Why Self-Care is an Important Component of Diabetes Management

I got a massage last night: my first in roughly two and a half years (thanks, global pandemic).

As I drifted away into a state of deep relaxation, one thought occurred to me about how something “special” and “extra” like a massage is actually one of the extremely rare times in which I stop thinking about my diabetes for awhile. Do I need a massage like I need insulin? No, definitely not. But do I need an opportunity to unwind every so often? Does my body and mind benefit from massage therapy? Yes, and heck yes.

This is why I think self-care is a critical aspect of diabetes management, and unfortunately, one that I do not make enough time for – and I know there are plenty of other folks out there who can relate.

A massage or a facial at the spa is definitely my favorite way to practice self-care.

In recognizing this, I’m going to start making time for little self-care activities for myself throughout the week. Sure, I can’t afford to get a massage all the time (though I certainly wish I could), but I can absolutely provide myself with a spa-like atmosphere right at home with some calming music, essential oils, and a couple of store-bought facials. And I can take 2 minutes out of my day to use the nifty meditation feature on my Fitbit, which guides me through a breathing practice designed to settle the body and mind. Last but not least, I can continue to do better to make sleep priority number one. I’ve had far too many nights this summer in which I got fewer than 6 hours of sleep, and that just isn’t sustainable for me or my diabetes.

I’m hoping that my Omnipod 5 will be conducive to me taking some more time for self-care, you know, with it taking some of the heavy lifting out of the way by being an automated system. I figure that if my Dexcom can integrate so nicely with the system, then maybe personal relaxation time can also work its way in there – so every component of my diabetes care toolkit can work in harmony, allowing me to enjoy some peace, too.

How Keeping Constantly Busy Helps (and Hurts) My Diabetes

I don’t fare well when I have too much idle time.

I’m the type of person who needs to stay as busy as possible: I like being productive and having the satisfaction of saying that I’ve accomplished something each day. That doesn’t always mean that I’m successful, but I do my damnedest to make sure that I check off at least one item from my to-do list on a daily basis.

And I don’t like saying “no” to others, so whenever someone asks for my help, I’m on it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, close friend, or an acquaintance – I do what I can when I’m called on for help, and as you might be able to imagine, this is both good and bad for me.

How Keeping Constantly Busy Helps (and Hurts) My Diabetes
Who DOESN’T love the satisfying feeling of checking items off from a to-do list?!

In terms of diabetes management, it’s great because when I am particularly busy, this means that I’m probably not sitting around a whole lot – the constant go-go-go makes my blood sugars pretty happy. Plus, having a packed schedule keeps my mind occupied when I need to think about something – anything, really – other than my diabetes. If I’m having a tough diabetes day, I don’t have to dwell on it; instead, I have tasks X, Y, and Z to do. If I’m waiting for a stubborn high blood sugar to come back down, then I can start working on a project rather than stare at my CGM for the next hour. 

So in this way, keeping myself busy is a fabulous way to take my attention away from diabetes when I desperately need the mental break from it…but it’s also harmful at times, because let’s face it, there are many times in life where I really do need to concentrate on my diabetes care and management.

Whether it’s a big or small task that I’m working on, I put 110% of myself into it, which means that I really don’t have extra thinking room for my diabetes. Some examples of times that I’ve been far too lost in what I was doing to give diabetes a second thought are when I’ve been in the middle of a knitting project and my Dexcom is went off but I actively ignored it in order to keep my focus on whatever row I was working on (and my blood sugar stayed higher for longer than it should have), or when I should’ve taken a break from writing social media posts for my friend to eat something because my blood sugar needed it, but I just wanted to finish the job first.

Now that I’ve figured out how my diabetes is helped and hurt by my jam-packed days, will I continue to stay constantly busy? The answer is definitely. But I will also try to remember the importance of balance in order to keep my diabetes at the forefront of my mind in a healthy manner.