NINJABETIC – Take a break
A few months ago I wrote about the importance of being selfish when you need to be, not in the way that may cause upset or hurt to myself or others, but more of a self-soothing, self-management sort of way.
I’ve been doing this a lot recently and it’s something that I wanted to share because it has enabled me to gain more control and perspective over my diabetes and life in general.
It started last year when life became a bit muddled and, as always, diabetes became muddled with it. I’ve always found that stress has a huge impact on my blood glucose levels and diabetes management. In fact, stress has more of an impact than any illness does on my glucose levels, causing them to become uncomfortably high for a long period of time.
For a whole month each finger prick showed glucose levels in the high teens and twenties, no matter what I did to correct it and, although my body adapted, I knew that this wasn’t healthy in the short or long-term. It wasn’t until I realised that diabetes wasn’t the issue, that I was able to take stock and become selfish in order to help myself get better.
In the past I had always pointed the finger at diabetes and it frequently took the blame for any problems that I was experiencing, it was always easy to use the excuse that diabetes was the cause, rather than look past it to find the actual reason.
I soon became aware that I had been taking on far too much and I had stopped caring about myself; I accepted that if I carried on then I would soon become unhealthy again. Feeling healthy and energised is something that I went for far too many years without, and having experienced healthy feels for the past few years I didn’t want to let go of that.
So it was time to put other issues in my life to one side for some much needed ‘me time’. The first thing I did (and this was the biggest and scariest step for me) was to take a break from social media. Anyone who knows me will understand how hard this would have been, as the diabetes online community has been the biggest tool I have used in improving my health. However, I was spending far too much time in the online world and I had forgotten what it was to live outside of my phone and tablet.
At first I didn’t know what to do with myself but as time went on I saw that the free time could be spent on self soothing, whilst still dipping in and out of social media as and when I needed to. Now that I am in a much better place health-wise I am able to help others in a more productive way online, rather than spending day in day out glued to my phone and slowly burning. It was important for me to take a step back and to reaslise that in order to keep helping people online I needed to help myself first, otherwise what use would I be to anyone who needed me.
Next I began to look at my diet and exercise regime which was almost non-existent. I was unhappy with the way I looked and felt; although I wasn’t overweight I felt sluggish, unhealthy and demotivated. I knew that what I was putting into my body wasn’t helpful in terms of nutritional value, as well as emotional happiness, so it was time for a change.
I started making small changes to my diet; cutting out the fat, sugar and the high carbohydrate foods that I had always turned to, instead replacing them with fresh food as much as possible, smaller portions and healthier alternatives. I felt much healthier, both mentally and physically, for making this change and having control over food, whereas in the past I would have used food as an emotional tool to momentarily overcome any stress that I was experiencing. My blood glucose levels benefitted greatly too!
Exercise was harder as it always makes me feel nervous due to the delayed hypoglycemia that I have experienced in the past, however taking things slowly I soon got to grips with running. Seeing my body change and feeling happier in myself was a big achievement, not only for my blood glucose control but also to maintain a happy and healthy mind.
The final step in becoming selfish for my health was to start saying no. I actually think this was the most difficult aspect for me as I am a people pleaser and I will rarely put my own needs before others. Don’t get me wrong, if someone needed me (I mean, really needed me) then I would be there for them at the drop of a hat, but in the past I had said yes to going out when my glucose was crazy high and I should have taken a break to get that under control. I’ve always said yes to any talks, conferences, meetings etc that came my way, even if it meant doing this on my much needed days off or before and after work.
Obviously at some point something was going to break, and due to my need to please other people I had always put myself last, but now that I have started to politely decline or arrange alternatives, I have more time to spend on ensuring that I am healthy and happy before agreeing to give up my “me time”.
Have I noticed a difference since becoming more selfish? Yes, I definitely have. I adore the extra work that I do; being able to care for people inside and out of work and being able to make a difference to the lives of others, but I’ve realised that in order for me to be better at doing that, I need to not burn, I need to make a difference to my life first. I’m in a much better place now and my blood glucose levels are an example of how the changes I have made are working in my favour. I’ve realised that almost every decision I make in life, and almost every action I take, will impact in some way on my blood glucose, and that by being selfish I am in fact being kinder to myself and kinder to my diabetes.