As we discussed last time, everyone’s experience of hypoglycemia is unique. This week’s article is my top five strategies for helping you to overcome your difficulties with hypoglycemia.
- Tell your healthcare team.
If you frequently experience low blood glucose levels, the first thing that may be needed is a change to your diabetes regime — medication type, the dosage, or the timing of medication and/or food. Your doctor will be able to help with this.
Also, if you are experiencing less warning signs than previously, there are ways of recovering these, through avoiding all hypos for as little as a few weeks. This needs careful planning to avoid the opposite problem of overly high blood glucose levels, but is very possible with guidance.
- Immediately before checking your blood glucose, guess what the number will be.
Increase your confidence in your hypoglycemia awareness by estimating what yours is before you actually test. Write down what your guess is, then test and write down the actual result. If you often guess incorrectly, then use the following strategies to help you.
- Learn your unique ‘alarm bells’ that are your own warning signs of hypos.
Everyone has their own individual ‘alarm bells’ that is their body’s way of telling them that they are low. Keep track of what you notice going on for you when you have a hypo (obviously best thought about after you have recovered from one!). Is it a physical symptom (heart racing, tingling in a certain part of your body, sweating, shaking, or heart palpitations), or a change in your mood or in your ability to think clearly?
- Find out what works best for treating your hypoglycemia.
Experiment! Some people like to try chocolate, but because of the high fat content, it can be slow to raise blood glucose levels. Fast acting sugars contained in glucose tablets and glucose drinks can act more quickly. There’s nothing worse than eating a snack and it not working, so try a variety of foods and see what works best for you. Once you’ve found what works best for you, always carry some of this with you.
- If you tend to think you are having reactions, even when you are not, try a breathing exercise.
If you think you may get yourself into the anxiety cycle described earlier, then a quick relaxation exercise can help control your panic, so you can discover whether you are experiencing hypoglycemia.
Try the following quick exercise:
- Sit comfortably in a chair.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a slow, deep breath in so your lungs are full.
- Hold this breath for the count of 3 seconds.
- Breathe out as fully as possible for a count of 5 seconds.
- Repeat this sequence for two more breaths.
- Open your eyes and notice any subtle differences in how you feel, in your body and your mind.
- With a bit of practice, over time, you will be able to notice a feeling of relaxation.
- Once you feel comfortable with the technique, begin to practice this when you are having hypoglycemic symptoms that you are not sure whether or not are real.
- If they weaken, it is likely it is a false alarm, but in the beginning always test your blood glucose level to see if you are correct.
- With frequent practice, over time, you can expect the false alarms to occur less frequently.
You may use this article on your website, or for your own e-zine; however, there’s one thing you MUST include: Dr. Jen Nash is a Clinical Psychologist registered with the British Psychological Society. Dr. Jen helps her clients find solutions with simple and highly-effective psychological strategies to gain freedom from the frustration and stress of living with diabetes. To sign up for her free Diabetes Diary, visit www.PositiveDiabetes.com.