Diabetes, Chronic Illness and Coping with the Stresses of the Season


Don’t think you can make it through another year of parties and holiday pressures? Here are seven tips for making it through the season with your sanity and blood sugar intact.

1. Shop strategically. Start planning your gift-giving list and shopping before the Thanksgiving holiday to lessen your burden once the malls fill up with shoppers. Shopping online or by mail order is also a great way to avoid the crowds and reduce the stress that can wreck havoc on your blood sugar levels.
2. Dash through the snow or deck the malls. The inclement weather and hectic schedule of the season can sabotage a regular exercise plan, so do your best to get in exercise where you can. Winter sports such as cross-country skiing and ice skating are wonderful fitness opportunities if you enjoy them, but even around-the-house activities such as shoveling the sidewalks and joining in a spirited snowball fight have their cardiovascular and calorie-burning benefits. And of course, walking the malls is a great way to fit both exercise and your holiday shopping in. Take all the usual precautions with blood sugar monitoring and remember to consult your physician before starting any new physical fitness program.
3. Snack smart. When you’re out on long shopping excursions, bring some healthy snacks along and avoid the food court. Small, frequent meals are best for keeping your energy and blood sugar in a comfortable zone.
4. Don’t overdo the spirits of the season. Remember, too much alcohol is bad for you at any time of year. If you’re going to indulge in a drink, make sure you have food with it, keep the alcohol and sugar content low, and stick to one serving. And make sure your host or companion knows you have diabetes and ideally, can recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar. Anyone who isn’t educated about diabetes can easily mistake the disorientation, shakiness, and irritability of a hypoglycemic attack for intoxication.
5. Give the gift of healthy food. Treat your host or hostess to a tasty low-fat or sugar-free dish at the next holiday party you attend. Chances are more than one health-conscious guest will appreciate your contributions.
6. Have a road map for diabetic emergencies. If you’re planning any travel this holiday season, arm yourself with a plan to stay healthy. Airlines, trains, and cruise ships typically offer special meal options for those with health conditions such as diabetes, so phone ahead to make sure your dietary needs are taken care of on the way. Bring snacks and plenty of medication in case of unforeseen delays on the road, rails, or in the air. Intercontinental trips that will take you across more than six time zones will require special adjustments to your insulin regime. Talk to your diabetes healthcare provider before you leave to ensure you have the proper dosage information.
7. Wrap up a cure. Shop online for cards, calendars, and gifts from diabetes advocacy groups, and help contribute to advances in diabetes treatment and prevention.
*Editorial note: Although these tips were written for the diabetes patient in mind, I really think they are great tips for anyone living with chronic illness.
Article submitted by our friends at dlife.com

  • Karen Field

    I love this plan and have used a version of it in years past. My struggle this year is having my disability turned down 2x now and not having had a paycheck for 3 months. My final appeal is Dec 20th and if I should win that one, not holding my breath, perhaps I’ll have just a few days to buy presents. Or, I may have to wait for weeks for the funds to begin again. We’ve had to tell our adult “kids” that there won’t be Christmas presents, even though I’ve got a Holiday fund, that’ll have to be spent on bills. We made the decision not to get a tree as it just isn’t something we can afford. The blessing that came out of that is that our kids pulled together and are providing the tree, by exchanging services for the tree at a tree farm. But on the good side, the spiritual side of Christmas is the most important to us every year as we are Christians so that will stay the same and it’ll be the focus without the “distraction” of the gifts. Seeing the silver lining. Spending a lot of time in bed these days to save up the energy in case things turn right side up!

  • Laury

    Thank you for the well written article. I am a shut-in because of fibro, rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatoid lung. I have to be on oxygen almost 24/7. I find ordering things online a perfect solution. When I wish to buy a gift for someone, and can’t find anything online, I either ask my husband to buy or they get a gift card from Amazon.

  • This same advice is certainly applicable for lupus. I start my Christmas shopping mid-year.

    (We don’t have the snow here in Australia – but the heat discourages exercise – time to go to an air conditioned gym.)

  • Stacey, hi I was excited to hear someone mention something about autonomic dysfunction. Excited because it is such an uneasy feeling.(passed out several times with blood pressure as low as one could imagine-SCARY) before diagnosis of Lupus, Sjogren’s and Fibro and after. Somewhere along the way this happens, not sure how it is connected. Have asked the docs and I take midodrine, but it puts a hault to how I do things now. Gets worse during time of the month. Really want to feel in control, confident, and comfortable in my own body again. Any advice or suggestions please email @ [email protected]

  • Stacey

    I agree with all of these even though I don’t have diabetes (I do end up with hypoglycemic moments though through my autonomic dysfunction, and the stress, health foods and meds all fit me too) a lot of these fit for me too.

    I do ALL of my Christmas shopping before December 1st, except a few little stocking stuffer type of things that I get at the grocery store or pharmacy when getting the needed items. I started doing this one year when I was supposed to be having major knee surgery mid-november (it didnt happen 🙁 ) but it just made things so much easier!

    Online shopping is great, if you live in a country that has good places to shop where shipping doesnt cost more than the item! I stick to Amazon mostly and make sure that I order anything that I am wanting to get by the first of november.

    One more suggestion – 24 hour stores! If you are like me and your sleep patterns are all over the place, why not plan for one night going into your nearest 24 hour Walmart (or what ever else is 24hours) and getting your shopping done. No crowds, quick lines and generally always someone there to help you with anything you need. I found that you get a lot more customer service late nights than you do in the day. Just grab a motorized scooter and take your time.

    The main ‘bad’ thing about the holidays for me is dealing with the stress of so many different people gathered into a small area for Christmas day. For us we will be traveling 3.5 hours in snow on the 24th, have 3 kids and 10 adults in a very small area on the 25th, hopefully do some minor boxing day shopping on the morning of the 26th and then drive home 3.5 hours in snow the afternoon of the 26th 🙁 Then it’s both mine and my nephew’s birthday on the 27th!! HECTIC!!

    EDS (Hypermobile and minor Classical), CFS, Autonomic Dysfunction (not sure what ‘kind’), Osteoporosis, Neck Problems (herniated disc, stenosis, bone spur, instablility), Osteoarthritis and Tendonitis in majority of joints, POTS and probably more lol Oh, I am 28 btw

  • Carol

    I’ve ordered just about all my Hanukkah and Xmas prezzies on-line. I have 3 more to buy and that’s it. I’ve found that while I can control my diabetes when I am out it’s my blood pressure that I have to worry about.
    If I rush about I start getting dizzy and objects look black with white shadows, now that is scary.
    I know that I have to take it easy and not overdo but the denial rears it’s ugly head and then I am spoonless for the rest of the day.

  • Darlene

    I am a T2 diabetic who also has CFS, fibro, COPD, asthma, kidney disease and most recently, diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency. I am really having to pace myself because a short jaunt out Friday caused me to have a mini-crisis. So, I am shopping online and forgoing the hustle and bustle of malls and stores. That should also keep anything else from being triggered. Since all of my conditions have major issues if stress rises, that is my primary goal. Thanks for the great article!

  • Faye

    Well written and greatly appreciated during this holiday season.