November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. A time when we pay attention to the lives of those dealing with this illness and boost awareness for the progress we have made and, and the gaps that still remain. I am sharing stories as they align to my 5 key coaching principles which I believe are game changers for your best life with diabetes.
Will you have a stormy Thanksgiving? This week the weather is treacherous as we prepare for family get togethers. No better time to talk about communication!! It’s my fifth Diabetes Coaching Principal
If you are travelling this week, my heart goes out to you! Apparently this Thanksgiving holiday brings with it some extreme weather! According to The Weather Channel, this storm, labeled a Bomb Cyclone, is breaking records on the west coast and will continue its onslaught of rain, snow and high winds as it blasts its way across the US this week. Flights are already impacted and roads are treacherous! I count my blessings I am home for the holiday in Texas, only expecting rain and cold. But as I read this news, it does bring good old mother nature to my mind. There are so many parallels with the weather and diabetes. Especially with a holiday approaching!
Much like the weather, diabetes shows up when, where, and how it wants to. There certainly wasn’t any choice that it would blow into our lives. And when it did, we all got a Bomb Cyclone of our own! There are some days that bring sunshine and rainbows. On those days, pay attention, relish it and make some great memories to get you through the next bout of bad weather. Storms in diabetes usually evolve around the unpredictable nature of the condition and we do our best to pack all the gear we need to deal with our “weather”. However its not umbrellas, sunscreen and mittens, but fruit snacks, glucagon and testing supplies.
Dealing with things you don’t have control over, be it diabetes or the weather, can really bring out the frustration. As much as the physical aspect of managing blood sugars is challenging, the emotional side can feel a lot worse. However, this is one of the few areas we have some control over. It certainly takes effort and conscious decision to view things with a new perspective, but making that choice can give you peace in the eye of a hurricane.
Although we strive for a Norman Rockwell scene when family and friends gather, the truth is it can be a time of great stress. Expectations are high and “mind reading” skills ramp up as “helpful” guests ask intrusive questions or make inaccurate assumptions. There is just something about a room full of people that haven’t seen each other in a while that makes them want to show how much they care. The intent is always admirable, but often the impact is hurtful. Throw diabetes in the mix and its a recipe for a tornado! Questions about what you are “supposed” to be eating (as if you don’t know), horror stories of someone they know who had a terrible complication (to show they can relate to you), or political commentary about what the government “should” doing (because they know) can be the spark that ignites a wildfire.
So what can you do to survive a stormy Thanksgiving? Focus on this one thing: Your communication skills. What you say, or don’t say, puts you in a powerful position to weather the storm. It is sort of like Super Nanny for relatives. Do you remember that show? Sweet nanny comes into chaotic household and with a few simple tactics, transforms out of control devil spawn, into sweet angelic children. Pack a few of these key strategies into your diabetes bag and just wait for the opportunity. It is actually sort of fun! Here are a few to get you started:
- Reflection: Instead of answering the intrusive question, just reflect it back to the asker. When Aunt Joan ask about your food choices, let that bounce off you and back to her with “Aunt Joan, sounds like you are concerned about my diabetes?” Now she has to explain herself and you can choose what you want to eat.
- End the conversation: When Uncle Bob’s brings up the story of a friend from work, whose neighbor’s second cousin had a toe amputated because he didn’t manage his diabetes well, just politely state “Love ya Uncle Bob, but that is not a conversation I am interested in having now. Pass the gravy?”
- Acknowledge: Some people will just talk because they need to be heard. Just give them what they want. A simple “I see you like to be informed about politics. That seems important to you”, will have Cousin John explaining what an astute citizen he is instead of you feeling the need to be the expert on everything on the planet about diabetes.
- Listen to understand and not reply: This one takes some skill, but choose to wonder why the speaker needs to share this information. Then ask questions. Too often we feel the need to get in our two cents which leads to a LOT of talking, but little conversation. This is really helpful when you don’t want to be the subject of the interrogation, er…………, conversation!
Being in control of your side of the conversation and choosing NOT to react feels very powerful! A pause to gather your thoughts before you reply is mission critical, so finish chewing, sip on your wine or fold your napkin a few times, if you need to and choose what words you want to say. Those few seconds add a layer of protection against a stormy Thanksgiving.
National Diabetes Awareness Month is a great time to re-assess your diabetes needs, successes and struggles. If it seems impossible to sort it all out, that is where coaching can be very helpful. An expert set of eyes, ears, and thoughts to help you untangle and start moving in the direction you want to go!
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Happy Thanksgiving! I am truly grateful for the many blessings this year!