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February 22, 2024

8 Self-Care Strategies for a Thriving Life with Type 1 Diabetes.

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Living with type 1 diabetes can often feel like juggling flaming bowling pins on a tightrope—challenging and demanding—but can ultimately be fulfilling if we master the art of self-care.

While medication and monitoring are crucial, true management rests on the powerful foundation of self-care. But what does self-care even mean in the face of daily injections, constant glucose checks, and the ever-present shadow of potential complications?

Fear not, fellow young warriors, because this blog dives into specific self-care strategies that empower you not just to manage, but thrive with type 1 diabetes.

First, let’s debunk the myth: self-care isn’t a one-size-fits-all bubble bath with cucumber slices.

It’s a personalized toolkit filled with strategies that address your physical, mental, and emotional needs. What works for one person might not resonate with another. The key is to experiment and discover what helps you feel balanced, resilient, and in control.

So, let’s unpack our self-care toolkit:

1. Move Your Body, Boost Your Mood

Exercise isn’t just about physical fitness. It’s about boosting mood, increasing insulin sensitivity, and reducing stress—all crucial elements for diabetes management. Find activities you enjoy, whether it’s dancing in your living room, joining a sports team, or exploring nature on a hike. Join a campus recreation league, find a dance class you love, or take a walk in the neighbourhood.

Remember, consistency is key, even if it’s just a 30-minute walk most days.

2. Sleep, Your Superpower

We all know sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on our overall health, and for people with type 1 diabetes, it can throw blood sugar levels into a frenzy. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a regular sleep schedule (even on the weekends), create a relaxing bedtime routine, wind down with calming music or reading, and ditch the screens before bed.

Last summer, I learnt this in the most nightmarish way. I hadn’t been eating well, stressing over exams, but most detrimentally, I was getting only 4-5 hours of sleep every night. That impacted my blood sugar readings, of course, but did more intrinsic damage to the body too, leading to a bad accident that cost me multiple surgeries, many days in the hospital, and a lengthy recovery period, both mentally and physically.

My lesson: treat sleep like a nonnegotiable appointment with your body.

3. Mind Over (Not Against) Matter

Stress and diabetes are like oil and water—they just don’t mix. But let’s face it, life throws curveballs, and stress is inevitable. The key is to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Join a meditation app, try yoga poses in your dorm room, or vent to a trusted friend. Find what calms your mind and helps you de-stress.

Remember, a calm mind is a better-equipped mind for managing your diabetes.

4. Fuel Your Body, Not Your Fears

Food and diabetes often feel like a battlefield. Instead of demonizing certain foods, focus on mindful eating. Choose whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, and lean proteins; embrace nutrient-rich diversity, and let portion control become your guide, not your enemy. Explore recipes with friends, cook more at home, and remember, food can be a source of joy and connection, not just restriction.

5. Knowledge is Power

Empower yourself with information. Read credible sources, connect with online communities for young adults with type 1 diabetes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember, your healthcare team is there to support you, so utilize their expertise to the fullest.

6. Lean on Your Tribe

You are not alone in this journey. Build a strong support system with family, friends, and your healthcare team. Share your struggles, celebrate your victories, and know you have a network of people who care. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks or ask for help when you need it.

7. One for the girls

For most menstruating people, periods aren’t easy nor comfortable, but as a young girl with type 1 diabetes, I really struggled.

In people with type 1 diabetes, there are certain hormones that tend to rise a week before and a week after menstruation, which hinder insulin action, slowing it down. This leads to high sugar spikes and tampers with moods. It exaggerates the menstrual symptoms leading to more severe cramping and frequent mood swings. It gets difficult for me to even do regular tasks during this period.

To temper these extreme symptoms, I have learnt to increase the basal rates a week before menstruation starts so that the body gets prepared. For me, personally, walking really helps. Diet regulation also has a major impact and I try to avoid eating too much starch. Another thing that I recommend is to work on stabilizing your nighttime readings as they further impact the daytime sugar readings. Eating well before bedtime is helpful. Also, be extra careful about pre-boluses so that there isn’t much fluctuating of the sugar readings through the day.

8. Celebrate the Small Wins

Managing type 1 diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint. Celebrate every small victory, whether it’s a stable blood sugar reading, a delicious meal you cooked, or simply getting through a challenging day. Recognizing your progress fuels motivation and fosters a positive mindset.

Remember, self-care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. By incorporating these strategies into your life, you’ll build resilience, manage your diabetes with greater ease, and discover a renewed sense of well-being. So, step out of the self-care shadows, claim your toolkit, and embark on a journey of empowered living with type 1 diabetes. You’ve got this!

Bonus Tip: Consider incorporating mindfulness practices into your routine. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. This awareness can help you manage stress, make healthier choices, and ultimately, live a more fulfilling life with type 1 diabetes.

Remember, this is just a starting point. Explore, experiment, and personalize your self-care toolkit. With dedication and the right strategies, you can turn type 1 diabetes from a challenge into an opportunity for growth, resilience, and a life brimming with possibilities.

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