You’ve been to the doctor, and gotten your diagnosis – you’ve got diabetes. Now what? This article won’t tell you how to change your diet, or exercise plans, or monitor your glucose readings (there are other experts here who’ll talk about that!). Instead, it will touch on general tips on how to live well, and not to fall prey to the common misconception that a diagnosis of diabetes means your entire life has changed for the worse.
What to do to live well
1. Educate yourself
First, educate yourself. Knowledge is the best weapon. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions if there’s anything you’re unclear about. Do some extra research on your own; learn about diabetes, and how it’s best managed. This can include things like heart health, medication, dietary changes, and physical activity.
If you understand the importance of these things, you’re more likely to stick to the lifestyle changes you need to make.
Second, accept it. The diagnosis won’t go away if you ignore it. Your life will inevitably be different – but remember, change is a constant, whether you’ve got diabetes or not. This is just another type of change.
Work through your negative thoughts and emotions associated with diabetes. It’s normal for you to be scared or angry about having diabetes, but these emotions don’t need to rule your life forever. They’re a roadblock to making a positive change in your life; once you’ve accepted the diagnosis, you can start working on things.
3. Make small changes
Third, make small changes. There’s a good chance the goals you’ve been assigned – losing a certain amount of weight, or keeping your glucose levels within a certain range – look impossible to you. If you keep those as your only goals, you’re not going to see results for a long time, and that’s going to be discouraging.
Instead, break that final goal down into smaller goals. If you have to lose 20 kg, aim for 1-2 kg at a time. If you have to walk for an hour every day, start by walking for 5-10 minutes every day. You’ll feel more accomplished as you hit these smaller milestones, and that will motivate you to continue.
It takes time to make sustained lifestyle changes, so go easy on yourself if it seems you aren’t reaching your final goal quickly enough.
4. Reach out
Lastly, reach out. You don’t have to do this alone. Let your family and friends know you could use their support. It’s always easier when people in your close network know what’s going on. They can help motivate you to reach your goals – for instance, if they know your new dietary requirements, they know to ensure appropriate food is available at gatherings. Don’t be afraid to tell them how they can best support you.
Remember that diabetes does not define who you are as a person. You are still you! And you can live well, no matter what life throws at you.