Today is the sixth anniversary of my Diabetes diagnosis. I remember the morning I received the news from my doctor. I had gone for blood tests because I was feeling thirsty almost constantly, and I noticed that my vision was a little fuzzy.
I discovered that these are two typical symptoms of Diabetes later. At the time, I was in a state of shock. I was only 37. I thought that life as I knew it was over. It was, just not how I thought at the time.
Being diagnosed forced me to lose weight, and start eating far better. Much of the credit for eating better goes to my wife who’s found great, Diabetic-friendly alternatives to common ingredients in the years since then. I remember that she basically went out and replaced much of our kitchen inventory with healthier options almost right away.
Since then, my control has been mostly ok.
The thing with Diabetes is that it’s a progressive condition. You need to work at it, every day, for the rest of your life.
That means you need to be mindful about what you eat, and when you eat it. I haven’t found that depriving entirely is the way to go, at least not for me. I cheat now and then, and focus on keeping that urge under control.
I’ve slipped many times. My levels were way too high for most of 2018, and I’ve started to bring them back down in the last couple months with more regular exercise. When I spoke to my doctor after my latest blood test results, she said that she’d formally prescribe exercise if she could, it’s that important.
I started running at the beginning of the year. I aim for 20 minutes, five times a week. I can’t say that I enjoy running, but I’m getting stronger, and 20 minutes isn’t that much time. It’s enough to get my heart rate up to where it needs to be (frequently even higher), and I can see the results in my routine blood tests.
I can also see what happens when I take a break from my running.
For now, my goal is to get my levels down enough for a “normal” HbA1c test in a month or two. That’s only going to happen with regular exercise, better discipline with what I eat, and a focus on the positive benefits of all of this effort.
At the same time, I’m also thinking about doing a race or two this year. The city conducts a running race in November each year. Gina and Aaron ran last year, and I think I’ll join them this year, and run the 5km race.
It’s been a challenging 6 years, and I’m sure there will be more challenges in the year ahead. The point, though, is that there will be years to look forward to.
We’re now into March (wow, right?!) and I published some new stuff over the weekend that you might have missed; about work stress, Diabetes and a fresh perspective on Death. I understand, you have weekend stuff to do. Here are a couple things you might be interested in.
My Diabetes recently taught me that work stress can be deadly. I always knew stress was harmful but it was only when I saw that reflected in my blood glucose tests that I realised just how much. Here is a little post about the lessons I learned:
Diabetes recently taught me a powerful lesson about work stress. My blood glucose levels went through the metaphorical roof in December. “Through the roof” is probably an understatement. I went so far above the recommended levels it was like trying to find your house from a passenger jet flying overhead.
When I think back to December a few possible causes come to mind:
My diet wasn’t as good as it could have been. I had slipped back into some bad habits with high GI foods and a little more sugar intake than I should have.
I was pretty stressed at work. It was the holiday season and and the end of the quarter so we were under pressure on two fronts.
I picked up a cold (what doctors call a “viral thing” and what I am going to start calling “Viralthingitis” in future) and it degenerated to borderline pneumonia before I finally took a few days off to rest.
My blood glucose levels always go for a loop when I get sick and I tended not to test myself every two days like I am supposed to when I got sick. Firstly, it was pretty disconcerting to see my levels jump so dramatically and, secondly, I was lazy in my approach to monitoring my levels.
December became January and my levels were still really high. I eventually contacted my doctor in late January and she sent me for blood tests. The results confirmed my high readings (I thought my tester may have been faulty) and when I went to discuss the results with her partner, she couldn’t really attribute the changes to specific triggers. It could have been the virus. It could have been my poor control. In all likelihood it was both and, in retrospect, probably some stress too.
What was clear was that my body had changed. I was stricter with my diet in January and my levels still didn’t reduce so my medication changed to include insulin (still pills, thank goodness) and I’ve been on that for just over a month.
Last weekend I finally saw my levels drop down to the upper limits of “normal” and I thought I was on the path to not dying early. The following work day I arrived at work at our new offices (we just moved to a great new space in Tel Aviv from Ramat Gan).
The first day in the new offices was fairly stressful for me for various reasons. I realised how much my work stress affected me emotionally when I found myself being pretty short with our kids that night even though they were actually pretty well behaved. It was only the following morning that I saw just how much it affected me, physiologically. My blood glucose test result jumped dramatically again.
When I saw the blood glucose test result that Monday morning (our week starts on Sunday) I was shocked. I had been working so hard on bringing my blood glucose level down to a normal range and keeping it there only to see this dramatic change in such a short time period and due to stress at my office. It really shifted my perspective on work stress. Not only were the issues that caused the stress affecting me emotionally and impacting my relationships with my kids and wife, the stress was potentially deadly in the medium term. If I had this sort of stress on an ongoing basis, it would literally kill me.
That particular realisation was powerful because it gave me a new and very personal perspective on unhealthy working environments. It also reminded me that there are two ways to handle stressful situations. The first is to change the situation and defuse the tension. The second is to change your attitude towards the situation and remove the triggers.
Work is often stressful and a level of work stress is a given. When your stress increases to the point where your health is so dramatically affected by it, it is probably time to rethink either how you respond to stress or find another job (if you can). I certainly found myself with that choice that Monday morning. I opted for changing how I’d respond to the sorts of issues that caused my stress. That is often easier said than done and it takes a constant effort to make those little course corrections throughout your day but if you consider the alternatives, you don’t really have much choice. It can literally be a matter of life and death.
Studies show that our willpower is similar to other muscles. If little time is spent working on your self-control, you won’t see any improvements. However, unlike your other muscles, you only have a limited surplus of self-control: As our day progresses, our willpower depletes.
If you’re struggling with diminishing willpower, below are nine ways to improve your self-control and max out your productivity.
Two things which are becoming more and more important to me are making sure I get enough sleep (especially because I start work at 7am these days) and exercising enough. On the exercise front, I started running in the mornings and I’ll probably need to adjust that schedule with my early starts.