Scientific studies — and our own common sense — tell us that staying motivated and engaged helps control our diabetes. We know what we should resist temptation at the dinner table, monitor our blood sugars avidly, and get regular check-ups. But knowing all of these things, and knowing that self-motivation is the way to achieve them, isn’t quite enough.
How do we actually find that motivation? How can we maintain it? How can we make it work for us and for our disease?
Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to these questions. We’re moving into the area of personal psychology, where the solutions of one person may not be the solutions of another. Diabetes isn’t a mental illness, but it certainly affects how we look at and engage with the world. Depending on our individual experiences, some aspects of diabetes care may seem easy, while others overwhelm.
That being said, there are a handful of simple and agreed-upon ways to boost motivation. Here’s a list of five. Each of these is a great place to start. If you have any suggestions, please add your comment. We’d love to hear from you.
1) Education, education, education. While education on its own may not motivate you (indeed, it can seem daunting to master carbs, boluses, and A1Cs), you can’t function without it. You need to see the path before you can walk it. Education shows you that path.
2) Lose the negativity. If you’re newly diagnosed, you may feel incredibly cheated and angry. You may lash out at people you love or react in self-destructive ways. Some of this is normal, but you must let it go. Your diabetes isn’t going anywhere. You’ll have to engage with it eventually.
3) Find support. Use your family and friends. Help them learn how to cheer you on. If you need to, find fellow people with diabetes. Their experiences can help push you ahead. Be careful, though, not to let the anger or depression of others suck you in. You have to be able to boost yourself, too.
4) Give yourself time. Leo Tolstoy didn’t write War and Peace in an afternoon. You won’t lose 50 pounds and achieve perfect blood sugars in a week. A big accomplishment — which handling your diabetes certainly is — takes serious effort over a lot of time.
5) Have a goal. It might be a small thing — lowering your average blood sugar by a couple of points. It might be a big thing — going on a pump or some other kind of medical device. It might be simply getting up more often to go for a walk. But shorter-term goals give us signposts to manage this long-term disease.
Ultimately, we’re not interested in merely managing our diabetes. We want to have full, rich, and rewarding lives. We want to be there for the people we love, and we want to be as healthy as possible.
And if that doesn’t motivate us, nothing will.