Keeping Diabetes In Check During Lockdown

Lockdown is tough for everyone right now, but for people with diabetes, it can be a particularly stressful time. Don’t worry though, we’re here to help.

We caught up with Diabetes Nurse Specialist Alison Place who shared some tips for staying on top of both our physical and emotional wellbeing during these challenging times.

  1. How can lockdown/change in daily routine affect a person with diabetes?

Living with diabetes is a lot to do with managing blood sugar levels and keeping them within a target range. Achieving this hinges on several factors such as diet, exercise and activity levels, stress and anxiety and the right dose of medication or insulin. 

People with diabetes work very hard every day at balancing these factors in order to achieve good control. A stable daily routine focusing on regular healthy meals, regular exercise and movement and good control of emotional and mental health are all fundamental to achieving good diabetic control.

Anything which interferes with a person’s ability to control these factors could significantly impact on their blood sugar management.

  • Which factors are most affected by lockdown?

The effects of lockdown disrupt a number, if not all, of these foundation factors. People become more sedentary, and they may not have the same access to their usual foods, especially if isolating. There may be stress caused by reduced income or changed working practices and anxiety resulting from being alone or not being able to see friends and family.

All these things contribute to the erosion of a normal routine, and an absence of structure can also cause us to forget to do important things like taking medicine or insulin on time.

My experience from the last lockdown was that lots of people with diabetes were experiencing sugars being too high most of the time. The most common reason was because they were less active than usual and eating more food. The Diabetes Nurses spent a lot of time on the phone helping people to adjust their insulin doses in order to put things right.

  • How can you best support a person with diabetes during lockdown?

This will very much depend on the individual. People living with diabetes are unfortunately used to receiving unsolicited advice from well-meaning people, whose comments can be quite judgemental.

If you know the person well you could ask some direct questions like, “how are you managing with your meals, blood tests and remembering your insulin?”. If you do not know the person well, you could ask things like, “how’s it going?”, or “can I get you anything?”.  If you are in the same household, encourage your friend or relative to take up their two hours exercise a day and maybe go for a walk with them. Ask if your friend, family member or neighbour has had the opportunity to go shopping. If a person is isolating or otherwise restricted in their activity you could offer to get some shopping or pick up a prescription for them.

Please NEVER tell a person with diabetes “you should be doing X, Y or Z”, or ask “should you be eating that?”

Please DO say, “how can I help you?”, or “is there anything I can do for you?”.

Other general tips on supporting someone in lockdown are not exclusive to people living with diabetes:

  • Keep in touch whether that’s through messaging, FaceTime or video chats.
  • Cheer each other up.
  • Keep each other going and check in regularly.
  • Make each other laugh. 
  • Take a socially-distanced walk if that is appropriate for your circumstances.   
  • Encourage on-line social activities and hobbies.

All these things can help us to stay positive when times are tough.

  • What are your top tips for managing diabetes during lockdown?

Try as much as possible to create a routine and structure to your day and stick to it. It’s also a good idea to punctuate the day with different activities to avoid boredom and becoming demotivated.

Scheduling is also important; make sure you schedule in your blood tests and medication or insulin. Also, don’t forget to plan your meals and ensure that you’re taking your two hours of exercise each day.

Try ticking off all the things you have achieved that day; this can have a profound feel-good psychological effect and can really help to boost your motivation.

Reward yourself with a treat; maybe a favourite film or box set, a video chat with a friend, some internet shopping or a food treat with the right dose of insulin to go with it.

Always remember, we’re here to help so call the Diabetes Nurses, Alison or Becky if the wheels are falling off!

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