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November 19, 2013 > Navigating the Holidays with Diabetes

Navigating the Holidays with Diabetes

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Coping with the Chronic Illness

The holidays are a special time, when friends and family gather together to enjoy good food and good fun. But for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, it can also be a difficult time. The season is filled with challenges like schedule changes, social commitments, and all the food and frenzy that come with the holidays, and that can take its toll.
ÒSometimes people with a chronic illness like diabetes can feel a sense of loss, particularly around the holidays,Ó said Michelle Hedding, spiritual care nurse at Washington Hospital. ÒYou may grieve over the loss of the life you had before diabetes. ItÕs important to acknowledge these feeling of loss and grief.Ó
She will offer tips for navigating the holidays when she presents, ÒStrategies for Support: Coping with Chronic Illness During the Holidays,Ó on Thursday, December 5, from 7 to 8 p.m. The seminar is part of Washington HospitalÕs free monthly Diabetes Matters education series and will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), in Fremont.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough, or does not properly use, insulin, needed to convert sugars and starchy foods into energy. Blood sugar levels can get too high, raising the risk for serious complications like heart disease, stroke, and blindness.
ÒOne of the strategies IÕll talk about is planning ahead,Ó Hedding said. ÒThat way youÕre not faced with the dessert table without knowing how you will avoid overindulging and still enjoy the party.Ó
She said before you head out to a holiday gathering or event, think about what the situation is going to be and what you need to do to be prepared. That may mean bringing your own food, taking a friend to be sure you have someone to talk to, or simply managing expectations so you are emotionally prepared.
Great Expectations
ÒManaging expectations and being realistic about what you can do is important during the holidays, especially for people with a chronic disease like diabetes,Ó Hedding explained. ÒI think sometimes we set ourselves up for disappointment because our expectations are too high. Decide beforehand what holiday events you want to attend this year, what you can reasonably accomplish, and what aspects of the holidays are most important to you.Ó
She said the invisibility of a disease like diabetes can also make it more difficult to cope with because of the isolation. You feel all alone with your disease if nobody knows about it.
ÒPart of being able to cope with chronic illness is to find ways to inform the people in your life of the things you struggle with,Ó she added. ÒLet others know what you are experiencing so they can be supportive of your journey.Ó
Hedding will also talk about the role of spiritual support in coping with chronic disease. She said studies show that getting spiritual counseling or support can reduce the negative effects of living with a chronic disease.
She said spiritual support can come from organized religion or simply from the feeling that you are connected to a greater life force than yourself. It might involve prayer or meditation. Whatever form your spirituality takes, your faith and your beliefs can be healing forces in your life, Hedding added.
ÒMy advice for the holidays is to plan ahead because itÕs the best way to cope with situations that are not under your control, let people know what you are dealing with so you have allies and donÕt feel so alone, and consider getting some spiritual support,Ó Hedding summarized. ÒIÕll also open it up for discussion, because others who have been coping with diabetes for a while often have the best advice.Ó
To learn more about Diabetes Matters and other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital, visit

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