The T1D Journey: Top tips for navigating transitions - laurenbongiorno.com

The T1D Journey: Top tips for navigating transitions

It’s safe to say diabetes LOVES a solid routine. Sleeping, eating, and exercising on a schedule is ideal for blood sugar management. But life doesn’t always allow for predictability. 

Have you ever gone through a time when something big comes along and it feels like you have to focus so much on it that you let your diabetes go a little? 

Monumental life events like changing careers, going to school, pregnancy, or loss will definitely shake up your reliable routine. When something big like that happens, it can feel like the only choice is to accept that diabetes is going to be crazy until you get through this adjustment. While you’re moving towards a big goal or adjusting to a different lifestyle, your blood sugars just take a back seat. 

So, is it possible to still have control of your diabetes while going through a life transition? Check out these tips! 

 

NEW JOB OR STARTING SCHOOL

What to look out for:

  • Insulin Needs. Especially if you are waking up earlier, commuting farther, eating at specific times, or generally being more sedentary on this new schedule, your insulin needs will likely change! 
  • Stress. Being new at anything can be stressful! Watch out for the ways that stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline impact your blood sugars, particularly in the morning. 

 

How to change:

  • Determine your non-negotiables. Whether it’s 5 minutes in the morning, sitting quietly and taking deep breaths, sipping on warm lemon water before breakfast, or listening to something soothing in the car rather than the news or loud music, finding small ways to take care of yourself as you adjust to your new schedule will make a big difference! 
  • Make time for meals! As tempting as it may be to work through lunch when you’re trying to do well at a new job, make it a habit from the beginning to take time to eat. Building regular meal times into your day is important for staying fueled and energized, and makes it easier to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster. 

 

PREGNANCY AND POSTPARTUM

What to look out for: 

  • Fluctuating hormones. Your hormones change many times throughout pregnancy. Each trimester serves a different purpose in growing your baby and your hormones fluctuate to meet their needs. You will notice a difference in your blood sugars as your hormones change. 
  • Changing insulin needs. Your insulin needs will also change as your hormones fluctuate. The first trimester is known for causing increased insulin sensitivity. You might see yourself having a lot of lows because you do not need as much insulin as you used to. As you move into the second trimester, that sensitivity decreases and you will become more insulin resistant and may see more high blood sugars than in the first three months. 

 

How to navigate: 

Expect patterns to change and adjust settings accordingly. 

  • Be prepared for your blood sugar trends and insulin needs to change during pregnancy. Following the golden rule of 3 times is a pattern — if it happens 3 times, you probably need to make a change! 
  • It’s really helpful to have a strong understanding of your body’s patterns before getting pregnant. Tracking blood sugars, food, insulin, and activity for at least three months will help you develop a clear picture of your baseline. From there, you will be able to identify changes during pregnancy more easily. 

 

GRIEF AND LOSS

What to look out for: 

  • Lack of routine. When a loved one passes away or falls ill, it can feel like your whole world comes to a halt. You aren’t spending your time the way you used to as all of your energy is focused on grieving. Or maybe you are now in a caretaker role and the time you once had to take care of yourself is now dedicated to someone else. The emotional overload of losing someone or caring for someone will also likely impact your sleep. Not having a routine is an easy way to land yourself a seat on the blood sugar roller coaster.
  • Emotional eating OR lack of appetite. Emotions are so intrinsically tied to our gut that feeling sad, depressed, stressed, or overwhelmed, can directly impact appetite. When you are dealing with a tragedy, you may notice cravings for carbs and sugar. These are quick sources of energy and the body might be asking for energy when it  feels depleted from stress and poor sleep. Or you may feel like food is the last thing on your mind. Your body will likely kick up adrenaline to get you through this intense time, which can make you feel like you aren’t hungry and can cause high blood sugars. 

 

How to navigate: 

  • Create a daily anchor. Whether it’s a glass of water when you wake up or a ten minute walk around the block, building in even a sliver of a routine can help ground you each day. Adding in one element of regularity will also help to calm your body and mind, making it a little easier to manage your blood sugars throughout this time. 
  • Stick with the basics as best as you can. Pre-bolusing even 10 minutes before you eat a meal can help avoid a blood sugar spike. Eat something every 3-4 hours to provide your body with the fuel it needs to sustain energy without pumping up the adrenaline. 

 

If you find yourself going through a life transition thinking, “I just have to accept that diabetes is going to be crazy right now and then once I get through this transition I’ll focus on it again,”  then use these tips to help you handle diabetes while going through a change. 

Because…things are always going to come up. There’s never going to be a perfect time in life, a time when everything is blue skies and smooth sailing; a time without challenges.

And, even if things were perfect, diabetes would still be hard, so it really comes down to understanding your body, recognizing your patterns, and feeling like you can make adjustments as needed. 

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