Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Ever notice how hard it can be to make a change—even a small one—in your daily routine? Humans live to maintain the familiar. We seem to be hardwired for it. Even if we aren’t happy with the day-to-day routine, we cling to our familiar zone. You’ve heard that expression about “the devil you know” being easier to live with than the one you don’t know. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
And then diabetes comes along, followed by change in your life. Not only the obvious changes, such as treatment regimens, but other aspects of your life as well, like how you structure your day, which activities you participate in, what you eat, how you function at work, and the way you relate to people.
Diabetes challenges us to step out of the familiar. That’s one of the reasons why learning to live with a chronic condition can be so hard. What if you looked at your chronic condition this way: Life is asking more of me. This is an opportunity to step outside of the familiar zone.
In response, expand your life.
How to get started
1. Change your self-talk. Focus away from what your chronic condition is taking out of your life and toward what’s possible. Start the day by asking yourself: “What’s new today? What can I do today that I didn’t do yesterday?” If your life’s being shaken up, then get shaking!
2. Expand your knowledge. Do some research to explore new options. Ways to spice up your diet. Activities or hobbies you can get involved in, on your own or with family and friends. How to take better care of your emotions. Don’t forget: ignorance isn’t bliss.
3. Take a few (more) steps. And then put them on your schedule to reinforce your commitment. Sure, build in the things you need to do to promote wellness, like a healthy diet, but also build in more fun stuff, like making time to be with a supportive friend or doing something you enjoy. Breaking up the usual routine requires some thought and planning.
4. Stop trying to control everything! Staying stuck in a rut is not the same thing as staying in control of your life. As a matter of fact, the first lesson that chronic conditions teach us is that we aren’t in control. So be okay with not knowing. What are you trying to hang onto so tightly anyway? After all, you’re still you. Be more of who you are.
5. Create a vision for the future. What do you want your life to look like? Find the balance between what’s realistic and what’s possible. Maybe you’re not going to climb Mount Everest, but how about getting outside more, enjoying the open space, doing some hiking? In other words, the road to happiness and fulfillment in life is not a straight line. So consider alternate routes. Enjoy the view.
Set goals. Make plans. Push boundaries. Keep moving. Surprise yourself. That’s resilience!