Diabetes Blogs

Managing the "Shoulds" of Diabetes

managing diabetes stressAre all those "shoulds" sending you down an unhappy road? When you have a chronic disease like diabetes, you can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the “shoulds” that can seem like they rule your life and how to live with the condition: 

  • "I should exercise today."
  • "I should check my blood sugar more often."
  • "I should call the doctor for those A1c results."
  • "I should be more attentive to my carb intake."

And when you’re done with the “shoulds”, the “shouldn’ts are also right there to haunt you:

  • I shouldn’t have that piece of cake.”
  • “I shouldn’t allow my stress levels to get so high.”
  • “I shouldn’t obsess about my weight.”
  • “I shouldn’t even have diabetes.”

Give Me Ignorance, or Give Me . . . What?

Between the "shoulds" and the "shouldn’ts", it can feel like there’s not much room for anything else---like spontaneity, abandon, freedom, and the bliss of ignorance.

Sure, you can wish for ignorance of the things you should and shouldn't do when you have diabetes, but there’s no escaping that you pretty much know what you need to do, so why bother asking? And while free choice is always operative, you also know how certain choices will lead you down paths you’d rather not tread.

So, if ignorance isn’t a choice, what choice is there? The choice is to lead a life that allows you to maintain consistent cognizance of your diabetes management and peace of mind, but also to not allow the “shoulds” to feel like a ball and chain.

The Ball and Chain 

Feeling constrained due to the unwelcome presence of diabetes in your life is a common feeling. Ask anyone with a chronic illness that requires a great deal of management and awareness (ie: hypertension, diverticulosis, heart disease, emphysema), and they’ll likely tell you that limits on their lifestyle are a necessary burden, since a poorly managed disease will likely offer even more restrictions, in the end.

But even as we acknowledge the burdensomeness of our illness, we can also experience wishful thinking that, even if only for a day, we would love to just throw caution to the winds, and it would all be worth it.

Well, the reality is that diabetes may sometimes feel like a ball and chain, but the alternative to managing it well isn’t so attractive.

What to do With the "Shoulds"

So, when you’re feeling the restrictiveness of what you should or shouldn’t be doing vis-à-vis your diabetes, what do you do? You already acknowledge that just ignoring your diabetes isn’t the smartest move, so how do you calm the emotional backlash?

Acknowledging the reality is one key. We have to be consistently honest with ourselves, and even the CDC has resources for those desiring support for aspects of the emotional management of diabetes

Another step is being willing to identify the things over which we have no control, and accepting their non-negotiability. Once those become your baseline, then it's easier to see where there’s room for compromise.

The Reality

Sure, there are things you just have to do when you have diabetes. And then there are things you can choose to do, and then there’s the long list of what you shouldn’t do. This is tiresome, but if we accept the things we cannot change and make the internal adjustment to that reality, we can look for the places where flexibility is possible, and build our mental/emotional framework for there.

If the "shoulds" of diabetes become a miserable burden, it would be prudent to engage the services of a coach, counselor, or therapist who can walk you through your resistance and pain.

Otherwise, we can accept the limitations of our disease as a lesson or spiritual discipline, and we can look for the silver linings in the often overlooked spaces within ourselves.

The reality is complex, and the journey is long. Mindset is one thing that will see us through the hard days, and help us to revel in the good days.

You can't completely eradicate the "shoulds", but you can pay attention to how you approach them, embracing the ways in which your choices can move your life and health forward in positive and meaningful ways. 

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