Holiday season is in full swing, and for many people that means a schedule filled with family gatherings, workplace events, shopping, travel and parties. While holiday festivities are meant to be fun and upbeat, feelings of stress and anxiety often find their way in.
If you’re also trying to manage diabetes, seasonal stressors can also make taking good care of your health even more challenging. In addition to trying to eat right and manage your blood sugar, you may find you have less time to exercise, are feeling more stress and not getting enough sleep.
Take control of holiday stress before it takes control of you. These five tips can help you stay on top of your diabetes—and your overall health—during this busy season.
1. Set priorities.
Instead of stressing yourself out by trying to attend every event or find the perfect gifts, take a few minutes to decide what is most important to you (and your health) and then adjust your priorities accordingly. What do you absolutely need to do? Exercise, for example, will not only help you manage your blood sugar, it can relieve stress and give you a physical and emotional boost.
After you’ve identified the top priorities, move on to what you would really like to do versus what you think you should do. Give yourself permission to say no to invitations or requests if you need time to take care of something else—or simply to relax.
2. Make a plan.
Use a calendar app to plan your days. You’ll know at a glance where you need to be and when, so you can avoid both overbooking and being rushed. This approach also allows you to take care of your diabetes by scheduling time for exercise, keeping medical appointments and reminding yourself to test your blood glucose or take medication.
Block off time for yourself as well, so you can enjoy reading, meditation or whatever helps you relieve stress or re-energize.
3. Celebrate in moderation.
Between family gatherings, meeting friends for lunch and sweet treats at work, the holidays can serve up a tempting array of foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugars. Moderation is key; watch your blood glucose and carb intake.
Before a family dinner or work party, have a healthy snack to take the edge off of your hunger.
Choose low-glycemic options when available and remember to count carbs in beverages, including alcohol.
Bring a diabetes-friendly dish to a potluck so you’ll have at least one good option.
Also, keep in mind that it’s fine to leave a party or event early if you need to. If you’re feeling tired or anxious, or just need to get away from the food and drink, thank your hosts and go home to take care of yourself.
4. Stick to your exercise program.
Exercise is always an important part of diabetes management, but especially so when you’re stressed or feeling anxious or depressed. Make a commitment to your workouts. If you find it difficult to keep up your usual exercise routine, here are a few things to try:
Make workout dates with a friend or coworker and help each other stay on track.
Instead of meeting someone for coffee, meet up for a walk.
Break up exercise into 10-minute bouts if that makes it easier to fit it into your schedule.
Talk to a personal trainer or health coach about ways to adjust your exercise schedule until the holidays are over.
5. Be prepared if you travel.
If your holiday plans include traveling, pack extra medication and supplies in case you are delayed for some reason. Keep them in a carry-on bag that travels with you at all times and toss in a few diabetes-friendly snacks as well. Also, bring prescriptions for your medications and supplies should you need to have them filled away from home.
Finally, while it’s unlikely you will need it, it’s a good idea to find a diabetes physician, hospital and emergency care at your destination before you leave home.