When first diagnosed with diabetes, health care professionals ask us to make a lot of changes in our lifestyle, all at once. This includes starting new medications, making dietary changes, counting carbohydrates, testing our blood sugar levels, exercising, sleeping better, and managing our stress more effectively. There is wide variation in the health behavior change that we all decide to take on. Some of us do well with taking new medications, others at testing blood sugar levels, and others at starting an exercise regime, however, rarely, do we make all of those changes. Why is this? There are many approaches to answer this question.
1. Do you feel that the changes are necessary? – Some of us may feel that we can manage our diabetes by just taking medication, or by adding exercise, etc. It is true that these changes, individually, can help us to improve our diabetes management, however the effects of making multiple changes can improve our blood sugar levels even more. It is the idea that making one change is good, two is even better, and three is better yet!
2. You may feel overwhelmed – Life is a circus for most people these days. The thought of making change to your day and way of life can be daunting, therefore the benefits of making change many not be worth it, it your mind.
3. You do not like others to tell you what to do – We have all had healthcare professionals encourage us to make some type of behavior change. Most adults like to be in-control of their own lives and having someone else tell us what to do can be off-putting. It is true that we are more likely to make behavior change when we have a say in how and when to make the change. The timing, our motivation, and willingness to make change must all line up to increase the likelihood of success.
There are some strategies that you can use to try and overcome some of these barriers to making health behavior change.
1. Have a conversation with your healthcare provider on the changes that (s)he thinks is the most important for your health.
2. Ask a partner, friend, or neighbor to make the change (or similar change) with you.
3. Be very concrete in how you will make the change and try to make it measurable.
4. Use your smartphone’s alarm system or an app to help monitor your progress.
5. Seek the assistance of a counselor/ psychologist to help you discover the barriers to change and ways to overcome them.
The idea of making lifestyle changes can be very daunting. Don’t let that feeling of being overwhelmed or the thought that it is impossible to make change stop you from trying. There are resources available to help.