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Nurturing Self-Care in People with Diabetes

Sep 30, 2019

by Timika Chambers, MSN, RN, CDE 

Self-care is a term that is increasingly used by the media, in technology and even in your favorite TV shows. But what does it mean and how does it translate to how diabetes care and education specialists can work with a person affected by diabetes? It all goes back to the purpose of person-centered, sustainable health.

A recent article in Times Style shared a wider definition of self-care:

"Self-care is for anyone who wants it. It can be as easy — and as free — as taking a walk, or as complex as learning a trade. Self-care can include, but is not limited to: saying no; buying things; refusing to buy things; taking a long walk; helping others; exercising; crafting; stockpiling and organizing things like coins and arranging them meticulously into Ziploc bags; stretching; listening to disco; spending time alone; singing karaoke (sometimes, alone); intending to one day start meditating."

Self-care does not have to mean what we as the diabetes care team often think it means. While intensive glucose management has its place, sustainable health and true self-care lie in what is at the core (beliefs, desires, principles, etc.) of the individual.

Meeting people with diabetes where they are is imperative to our practice; diabetes educators must encourage healthy and sustainable self-care. We must go deeper to help people with diabetes consistently choose healthier behaviors.  For example, telling someone who is experiencing social anxiety to go to a diabetes education class will not immediately work.  Diabetes educators may need to take additional steps, including following-up with that individual and their healthcare provider. There are many factors involved in lifestyle changes and many of these factors live within the individual. But we can help instill self-confidence, self-efficacy, empowerment, inspiration and motivation to carry out positive self-care strategies.  

Here are five tips you can use to support and nurture positive self-care:  

  1. Be willing to go back to square one. Do not assume that the length of diabetes diagnosis equates with knowledge of the condition. 
  2. Focus on the positive aspect of the condition.  Many times, we can get so caught up in statistics (deaths, blindness, heart attacks, etc.) that the numbers become our driving force for education.  We are then educating out of fear instead of using the diagnosis of diabetes a positive change force.
  3. Assess barriers, desires, needs, and wants consistently and follow-up on referrals and resources. When we start the visit off with what an individual needs and wants, we provide a space for the client, empower the client, and set the foundation of a team effort approach that nurtures true self-care.
  4. Use empowering language. Much of what people with diabetes do stems from a long-held belief or thought. 
  5. Help people with diabetes make the mind-body awareness connection. They are with themselves 24 hours a day. The more they connect with their amazing body and practice self-care techniques, like mindfulness or positive thinking, the more they will want to take care of their body.


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About the Author:

Guest blogger Timika Chambers is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified ACE Personal Trainer and has over 20 years of experience in the nursing profession. She has served in community and hospital settings, as well as academia. Timika helps her clients design a lifestyle that is full of energy and focus, by helping them to achieve balance in critical areas of their lives. She offers one-on-one counseling, group coaching, and presentations and training on diabetes management to lay persons and healthcare professionals. Visit her InstagramFacebook, or Twitter to learn more.

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