
3. Use the extra time to plan
Let’s face it; this is something that we can’t escape from in this life with diabetes. We can do anything we want – IF WE PLAN FOR IT! If you are taking a break from the morning school rush, use this extra time to better prepare for your day with diabetes. It doesn’t matter if it is for yourself or your kids. You have some extra time. Slow down and help yourself to get a grip on the normally overwhelming mess of life with diabetes.
• Take the time in the morning to look at your bag of supplies. Is it missing anything? Is it getting low on test strips, glucose tablets, or alcohol swabs?
• Add things to the grocery list and take the time to pack extra snacks for the office or the summer activities.
4. Ask for help
This is not a sign of weakness and we know that you can do it when you have to by yourself. This is not one of those times. Get your kids on board. Get your spouse on board. Get a friend on board. Most of us struggle with trying to make the impression that we can handle it all. Our kids, if they live with diabetes, need to realize that they too will need to learn to carve out time in their daily lives to regroup just as much as an adult. Not only is it necessary, but it is healthy. We will run out of steam rushing to keep up with the regular schedule all by ourselves. Take the summer to find the courage to ask for help. Help your family work together as a team to support the person with diabetes by all helping manage food, supplies, and by simply remembering to take the time to stop and reframe your day.
5. Change up your routine and have some fun
If you are taking a vacation, spending time with friends or family or staying put, try to incorporate some fun into your life. We have enough pressure. We have enough responsibilities, we have enough stress. Let go of the guilt of doing everything. Let the dishes go. (Well, I don’t do this with ease), but I do like to throw in an extra nap here and there. I am tired of hearing the same old stuff on the news each day, so in the summer I turn to reading. I feel guilty, like I should be working more. I now know that it is important to expand my mind and find some enjoyment. I reframe.
6. Give up the guilt
This is my number one proactive tip and the one I struggle with the most often! If you live with diabetes you know that with almost every aspect of our life comes a tidal wave of guilt. This guilt revolves around maintaining BG levels, sticking to our meal plan, exercising, and balancing our emotional well-being with our daily life. I feel judged in every aspect of my life, whether I truly am or not. I feel judged when I am seen eating, I feel judged about my weight. I feel judged about how much I exercise. I feel judged about how and when I correct for high and low BG levels. I feel judged by how stinking expensive I am (and I am not even talking about buying shoes or clothes)! I feel judged about leaving the house without all of my supplies, when I should order my supplies, and keeping on track with scheduling all of my various doctor appointments. It is overwhelming and once I get a grip on one, it starts all over again. There is no finish line or final touch point for me to stop trying harder. Take these summer months to try to let go of the guilt. If you are the managing D-momma, let go of the guilt of what you are managing and reframe your thoughts about how you are handling things. Give your kid a break on the lectures this summer. Focus on a team approach instead of the individual approach. Guilt doesn’t motivate many of us to be better– we just keep trying with a heavier load to carry and a sense of loss and frustration. Spend this time forgiving yourself and your defective pancreas.