By Dr. Mark Heyman, Diabetes Psychologist and Certified Diabetes Educator
If you could be empowered with diabetes, what would it look like? Maybe for you it’s feeling confident that you can handle any curves that diabetes throws your way. Or maybe it’s having the information you need to dispel myths people have about diabetes at your fingertips. Perhaps it’s the ability to recognize the areas in your diabetes management where you’re doing really well and the areas that need more work.
To empower is to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life. Diabetes can sometimes feel disempowering – the opposite of empowering. Things like limited time, information and encouragement from your health care team, friends and family who don’t understand or support you and having trouble finding motivation all contribute to.
I know being empowered with diabetes sounds great, but you may be thinking to yourself that there’s no way you’ll ever be able to get there. Like most things in life worth doing, becoming empowered with your diabetes means taking an active and intentional role in making it happen. Whatever empowerment with diabetes would look like to you in an ideal world, here are some things you can try to get the process started.
Find your motivation
If you know why managing diabetes is important to you, it can empower you to make changes. Motivation is more than a feeling, and even if you don’t feel motivated, you probably can think of some reasons why you want to manage your diabetes. As you probably know, if you wait until you feel motivated, you may be waiting a long time. The more specific your reasons, the better. Use these reasons as leverage to help you work hard, even if you don’t feel motivated. You can draw on this list of reasons anytime. This puts you in the driver’s seat and empowers you to take action.
Identify your challenges
Challenges are a normal part of diabetes, so don’t feel fooled into thinking that being empowered with diabetes doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience challenges. Identifying the specific challenges that you have can help you become more empowered, because if you know what you’re dealing with, you can make a plan to tackle your challenges head on. Take some time and think about what challenges you have with your diabetes and what would things look like if you were able to overcome each challenge? The more specific you can be, the better.
There are lots of misconceptions about diabetes floating around. These misconceptions, and the ways people with diabetes are treated sometimes because of this misinformation can be really disempowering. Getting accurate information about diabetes, including what it is and what causes it, can help you more fully understand the facts about diabetes and that it’s a manageable condition. This information can empower you in your diabetes management and can help you feel confident to educate others, which can also be empowering.
Diabetes can be lonely. It’s common for people with diabetes to feel that nobody understands what they are experiencing or that they are the only person with diabetes that feels this way. Taking on the challenges of diabetes alone can be disempowering. Getting support, encouragement and empathy from others can be an important part of becoming empowered with diabetes. While getting support does not make diabetes go away, it can make it easier to live with. There are lots of ways to develop a diabetes support system. Start with the people you know. The people in your life may not know what kind of support you need. Be clear with these people what would be most helpful and what you want them not to do. Getting support from other people with diabetes can also be helpful. There are many support resources that you can find online and in your community.
Give others hope
When you’re more empowered with your diabetes, you have a gift that you can give others who may be struggling. You can use your experience to empower others in their diabetes management. Reach out and help other people with diabetes and help them see the hope and strength and empowerment that you have found. You can not only help others, but this giving back can make you feel even more empowered as you continue your diabetes journey.
Although it may sound strange right now, you can be empowered with diabetes. This transformation may not happen overnight, but with some hard work, determination and a good support system, you can become stronger and more confident with diabetes, and use this confidence not only to help yourself, but to help others. Ready to get started?
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