If you’ve ever woken up and had the urge to throw your meter out the window and toss your medications down the drain, what stopped you?
The thought of your spouse or children? An inspirational phrase taped to the fridge?
Riding the glucose roller coaster every single day takes a lot of work. And after 10, 20, even 50 years of living with diabetes, it’s easy to lose steam and want to give up at times. And yet, you are the only person who can decide whether to stay on track.
Diabetes presents a particularly difficult challenge because the payoffs from your efforts today are down the road of life. But tapping into your inner motivators – those rooted in your beliefs – may help you find the inspiration you need to stay on a healthy track.
Here are some strategies for summoning up that can-do attitude:
1. Find a community: “Find people who truly get the struggles diabetes brings,” suggested Victoria C., who has had diabetes for 18 years and was among those interviewed who asked her last name not be used for privacy reasons. “Diabetes is scary, but it’s less scary when you know you’re not the only one with fears about the future.” Consider joining a support group. Learning what works for others can inspire you to make healthy changes in your own life.
2. Get confident: “Over the years, I’ve assembled the tools, knowledge and support team I need,” said Bill W., who’s had diabetes for 24 years. “Knowing I’m up to the daily challenge serves as the fire to motivate me each day.”
3. Remind yourself that you’re doing it: “I feel motivated when I can tighten my belt one more notch,” said Alfred S., who decided to take charge of his health last year – six years after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He lost 30 pounds. “I was staring that insulin needle in the eye and losing (the weight) moved that step further down the road. Weighing myself daily keeps me going.”
4. Focus on what’s most important: Think of your spouse – or your children. “My wish is to retire next to my husband and spend quality time together,” said Jill P., 45, who’s been dealing with her diabetes for 18 years. Bill W. gets motivated when he thinks of his young daughter, Kendall. “She inspires me in a way that I never even knew existed,” he said.
5. Take it one day at a time: Don’t let your blood sugar numbers control you. Forgive yourself when you lapse – and quickly. “I keep a day-to-day focus and get back on the wagon quickly when I fall off,” said Jill P.
6. Connect with a doctor you can relate to – and trust: Take an active role in your diabetes care. Be prepared for your visits by bringing along records, observations and questions. Almost 100 percent of managing your diabetes is in your hands, but connecting with a doctor you like and trust can make all the difference.
7. Turn negative thinking around: Knock down faulty beliefs, said Joseph P. Napora, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Diabetes Center in Baltimore. Just because a parent suffered complications doesn’t mean you will.
8. Review and revise: Motivation waxes and wanes with age, life circumstances, relationships and more, said John Zrebiec, chief of behavioral health services at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Mass. When you start to feel motivation fading, take a minute to stop and think about what’s truly important to you right now. You can do this!
Hope Warshaw is a registered dietitian.