Best Tips on How to Manage Your Life with Diabetes During the Holidays

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One of the biggest challenges of diabetes is figuring out how to fit it into your hectic life. Managing your day-to-day is hard enough, the business of the holidays - parties, shopping, dinners, and events can leave you feeling stressed, lost, and overwhelmed. Excess stress can negatively affect your weight and blood sugar control. It’s important to learn how to organize your diabetes as well as your activities and time. Luckily, I asked Susan Weiner, the 2015 AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year (American Association of Diabetes Educators) and co-author of The Complete Diabetes Organizer: Your Guide to a Less Stressful and More Manageable Diabetes Life to let us in on some of her secrets.

Q: What is the best way to organize your diabetes during the holiday season?

A. There seems to be endless “to-do” lists from Halloween to New Year’s Day. With a few simple organizing strategies, you can continue to successfully manage your diabetes throughout the hectic holiday season.

  • Make a master holiday to do list. Create a list of everything you want and need to do and get done for the holiday season. Write your tasks in a notebook, in the notes section of your smart phone or on an app. Doing a “brain dump” will take the “remembering out of remembering” and keep you in control of your activities and diabetes management.
  • Use a calendar. Break your to-do list into smaller tasks. Write each task in your calendar. Space out and check off each task as it’s completed.
  • Always plan ahead. Do your holiday shopping whenever is convenient. Cook and freeze your holiday meals weeks in advance. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Clear out your excess clutter. A clutter free home will allow you to relax and make room for everything you need during the holidays.
  • Ask for help. No need to do it all. Ask for help with meal preparation or shopping. Most of the time family and friends will be likely to help once they know they are needed.

Q. Would you recommend that people take a mini-break from their diabetes?

A. Diabetes can feel all consuming and over-whelming. It’s with your 24-7. Frankly, you can never truly have a vacation from your diabetes without consequences. But, if you are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed with your diabetes daily “to-do” list, there are a couple of ways to find relief.

  • Incorporate organizing strategies into your day. By getting organized with some of the strategies mentioned above, you can accomplish more of the things you “must-do” so that you will have more time to do the things you want to do. And remember to reward yourself for a job well done. You can enjoy a walk with a friend or a movie when you accomplish your daily tasks.
  • Indulge in seasonal favorites. You can have a piece of Aunt Martha’s red velvet cake or your mom’s famous potato latkes. Food is a special part of the holiday season, so enjoy it without guilt. Just eat in moderation and plan your food intake around these special treats appropriately. I guess you could call this taking a “mini-break” from your normal diabetes eating patterns, because these are foods you may not eat the rest of the year.

Q: How do you recommend people with diabetes prioritize during the holidays so they can get things done without forgetting about themselves?

A. As hard as it may be for you, put your health first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you aren’t going to feel your best, and the holidays become a burden rather than something to enjoy. So keep going with the basics. A short list:

  • Continue to test your blood sugar often.  Estimating the carbohydrate content of certain holiday foods can be tricky. Your extra efforts with blood sugar testing can help make up for some “guessing” when it comes to carb estimation and holiday treats.
  • Plan to eat your meals and snacks on a timely basis when you go shopping. Carry your fast acting sources of carbohydrates with you as well as your testing supplies if you will be out shopping all day.
  • Don’t be shy. Ask your host any questions you have about the menu. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, bring a healthy appetizer as your contribution to the party. You’ll know you have something you can enjoy.
  • Plan to stay physically active.  Make a calendar date for regular activity, even if it’s walking the mall.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption. With all the holiday parties and events, it’s easy to over-indulge.

Q: What would be the best way to relieve stress during this time?

A. Keep up with your diabetes management. Fluctuations in blood glucose might add more stress during the holidays. Keep your focus on family, friends and the important people in your life. Celebrate the meaning of the holiday-why it’s important to you.

If you are passionate about something, volunteer during the holidays. You’ll feel great and help someone who is in need.

Q: Is it important to find support to prevent burnout?

A. Absolutely. During the holidays, we are often consumed with getting everything done. Always remember to put yourself at the top of that important list. Keep up with your exercise and your medications as prescribed. Take a quick break into your quiet space and practice deep breathing, listen to music, or enjoy a bit of fresh air. Do anything you need to do to rejuvenate yourself so that you can enjoy YOUR holiday.

Try to prevent diabetes burnout when you need it. Enlist your family to help you out with extra holiday duties and regular activities. And if someone offers to bring a dish to your holiday meal, or pick up a gift at the store, or drive a child to a sporting event, or walk your pet… take them up on the offer.

About the guest author: 

Susan Weiner is the 2015 American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) Diabetes Educator of the Year, and the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumna Award from SUNY Oneonta. She co-authored  (Spry 2013). She was recently voted one of the 10 top diabetes nutrition education bloggers by Susan is the medical advisor for and is on the advisory board of several diabetes organizations. Susan earned her master’s degree in applied physiology and nutrition from Columbia University.

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