You would think that hearing “Happy Holidays!” would bring nothing but joy and excitement around this time of year, but living with type 1 diabetes during the holidays also brings some feelings of anxiety for me. With the holiday season comes family gatherings, gift giving, decorating the house, fun traditions, and lots and lots of yummy food. Though these things bring lots of positivity, they can also be a bit stressful, and as mentioned in a prior blog, stress is not exactly diabetes’ best friend. If you are a student, this time of year can be especially stressful because you may be approaching final exams, yet another potentially stress trigger. So if you are a little worried about how to manage your diabetes this holiday season, I will share with you what has really helped me be a little less of a stress ball during the holidays.
In the past, I have put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes time for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with regard to food. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, which can be pretty difficult living with a disease that has a mind of its own a lot of the time. I would tell myself going into a holiday party “Okay just one cookie and that’s it, you don’t want your blood sugar going too high”. Then I would see the dessert table and all hell would break loose! It was nearly impossible to not try all the homemade, delicious-looking treats. Then of course my blood sugar would rise and I would kick myself for eating so many sweets.
But you know what? I enjoyed them! They really were as delicious as they looked and my stomach was very happy to have them. After listening to a lot of podcasts and dietitians talk about intuitive eating, I realized that what I was doing was not that. I wanted to change my mindset about eating at Christmas parties, so I decided that my new mantra in regards to managing my diabetes around the holidays was going to be “Do the best you can.” Instead of going to a holiday party anxious and stressed about how to resist the desert, I told myself that it’s okay to have one night of high blood sugar. If I was really enjoying the food, then that’s what really matters. When I would tell myself to eat only one cookie or no desserts at all, my plan usually backfired and I would end up overeating. I realized that when I was more positive with myself and let myself off the hook about dessert, I found that I wasn’t overeating. I wasn’t depriving myself! I learned that life is too short to not eat dessert once in a while!
“Do the best you can” translates not only to eating habits around the holidays, but also my general to-do list for shopping, decorating, studying for exams, etc. All that I really can do is my best, so there is no use stressing over every single detail or running to every grocery store around to get the perfect candy canes. I have found little tricks that I know will help alleviate stress this time of year for me, and that has helped me keep my cool and my blood sugars from going crazy due to stress. As I've said before this disease has a mind of its own sometimes. Though I like to be in control of things a lot of the time, it is important to accept that there are things that I cannot control. In those situations, I just have to do the best I can.
Most importantly, what helps me during the holidays is to remember that this is a time to celebrate, to be with family and friends, and to spread the joy and love that surround us.