Guest Post, Sally Marchini, Dietitian
I had a friend visit last weekend. She, like me, is aged in her mid-40s, is a working Mum and has type 1 diabetes. She was telling me that she had started to suffer with anxiety or panic attacks and that her doctor had put her on medication for it. Not surprisingly her diabetes control was also not in a good place. For me it was somewhat of a shock to hear this of my extremely capable friend, but also was easy to imagine how it could happen when we reflect on just how stressful and overfull our lives have become. It also reminded me of the importance of having a routine, especially for those of us with diabetes, so that we don’t ‘juggle out’ diabetes as a ball in our busy lives. Diabetes really needs to be a very high priority for both mental and physical wellness, and yet it so often drops to a low one, dragging the rest of lives down with it.
As you know, I’m an Accredited Practising Dietitian, and my speciality is food/lifestyle and wellbeing, rather than psychology. In my blog today I wanted to remind people with diabetes about how having a routine every day can get your day off to the right start as well as helping your diabetes to be better controlled across the day, leaving you to focus on those other priorities in your life.
For myself I have created a routine that allows me that great start to the day, knowing that if you start well there’s a greater chance of continuing along that good line. As a dietitian I also am very aware of the evidence that tells us how important food is for mental health, hence the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendations for a variety of fresh foods from the five food groups so that we get the nutrients we need for energy and for wellbeing, both physical and mental. The first key point in the guidelines reads:
“Good nutrition contributes significantly to maintaining healthy weight, quality of life,
good physical and mental health throughout life, resistance to infection,
and to protection against chronic disease and premature death.”
Planning is an awesome strategy
My routine starts with ensuring I have enough time to fit it all in – Planning! Drawing on my blog from last week where I quoted Accredited Practising Dietitian Jemma O’Hanlon reminding us that “Failing to Plan = Planning to Fail”.
My thoughts for the next day start the night before, and I do that to ensure that I have a good eight hours sleep before the time I need to wake up, knowing that tiredness will not help me in *any* way. There is a lot of evidence around the importance of a good night’s sleep for wellbeing.
I consider what time I’ll need to leave home to be where I’m going that next day. I know that my ‘d-routine’ takes me an hour and a half to complete, so I set my alarm to wake me an hour and a half before I have to leave, and off to sleep I go. Most days I plan to leave by 8am, meaning a 6.30am start. You’ll need to see how long your d-routine takes to work out your own hours.
My morning routine includes (not in order of importance, but how they occur):
1) Testing my BGL and having my medications
2) Eating a low-GI, high fibre breakfast with a serve of dairy
3) Checking my emails/facebook
4) Going for a 40 min walk/jog/lunge
5) Showering and dressing
6) Planning my snacks and lunch for the day
All six points are important for the success of my day, diabetically, mentally and physically.
No.1 – Checking my BGL and having medications – this one is a no-brainer for me. If I don’t know where I’m starting from with my BGL, how on earth can I know or control where I’m going with it? Same with the meds, there’s just no option not to have them. I’m often surprised to hear that people don’t take the medications they’re prescribed, and that’s why these two are the first on my list.
No.2 – Eating a low-GI, high fibre breakfast with a serve of dairy – we all should know the benefits of low-GI carbs as explained in my earlier blog, but when you know that your brain needs glucose to function properly again it’s a no brainer. Even if I’m not hungry, I eat my low-GI breakfast with grains, dairy and nuts to keep me energised for the morning.
No.3 – Checking emails/facebook – As a person who thrives on being organised and needs to be for my business to function smoothly, I need to clear out my inbox each morning and deal with the quick responses, so I can know issues have been dealt with so they’re not on my conscience when my mind should be focussed elsewhere. If I had to leave one point out of my morning routine this would be it, but I can do it pretty quickly in most cases.
No.4 – Going for a 40 min walk/jog/lunge – I know that if I don’t fit this in to my morning routine I will regret it for many reasons! Exercise brings so many benefits to everyone, and especially to us with diabetes. There’s also good evidence to demonstrate that those with diabetes who exercise enjoy much greater glycemic control. Not only does it give me a chance to think through my day ahead so I’m better prepared, but my diabetes control is so much more stable on the days that I’ve exercised first which makes my day run more smoothly by minimising the highs and lows that happen if I’ve missed it. I also enjoy the sunshine on my skin that will make me vitamin D, and saying ‘good morning’ to other walkers. Definitely a bonus from a mental health viewpoint too! You can read more about exercise and diabetes here. I wouldn’t be without it!
No.5 – Showering and dressing – Everyone does this one, so nothing special with diabetes here lol
No. 6 – Planning my snacks and lunch for the day – For me I need to know that I can have healthy low-GI (and gluten free as I’m a coeliac too) options available when I need them, so if pushed the least I will do is make a sandwich and take an apple and some nuts. It really only takes a couple of minutes and is well worth the small effort.
You and Your Routine
Of course my routine will be different to your routine. The main point I’m trying to make is that if you can consider the important things to keep your diabetes on track, your mental health in as good a place as you can, and your physical wellbeing with the good food and exercise then the day in the your life should be easier to manage. Every day is a new day, and routine helps to keep you on track. Routines can change, and if you feel that yours needs an update, then now is a great time to do it!
In terms of mental health with diabetes, if you feel like you’re not coping then it’s advisable to speak to your doctor. Check our e-book on Diabetes Burnout which may also be helpful or the latest courses here.
My friend and I are going to try a meditation class that we found locally too (hence the meditation pic at the top).
We’d love to hear how you try to keep your diabetes day together. Hoping you found this helpful.
Best wishes, Sally 🙂
Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.