Five diabetes self-care and self-love tips for February

Many with diabetes might get overwhelmed or experience burnout. Follow these five self-care diabetes tips from the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center to show yourself some love this February.
Written by: Emma Shepard
Media contact: Hannah Echols

Stream 5 Diabetes tipsAround 14 percent of Alabamians have diabetes, and another 119,000 people in Alabama have diabetes but do not know it, according to the American Diabetes Association. The ADA also reports that those with diabetes have medical expenses approximately 2.3 times higher than those who do not have diabetes. 

Not only is the mental load of managing diabetes taxing, but there are physical and financial burdens of the disease as well. Many with diabetes might get overwhelmed or experience burnout. The daily management of a disease can feel like a never-ending marathon, so it is important for those with diabetes to practice self-care.

This Valentine’s Day, Alexandra Dodd, M.D., associate scientist in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Diabetes Center, is bringing those with diabetes several self-love tips to avoid burnout and promote healthy glucose levels.  

Clean monitors, order and organize supplies

It can be overwhelming to keep up with regular maintenance and cleaning of monitors as well as ordering new supplies. Some popular online diabetic supply vendors have auto-reordering options that someone with diabetes could take an evening to set up so that supply re-order is one less thing to think about.

Dodd also suggests having one reorganizing night each month for supplies. An organized diabetes supply means lessening the daily mental load of managing the disease. Having an organized supply area could make managing diabetes a lot less daunting. 

“Taking some time on the front end to organize and re-order your supplies could save you lots of time and mental space in your day-to-day routine,” said Dodd, who is also an assistant professor in the UAB Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. “This is a great step for avoiding diabetes burnout.”

1203858115034041.NaTKbUAfFt18cI7GQJtu height640Find a walking partner

The ADA notes that moderate exercise can help regulate blood sugar. Not only does walking help lower blood sugar levels, but the ADA has found it can also increase insulin sensitivity, making it a bit easier to manage blood glucose levels.

“Regular exercise can be intimidating, especially for those trying to exercise more,” Dodd said. “I always encourage my patients to start out by walking. Walking with a friend is even better because it’s safer, we’re more likely to go for longer, and it can help us feel connected.”

Overall, walking not only has physical benefits, but can help lighten the mood. Walking can be a great way to start the day, a good lunch break activity or even a good way to end the day. It can be molded into one’s existing routine.

Connect with the diabetes community

“Diabetes can feel like an isolating disease, especially if you live alone or are the only one with diabetes at a gathering,” Dodd said. “I definitely recommend connecting with others and trying to find someone else with diabetes in your area or your sphere of friends and colleagues.”

There are several ways to connect with the diabetes community, whether by following others with diabetes on social media or by joining social media support groups. Social media has several support groups that are open to those with diabetes to join. Many influencers on social media like to share their journey with diabetes through vlogging or posting their story. 

The UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center is a University-Wide Interdisciplinary Research Center composed of over 200 faculty members from 10 different schools and many departments.

Take time to lower stress

Dodd says cortisol, a hormone the body releases when stressed, can lead to insulin resistance, which could make it more difficult for someone to manage their diabetes. Whether it is meditating, reading a favorite book or simply relaxing, taking a few moments of the day to do something that brings happiness can help lower stress.

Reducing stress has other benefits, like sleeping better, improved relationships and improved mood.

“Taking an active role in lowering your own stress is a great way to show self-care this February,” Dodd said. “Especially for those with diabetes, lowering stress through relaxing activities or hobbies you love can have great benefits.”

1203858115034044.pc8ECJAKsXkxupJruaEW height640See a diabetes specialist

Meeting regularly with a diabetes specialist and other members of a care team is essential to diabetes management. Dodd recommends starting with an endocrinologist and then expanding to other specialists, as needed.

“I can’t recommend assembling a diabetes care team enough,” Dodd said. “To truly get specialized and expert care, a great starting place is to meet regularly with an endocrinologist who can help you in treating your diabetes. Then, you might expand to a nutritionist, cardiologist or even a podiatrist, when appropriate.”

Additionally, a nutritionist can be a valuable resource for planning meals and helping to lessen the load of eating for diabetes. Certified diabetes educators can also provide valuable advice and individualized coaching on fundamentals of diabetes care and how to use diabetes medications and technology.