Managing type 1 diabetes isn't always easy, but there are many things you can do — and mindsets you can adopt — that make the disease less intrusive. I've had type 1 diabetes for more than 33 years, and over the last three decades, I've learned a lot about what motivates me (and what derails my efforts).
Accordingly, I want to share a few tips and tricks with you. Not only do these strategies help me manage my T1D on a daily basis, they also help make my life "after diagnosis" what I want it to be — and they may help you, too. Experiment with some of the following 10 tips to find what works best in your everyday life!
1. Remember that no one is perfect
Whether you are starting on week one of your diabetes journey or in your fifth decade, there isn't a single soul who has perfect control of their diabetes. Blood sugar can fluctuate even after you carefully count carbs and precisely dose insulin, and diabetes hurdles can pop up at any moment. Remember that you are being asked to think like a pancreas, but you can't perfectly mimic a functioning pancreas. The best thing you can do is to try your best to manage type 1 diabetes and be gentle with yourself when you stumble.
2. Find your community
Other people living with diabetes just "get it." They understand the literal and figurative highs and lows of managing type 1 diabetes, and the effects of connecting with other PWDs (persons with diabetes) can be really powerful. Seek out support through your local JDRF chapter or diabetes conference, or visit online connection points like blogs, communities and discussion groups. Know that you are not alone, and lean on the support of the diabetes community whenever you need it.
3. Assemble the right medical team
It's crucial to have the right medical team alongside you while you're managing type 1 diabetes — and you have to feel comfortable sharing the good, the bad and the ugly with them. Sometimes the first clinician you find isn't the right fit, so make sure you shop around for an endocrinologist or certified diabetes educator who communicates in a style that works best for you and works with you to reach your goals.
4. Ask for help when you need it
Sometimes you need a hand in figuring out an insulin-to-carb ratio. Other times, you're in search of the right dress (with pockets!) for your insulin pump. From prescriptions to peer support, asking for help can be the difference between struggling and thriving. Don't hesitate to reach out whenever you need to; there's a whole community of fellow PWDs, health professionals and caregivers who will be happy to give you a hand.
5. Eat well as often as possible
Following a diet is hard, but making healthy eating a lifestyle can be easier. There's no official list of dietary dos and don'ts when it comes to diabetes; you need to make an effort to eat as well as you can, as often as you can. A cupcake here and there is not going to make or break your T1D management, but a healthy mindset around food and dedication to eating plenty of vegetables and lean proteins can set (and keep) you on a path toward good health.
6. Know that others are learning too
Sometimes people just don't understand what life with type 1 diabetes is really like, and you can't flatten the learning curve for everyone. Try not to take every diabetes joke personally. Instead, educate and advocate when you feel it's appropriate.
7. Try to keep moving
Regular exercise is an amazing tool in your diabetes toolbox — and staying fit doesn't have to feel like a chore. Try to find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine without it feeling cumbersome. Take the dog for a nice, long walk. Hike with friends. Hit the treadmill while binge-watching your favorite shows. Your general mindset (and your blood sugar levels) will thank you for it.
8. Celebrate the small things
Did you perfect the pizza bolus? Did your time-in-range increase by the percentage you were looking for? Did you befriend another PWD in the wild? Did a person answer right away when you called the insurance company? Celebrate the small victories with diabetes — the more you look for them, the more you're likely to find them.
9. Know your options
There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to managing type 1 diabetes, so be sure to ask your medical team for recommendations or look around in the diabetes community for ideas. There are several kinds of insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems, blood glucose meters, adjunctive therapies, fashionable diabetes-specific bags, ways to bling out your diabetes devices ... the list of treatment, tech and lifestyle options is long!
10. Compare yourself only to you
Social media and advertisements might make you feel like your blood sugars aren't "good" enough or your diabetes is not "well-controlled" enough. Don't compare yourself or your diabetes goals to anyone other than you. Set individualized goals and go for them without worrying about others. Life with diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint, so work steadily toward your health and your goals.
Managing type 1 diabetes takes some discipline and dedication, but it doesn't have to completely take over your life. The trick is to find balance!
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