Due to economic strain, virtual school, social isolation resulting from COVID-19 precautions, a tense election cycle, and the upcoming holiday season, people in general are struggling to maintain any kind of routine. For those with diabetes, lack of consistency represents a serious challenge to their health.
In recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month and to help the millions of Americans living with the condition, we want to give you a few strategies for managing diabetes in 2020. They focus on food, exercise, medication and mental health.
Managing blood sugar levels through food choices is the number one goal for people diagnosed with diabetes. In 2020, that task became much harder as people baked their way through spring quarantine, fixed more comfort food and resorted to stress eating. If you picked up or reverted to some bad habits, how can you get back on track?
- Make a plan for holiday gatherings. Your celebrations may look different this year, but they will most likely include food. People with diabetes can bring healthy choices so they know something low in carbohydrates is available. Examples include a salad, vegetable tray, nuts, cheese and cold cut platter, yogurt-based dips, cheese balls and hummus.
- Budget room for a favorite high-carb treat.
- Grocery shop with purpose. If eating is more of a mental battle, work towards a winning solution. Not buying a tempting food will keep it out of your home and off your mind.
- Practice mindfulness when eating and truly savor the food.
- Use your resources. If money is tight, consider using local food banks. Coupons, sales, and buying generic products can also help you reduce your grocery bill.
We all know exercise is good for you. Keeping active reduces stress and anxiety, encourages weight loss, and generally improves health. The American Diabetes Association reports that exercise lowers blood glucose levels and boosts your body's sensitivity to insulin. When you are active on a regular basis, it can also lower your A1C. Here are a few tips get or keep you moving through 2020.
- Find an indoor option for exercise. When the weather is colder and we have less daylight, opportunities for outdoor activities are sparse. Combat this challenge by using a gym or fitness center. You might join a program like Silver Sneakers to keep you motivated and accountable. You can also locate churches and recreation centers in your town who allow people to come in and walk the track.
- Go virtual. Check YouTube or your favorite fitness app for free routines. Yoga, CrossFit, aerobics, and even walking can be done in the safety of your home. No internet? Go to the library for DVDs.
- Check your benefits package. Many employers provide wellness programs, exercise classes, and workout centers for staff. Participating in these programs may even earn you discounts on health insurance.
The majority of individuals with diabetes take prescription medications. When you skip or stop taking your diabetes medicine, blood sugar levels creep up and put you at greater risk for health complications. As we close out the year, people experiencing prolonged unemployment or increased living expenses may find themselves unable to afford that medication. Here are some resources to consider if you need help paying for medicine.
- Talk to your doctor and see if there are less expensive alternatives. They may be able to prescribe a generic brand instead of a name brand medication.
- Contact your insurance company to see if there are alternative or “preferred” medicines that are less expensive on your plan.
- Check with your pharmacy. They may know of savings or discount cards on various medicines. Many drug companies offer patient assistance programs and are pledging price caps for insulin. Deaconess also offers the Medication Assistance Program or MAP. Contact them at 812-450-2319.
Mental and emotional health are just as important to managing diabetes as good food and exercise. If you find yourself feeling fatigued, unmotivated or not interested in things that usually bring you joy, depression, seasonal affective disorder, or a similar mental health condition may be the cause. You want to address these feelings sooner than later because poor mental health can lead to poor physical health. For people with diabetes that looks like sky-rocketing blood sugar levels because you are making high-carb, low nutrient food choices, starting or increasing the amount of alcohol consumption, resuming smoking, or neglecting to take your medication. Here are a few options for improving mental and emotional health.
- Talk to someone you trust. That may be a family member, pastor, doctor, or therapist. The goal is to share what you are experiencing.
- Make and keep a schedule. The list doesn’t have to be long or complicated but getting up and eating at the same time everyday can help you feel more motivated.
- Get some light. Go outside. Sit near a window. Use a light box. Sunshine has a positive effect on mood.
- Go virtual. Thanks to the expansion of telehealth, licensed providers can see patients over the computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can get quality care without leaving your home.
- Check your benefits. Most companies offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that allows free counseling sessions.
- If you (or someone you know) become a danger to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or dial 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.
Remember, diabetes is manageable. You have control.
For additional help, contact the Deaconess Diabetes Center to meet with one of the diabetes clinicians and learn how to help balance food, exercise, medicines, and stress. You can contact the office at 812-426-9894.