For me, Type 2 diabetes has always been a seesaw between balance and control.
For over thirty years, it’s been all about the yin and the yang of the body, accepting that while I don’t have the ability to always control my sugars, I do the best I can.
Sheltering in place has made everything more difficult. Being stuck in the house (with a well- stocked refrigerator and pantry) has made it harder to resist ‘treating’ myself when isolation bears down. Exercising with friends at the gym has transformed into solitary stationary biking and weightlifting. Yoga, once performed in a communal setting, has narrowed to me and my teacher on Zoom – a very different interaction.
And then there is the overall lack of control. While politicians and leaders alternately frighten and soothe us, it’s become clear to me that no one exactly knows what we’re up against. The great unknowns – how long we’ll be assigned to our homes, how the virus is transmitted, what if any medications might alleviate the virus, how this financial disaster will resolve – loom large. While researchers rush to investigate the medical issues and develop a vaccine, many of us are left in a state of worry about the fate of our families, our paychecks, and ourselves.
If this wasn’t scary enough, the situation is heightened by the fact that if you have diabetes, you are immunocompromised. As one endocrinologist explained to me, even well-controlled people with diabetes regularly have sugars that surge to 200 and above after meals for a period of time, a surge that can put our immune response at risk and leave us vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
So, how can we stay safe and healthy?
Luckily, that answer is clear: shelter in place, social distance, and wash your hands. And, really try to take good care of your diabetes. Among my goals:
- Try to eat well. Will you fall off your diet now and then? If you’re like me -- baking and cooking more than normal -- the answer is a yes. The goal, however, is to watch my carb intake and avoid processed foods that may be chock full of empty calories.
- Choose low calorie, high volume foods. Crunching on raw vegetables, plain popcorn, and high fiber cereals can be good for your digestive tract and offer fewer calories for larger portions.
- Keep exercising. There are more online options than ever, and many video instructions are free on YouTube. Make use of household items, like those large cans of beans and tomatoes stored in your pantry or containers, to substitute for weights.
- Get outside. Make sure to leave the house for a walk, bike ride, or run at least once a day. If you don’t feel up to a cardio walk, try a ‘meditative’ stroll – walk slowly and take notice of all the signs of spring around you. While it might not burn calories, it can lower your stress level and, in turn, your sugars.
- Develop a new hobby. So, I started to embroider, something I haven’t done since I was a ‘tween. Draw, journal, paint, plant – anything to occupy your mind and your hands. Try to get into a ‘flow’ where time passes without you checking the clock.
- Remember to drink lots of water.
- Take your sugars. If you have a glucose monitor, this might be a time to take a few extra readings to make sure that your blood sugars are on track.
There is no reason to sugarcoat the truth: it’s an anxious, crazy time. But you don’t have to abandon your diabetes care. Unlike everything else around you, it’s actually something you can control. Be well.