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- Blood sugar data is a powerful tool when it comes to optimizing health.
- The way we engage with and interpret our blood sugar results can help or harm, depending on our personal evaluation of each data point.
- A simple shift in mindset when evaluating blood sugar can help us embrace any blood sugar reading as a learning opportunity rather than a barrier.
The mind can be a powerful tool in improving the physical health of the body. With a simple shift in mindset, improvements to overall health can follow. A growth mindset—one that believes in the capacity for change and resilience—can help with this shift. Specifically, by nurturing a more optimistic environment.
Optimism—measured by the degree to which you believe that positive outcomes will occur in the future—boosts longevity and the immune system, decreases inflammation, lowers stress, improves heart health, and decreases mortality due to cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection. Optimists are able to bounce back from setbacks and adverse health events more quickly; by harnessing the power of the mind, they are keenly aware of roadblocks, but see them as temporary and able to overcome even if they don't know when.
From this perspective, the struggle is guaranteed, but the outcome is not—that is left up to you to determine. For those of us living with diabetes, applying this shift in mindset can help us see a path forward when we find ourselves in the doldrums of disease.
A New Approach to Evaluating Blood Sugar
How often do you actively avoid checking your blood sugar for fear of the number that may appear on the meter screen? Or maybe you keep your phone at arm’s length so that you don’t have to look at your CGM data. Diabetes data can truly be overwhelming.
Many of us with diabetes view our blood sugar results—our very unique and individual diabetes data—as an evaluation of our diabetes performance. And if we find ourselves discouraged time and again with those “test” results, we become less likely to engage with our diabetes, checking blood sugar less often to avoid seeing those seemingly negative data points.
We often view blood sugar as evidence of personal success or failure, which, given the common variability and often unpredictability of blood sugar levels, can lead to significant discouragement and a sense that our own actions do not matter.
This way of framing diabetes makes sense, as many of us are told early on in diagnosis of all the potential complications that can result from diabetes. There is an immediate association with alarm, dismay, and dread from providers, as well as our own fear of the unknown. It’s a mindset that tends to follow many throughout their diabetes journey, unfolding as a chronic feeling of defeat.
But that is precisely what it is—a feeling, not a fact. Our perceptions of those numbers on the screen are the source of any feelings we may experience, happy or unhappy, not the numbers themselves. The numbers—the actual, factual data points—are simply the means we have been given to make an informed decision on our next action.
Some of the blood sugar levels we see on the screen are ones we deem acceptable; others will fall outside of our comfort range—this is an absolute reality of life with diabetes. But it’s how we interpret those numbers that has such a huge impact on our ability to face them and, ultimately, create more space for better diabetes management.
Redefining "Success" In Diabetes Management
Finding Power in Your Numbers
Learning to appreciate our blood sugar—the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens—can be the ultimate feedback mechanism when it comes to better health. We are taught early on that blood sugar can be either good or bad, that it can only be right or wrong, leaving no room for interpretation. But this way of thinking can (and often does) severely impact our relationship with diabetes.
Consider this interpretation instead: the only “bad” blood sugar is the one you don’t know.
From this standpoint, your numbers are considered an incredibly powerful tool, one that we are fortunate enough to be able to access. Rather than attaching good and bad values to blood sugar, we can celebrate each number as one more notch in our belt of experience. Over time, those experiences multiply and we become expertly armed with rich information sources that can help us make more informed decisions.
This way of thinking helps us see each blood sugar check as a learning opportunity rather than a threat. It encourages us to check more often, even if we don’t like the results. The results work in our favor as evidence to inform our understanding of our diabetes and help guide us along the journey.
How to Reframe Your Blood Sugar Data
This is a simple, yet invaluable exercise to help fully embrace your diabetes. Embracing diabetes may seem counterproductive, especially if we’re trying to put it into remission. But it’s through acceptance of diabetes as a learning opportunity rather than a barrier that we can ultimately heal, or become the best version of ourselves with diabetes.
The next time you check your blood sugar, consider the following:
Lean into your personal science experiment
Fear of failure—and not actual failure—is what keeps us stuck. Recognizing that we’re not checking blood sugar as often as we should due to this fear is the first step. Acknowledging and reevaluating that fear is next. What is it that you fear in the number itself? More than likely, very little—the number is an objective data point. Instead, recognize the number as part of a very large, ongoing science experiment, one that you can evaluate, learn from, and improve upon every single day, with each new blood sugar reading.
Be curious, not judgmental
Ask questions, dig deep, wonder awhile, and allow yourself to find comfort in the unknown. Instead of judging ourselves for a pesky blood sugar reading, learn about it. Open yourself up to the story behind it, question it, and see it through a different lens. It has something to tell you and teach you if you let it.
Try an evaluation method
Assess how you got to this number with each blood sugar check. What led to this number? What worked, what didn’t? What would you do differently? How can you apply your learnings to a future event? You have the power at your fingertips (literally, if you are checking with a blood glucose meter). If you choose to dig into these blood sugar results, you can uncover incredible findings—ones you can eventually use to uniquely direct your own path to better health.
Use the magic word ”yet”
Every new experience is hard at the beginning. Think back to the last time you started something new, like a new job or school. Learning, understanding, and mastering takes time. New things are cognitively and emotionally exhausting. But over time, it will get easier. Use the magic word “yet” to remind yourself that you just haven’t mastered this, yet, but you will, just as you have done in past situations.
Reach out for support
Changing the way you respond to blood sugar levels is a process. Learning how to accept—rather than judge—the number that shows up on your meter or phone can take time and patience. Having support on the journey helps. One Drop’s clinical health coaches are all certified diabetes care and education specialists (CDCESs), meaning they have expertise in diabetes in addition to being trained in how to provide encouragement, motivation, and support for people trying something new in their chronic condition management. Consider trying a 14-day free trial of One Drop Premium to see what a difference real support can make.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Lisa Graham, RN, CDCES, clinical health coach and director of clinical operations at One Drop.