Feeling Helpless? Here’s What You Can Do

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team

Feeling helpless in the midst of COVID-19? You’re not alone. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the virus and the situation is changing by the hour. One important thing to think about is separating what you can do from the things you cannot control. We’ve compiled a list of specific actions you can take to have a real positive impact for yourself, your family, and your community.

People with diabetes may be at higher risk should they contract COVID-19, so please take all of the personal precautions you need to at this time. Not everyone’s risk is the same, so be mindful of yourself and others. Take what works for you from this list and leave the rest.

Take Basic Precautions

Wash your hands often for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water. Practice social distancing, limiting travel, working from home, and rethink big events – these precautions are not solely for you but for those around you who may be susceptible.

Stay up-to-date with your local health department about COVID-19 in your area.

Connect With Family

Stay in touch with friends and family virtually. Up the frequency that you communicate, and be clear about how you’d like to stay in touch. FaceTime or video chatting can be an awesome tool to feel close to those who are far away – without adding any risk for you or your loved one. Other ideas for staying in touch: start a family or friend group text, find games you can play together remotely, or set a regularly scheduled phone call.

Talk to the children in your life about what’s going on. Tell them we’re washing our hands and keeping to ourselves to protect ourselves and others to help them understand that this is about all of us, not just one of us. Ask if they have any questions and explain as best you can. For older kids and adolescents, asking “what are your friends saying about the coronavirus?” might be a good jumping-off point for starting a conversation to help clear up any misinformation.

Make a list of projects for children to help you with around the house, and teach them how to cook with your extra time at home – you’d be amazed at what they want to help with and how good they will feel knowing they are contributing.

Reach out to People Who Are Most Vulnerable

Think about the people you know, and be mindful of how the current situation might be impacting their specific circumstances. Elderly neighbors, grandparents, older relatives, friends with health conditions, anyone going through chemotherapy or the many, many, other circumstances that might contribute to the current level of anxiety. Reach out and ask how they are. Offer to listen or lend a hand — helping with simple tasks like grocery shopping and limiting the time they spend in public could make a huge difference. If you’re limiting your time in public, too, even just lending an ear at this time can help keep anxiety and loneliness at bay.

Don’t tolerate or perpetuate racism, particularly towards those of Asian or Chinese descent. Referring to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan” or “Chinese” virus may perpetuate racism and xenophobia. If you hear or read others referring to COVID-19 using those terms, please correct them. The importance and impact of being kind to one another cannot be overlooked.

Support Your Local Community

Follow local public health departments and support local news. Journalists everywhere are working hard to keep the public informed about this rapidly-evolving situation. Now is a great time to purchase a subscription to your local news source if it is in your budget. Please also think about the sources of information you read, and try to verify their trustworthiness before you repeat it – the CDC and WHO are good for receiving global updates you can trust.

Donate to your local food bank (find one here). Donating money might be more helpful than donating goods, as food banks often get their items at wholesale cost (in many cases, a $1 donation is equivalent to 5 meals). If you’re well, experiencing no symptoms, and have low risk, ask what volunteer opportunities are available to assist with food distribution.

Support local businesses. If you are fortunate to have uninterrupted income during this time (i.e. can do their jobs from home) and have it to spare, consider transitioning purchases from chains to local businesses, buying groceries from local stores rather than large online retailers.

Consider purchasing gift cards now for use later at a gift store, book store, or local restaurant. Call and ask what they need, or if they’ll accept the transaction over the phone. Ask if they deliver or ship.

If you’re out and about, tip your waiters and waitresses, Uber and taxi drivers, stylists, barbers, and other service industry workers as generously as you can afford. 

Offer support in other creative ways, like buying yourself or others a gift card online to use later, and shopping local businesses online if they have the capability. Reach out and ask what support these businesses need that you might be able to offer (i.e. even just sharing online about what they do).

Support the Diabetes Community

Help drive research + innovation. Sign up for the T1D Exchange Registry, a research study that pulls from your personal experiences and data to help accelerate the development of new treatments. Previous T1D Exchange research efforts have led to things like insurance coverage for test strips and changes in guidelines for A1C goals – your input has the power to make a difference.

Donate your data + impact others. Join the Tidepool Big Data Donation Project, helping further the reach of our collective knowledge about diabetes. Your data gets anonymized and Tidepool will also give back 10% of proceeds to the nonprofit organization(s) of your choice.

Share your voice. Talk to your network about the importance of social distancing and other steps you’re taking to minimize contact and stop the spread of this virus.

Connect with the Beyond Type 1 Community. Download the the Beyond Type 1 App and chat with others living with diabetes. We need connection with others now more than ever.

If You’re Facing Challenges Around Work + Income

If your work hours were cut, file an unemployment claim.

Contact your creditors, electric, phone, and cable companies to see if any accommodations or payment arrangements can be made to make up for lost hours or pay shortages at work.

Worried about homelessness or evictions? Reach out to organizations dedicated to fighting homelessness and their plans to deal with the pandemic. Also, stay informed on if your city’s policies on halting evictions due to COVID-19.

What You Can Do to Support Mental Health

Look into telehealth options for mental and physical care. Check your insurance to see if there is a telehealth service offered, contact your doctor to find out if they have an option for remote visits, or check out services like DoctorOnDemandBetterHelp, or TalkSpace.

Find a new daily routine. Keep getting up early, making coffee, eating breakfast, getting ready for the day and choosing a space to work. Going about your day to day as regularly as you can will only do you and your family good.

Volunteer with animals. Dogs and cats appear to not be susceptible to the virus*, so if you are able to walk dogs at your local shelter or visit the cats, consider it. Animals can help reduce stress, and you might even end up with a new friend to take home.

*the virus may be able to survive on the animal if it has been touched by an infected individual, so know the risks here 

Volunteer your time remotely to help others experiencing distress. You can take the training to become a Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line from home, and work to support those in crisis.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Mental Health and Coping with Coronavirus

By Mark Heyman

I would be willing to bet that you have been feeling more anxious than usual over the past couple of weeks. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the news and with all changes we’ve had to make to our daily lives because of the current coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). When you throw diabetes into this mix, things can feel even more stressful.

As a person with diabetes, taking care of your mental health is especially important when you’re feeling stressed. Here are some strategies you can use to stay emotionally healthy during these uncertain times.

Focus on What You Can Control

This situation is anything but normal, and it’s likely that you are feeling like things are out of your control. Let’s be honest – right now there are lots of things that you do not have control over and that is scary. Focusing on things you do have control over can give you a sense of stability, which can calm your mind. Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:

  • Stick to a routine. Get up at the same time every morning, take a shower and get dressed. Creating a structure to your day can help life to feel a bit more normal.
  • Follow public health recommendations. You have control over doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly, keep up with social distancing and stay away from crowds.
  • Keep managing diabetes. No matter what is going on around you, you still have the ability to manage your diabetes. Make healthy food choices, stay active, monitor your blood sugar and take insulin. Even if you don’t have perfect control of your numbers, you will know that you’ve done everything you can to keep your blood sugars in range.

Give Yourself Space for Your Emotions

All of the uncertainty in the world right now is unsettling and scary. These are not emotions that are comfortable or fun, and your first instinct may be to try to avoid feeling them. Remember, it is okay to feel whatever it is that you are experiencing. Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions come up for you –  you can handle it!

Be Kind to Yourself About Your Management

Stress can make blood sugars a lot more difficult to manage. Keep this in mind during these stressful times and be kind to yourself, especially if your blood sugars are not where you would like to see them. Instead of getting down on yourself for not doing “a good enough job” with diabetes, try telling yourself that you are doing the best you can in this difficult situation. Showing kindness to yourself is no different than showing kindness to others. If you get down on yourself (as a result of frustration over your diabetes, or any other reason), ask yourself what you would tell a friend who was in the same situation.

Stay Connected

We need to stay connected with the people in our lives, especially when things are rocky. Our friends and family can give us support, reassurance, and maybe even a good laugh to lighten the mood – all of which are essential to our mental health. Just because we are experiencing “social distancing” does not mean we can’t stay connected. Send an email or text, call someone on Facetime, or even pick up the phone. We are all in this together!

Caring for Others

Caregivers of people with diabetes also need to stay emotionally healthy during this time. People often think that taking care of themselves means not taking care of others, and nothing can be further from the truth. In fact if you don’t care for yourself, you’ll likely have a much more difficult time caring for others.

Dr. Heyman went live on the Beyond Type 1 Daily Instagram, answering community questions about tackling mental health in the midst of COVID-19. Watch the full video:

Source: diabetesdaily.com

How Type 1 Diabetes Brought My Father and I Closer Together

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Samuel Frank

Lifelong Reality

I have no memories of my father without diabetes. My father was diagnosed with type 1 in 1989 when I was 3 years old. Diabetes and Papa Frank were always hand in hand, one and the same. As a chemistry professor and academic, he seemed to get a thrill from stable numbers and consistent control and he would never shy away from talking about it.

My father is incredibly loving, especially to his family. He loves to share a story or an exciting idea. I’m blessed to have grown up with such a loving, kind-hearted father — at no point were aggressive assertions of masculinity expected from me nor my brother. He is also very particular, specific, and regimented — presumably from having type 1 for so many years, or maybe, that’s just how he is.

Growing up, my father would work as a professor and come home around 5:00 p.m. And he had a list of maybe ten meals he would prepare, with occasional variations. He developed a “square meal” that was his baseline, average, expected, protein-and-vegetable rich meal. No snacks or sugary beverages, caution and restriction while eating out — all told, a marvelous diabetic. As a child, I don’t recall a moment when his health was in danger or his diabetes management was questioned. And it wasn’t a mystery; my father loved to disclose his diabetes management. A dinner out would often end with a round of, “Guess what my blood sugar is?!” And as a child, I knew enough about the symptoms of hyper- and hypoglycemia to make a prediction. When my father was on target after dinner, he was almost elated. The 115 mg/dL was a symbol of harmony for me. If my father was happy, I was too.

Kindred Spirits

I always saw myself in my father and he was always quick to relate to me. We both had one older brother, which created a powerful and unique dynamic of understanding. But it wasn’t just this. My father loved identifying our similarities and I loved being recognized, being seen, and losing that feeling of being alone. Today, I am 33, and this has remained ever so consistent. There have always been physical and emotional similarities between us. So, echoing my father, throughout my life, I imagined what it would be to have type 1. The poking and prodding of needles appeared horrific. And I often wrote it off, as he would be the first to remind us that he was 44 — later in life — when he was diagnosed. It happened the same way with his aunt and grandmother.

Samuel

Image source: Beyond Type 1

But it happened to me at 27, earlier than the other members in my family. I was in my second year of graduate school for social work and marvelously stressed. I went into DKA on December 27, 2013 while visiting my family in Fresno for the holidays. At one point in the weeks prior, I recognized some of the symptoms but attributed them to stress from graduate school and chose to ignore them. My family didn’t recognize the DKA since no one they knew had experienced it before, but they followed their instincts and my parents took me to the ER as I continued to get worse.

While traumatizing, it couldn’t have happened at a better time of year. After 3 days in the hospital, I took a week off from my internship in San Francisco and stayed home with my parents, acting as my father’s diabetes mentee. It was emotional and challenging and confusing, but I was so thankful not to have to do this alone.

So during that week, I dove into diabetes management, meals, and lifestyle adjustments. After meeting with a few endocrinologists and health educators, I learned about carb counting and daily totals. My father doesn’t carb count; since he has such a solid meal regimen, he knows how many units of insulin to take to maintain a functional rhythm. As I was learning how to bolus, he would lean over my shoulder, look at my plate, and create an approximation. My father owns his decision to use his square meal method instead of carb counting, stating, “I see it not as a calculation, but as an art.” I don’t think he’s wrong, but it felt divergent from the messaging I received from medical professionals. The nurse would tell me one thing but my Papa would tell me something else. I needed to make my own way.

The Same but Different

We were never apart, but diabetes brought my father and I closer together. To this day, it gives us something to talk about. I’m often captivated by his stories of obscure blood sugars at an inconvenient time, and I can share mine. When I’m fed up with abnormalities, my father is always there for support and advice. We learn together about modern technology to help our management and share information. Plus, most importantly, by growing up with a diabetic parent, he normalized the subject matter. I speak about my disease, my insulin pump, and management style with glee to my coworkers and friends. I think I notice a little bit of my father come through when I speak with good friends about a successful bolus for a carb-heavy meal.

Don’t get me wrong, we are also different people. I’m now 33 and don’t have children, so my lifestyle remains much more variable than my father’s ever appeared. My mealtimes are quite inconsistent, and my diet often fluctuates; I drink, I travel, I stay up late. But to this day, when he and I are eating the same meal and the same portion, it’s nearly the exact same size bolus that we give ourselves. I truly have my father’s disease. And that means I carry my family line ever so truly.

It always meant so much that I didn’t have to learn this alone. I wish for every parent of a child with diabetes to not just have compassion, but empathy and robust understanding, to normalize frustrations of the disease and its limitations for that child. I learned recently that type 1 isn’t always genetic, and often diagnosed earlier in life. The Frank family pancreas seems to just give out after a while, leaving us diagnosed later in life. But that makes our situation all the more unique, rare, and maybe even, special.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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