Have you ever stopped to consider how getting to and from work or personal commitments might be affecting your diabetes? If not, this may be a good time to examine some of your practices around commuting and see if some new habits are in order. These are a few suggestions I offer clients living with diabetes:
First of all, try using your commute as a time to take care of you. Leave a little early so that you don’t get upset about heavy traffic or by being a few minutes behind schedule. Breathe! You don’t need to have your blood sugar (and blood pressure) rise because of stress! Is this your only real “alone time?” You can listen to music, a podcast or anything that relaxes you. I like to set a goal for positive behavior change: Think about what gets in the way of making that goal happen, and brainstorm strategies to address the barriers. Work on stress management techniques like slow paced breathing. (Read more about mindfulness techniques here.)
If you’re a passenger or if you ride mass transit to get to work, you can use this as time to learn strategies for taking care of yourself. For example, you might use one of the many phone apps designed to help you track your health (read more about some handy food apps here), or even go online to visit a diabetes website, read your favorite blog or find a healthy new recipe that you’d like to try. Use the time to think about when and how you might fit in a few more minutes of physical activity somewhere in your day (I know that’s hard, but it’s worth the effort).
However you’re commuting, I think it’s wise to follow a few guidelines:
Carry a fast-acting treatment for hypoglycemia, otherwise known as low blood sugar. Anything dextrose-based, such as glucose tablets, should work. Make sure you have extras in case you require more than one treatment.
I encourage clients to wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace, since a key chain or wallet ID may be overlooked. (Read other opinions on wearing medical alert jewelry here.) Program an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number into your phone so that health care providers would know whom to contact.
Try to determine if there is a way to potentially prevent your highs and lows. Do you notice any patterns? Does it usually happen on the way home from work? Do you need to talk to your provider about a possible change in medication? Become a better carb counter? Talk to your doctor about starting a walking program? Make a list of emergency supplies to keep at work?
If you are driving, make your safety and that of others a priority. (Read these tips about driver safety from the American Diabetes Association.) Check your blood glucose before you get behind the wheel, and test at least hourly on longer trips, making sure to pull safely off of the road to do so. If you have a continuous glucose monitor, keep an eye on your trends so you can take action before you feel symptomatic. This is even more important for those who don’t usually feel the warning signs of a low. (Learn about the signs of low blood sugar here.)
I know you didn’t ask to live with diabetes, and sometimes it might feel like you’ve been given another full-time job. Who has time for that? But maybe you can use travel time to learn how to take better care of yourself. Remember, you are the captain of your diabetes care, so command the ship wisely!
Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE*, is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Masters-Level Exercise Physiologist who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than twenty-eight years. He was named 2014 Diabetes Educator of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and has written six books, including Think Like A Pancreas. Scheiner and his clinical staff provide diabetes management consultations worldwide via phone and the Internet through his practice, Integrated Diabetes Services. Scheiner is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience