Approaching Worry with Diabetes Patients

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by David Hite PhD

The holiday season is a worrisome time for many of my diabetes patients. Family dinners, office parties, and holiday cheer often make them feel apart from, instead of a part of, life. They are everywhere reminded that we eat food for many reasons besides nourishment; celebration, tradition, family. And so they worry. I wish it were not so. Certainly trying to control blood sugars during the holiday season is something to be concerned about. But is it helpful to worry?

This may seem to be simply an exercise in semantics, because, admittedly, in the vernacular, we use the words worry and concern interchangeably. But I suggest that a refinement in definitions will help to make a point that can be both enlightening and comforting to your patients.

Worry or fretting involves negative self-talk. "Dark imaginings" serve no useful purpose and instead drains energy that could be put to better use solving the things you're worried about. "Worrying is... moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." - Corrie ten Boom

The stress response, fight or flight, offers good protection for us, but it functions best in the short term. Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings, which often result in negative actions. Constant stress from worry forces us to stew in our own hormonal juices until we're physically and emotionally exhausted. We soon become ineffective and unproductive.

Concerns are real, and require planning and action to address and solve. Worry is what you do in between those moments of action. During the holiday season I encourage my patients to "Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."
Be present in the moment, thankful for today and hopeful for tomorrow. And strive to face concerns without worry. In difficult times I find comfort in reading Max Ehrmann's Desiderata.

About The Author
David Hite PhD, is a lifelong educator, spending 20 years teaching biology, chemistry, and health education at the high school and community college levels, two years teaching science at Cairo American College in Egypt, and two years at Shanghai American School in China. Dr. Hite developed the patient-friendly "Take Control - Diabetes Basics", a diabetes educational DVD used by clinicians to encourage their patients to implement and maintain effective self-care strategies, and has spent the past 11 years working daily with diabetes patients as a Clinical Health Educator in the Chronic Conditions Management Department for a large non-profit healthcare provider in Sacramento, California. Dr. Hite is a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and the American Diabetes Association.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of DiabetesProductSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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