“Believe” in your power to manage diabetes

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If you missed my last post, I’ve decided to post pages from my first book,“The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes.” I wrote the book out of a personal passion and deep belief that we best manage diabetes when we have knowledge, tools, and – emotional strength to make good decisions every day and ride with the ups and downs of diabetes. 

The book is shares lessons to develop your inner strength and wisdom. I consider it a gift to give yourself or a loved one who is living with diabetes. Here’s an excerpt from “Believe in Your Power.”

Excerpt:

Life will test you; in fact, it probably already has. When life tests you, it’s an opportunity to find your inner strength, to renew your resolve, firm your commitment, clarify what’s important to you and create new ways to achieve your goals.

Having diabetes can be your opportunity to reach for something higher. It can reveal to you just how strong and capable you are. 

Open your heart to your own possibilities. Focus your attention inside yourself and hear your own wisdom say, “I am powerful, I am capable, I control my diabetes.”

Your power to be stronger than diabetes is within you.

Reflection: Today, think about or write down 3 strengths you have that can help you manage your diabetes. For example, mine are being responsible, organized and able to ask for help. Reflecting on your strengths makes them more present and can help you manage your diabetes.

“Life is a joyful blessing,” a short excerpt from my book, The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes

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As promised in my last post, I’m going to put portions of my first book here. I will try to do it every Thursday.  

Having the emotional strength and stamina to take care of your diabetes is as essential as understanding how diabetes works and knowing how to take care of it. (Both of which happen to be covered in my two other books.)

I write books because it’s a way for me to share my knowledge and help others do better. I hope these posts provide a little inspiration and help you build your “strengths muscle.”  At least you don’t have to go to the gym!

Excerpt:  

“Living with diabetes is something you learn to do each and every day. On some days you hardly know it’s there. On others, you can hardly forget. But appreciation is what fills our lives with love, joy and deep contentment, even when you have diabetes… 

Diabetes can motivate you to make healthier food choices and improve your fitness. You can take pride in how bravely you are managing it. And, when you’ve lost something, it’s an opportunity to appreciate all the more what you do have… 

Diabetes can be a gift in your hands if you use it to see how many blessings you truly have: loving family and friends, a dear pet, a comfortable home, the use of your body and mind, meaningful work, a favorite hobby, all your simple pleasure, exuberant passions and just the marvel of being you.”

Reflection: Think about, or write, three or more things you are appreciative for in your life right now. Remind yourself of these a few times throughout the day today.

Be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs

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I make no New Year’s resolutions because I know it’s just wishing on fairy dust: what I intend to do I will and what’s not that important to me I likely won’t. So, why set myself up for failure and disappointment?

But what I do want to do in 2013 is be a little more conscious of two practices I employ. The first is to be kind to everyone, in every interaction. For sure it’s not always easy, but I know even when someone is caught up in negative emotions – anger, frustration, jealousy, whatever – if I’m kind, their mood shifts from dark to light and they are more likely to greet the next person they interact with with kindness.

Second is the quote above I read some time ago, “Be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.” I’ve forgotten where I read it, although I do know it was written by a woman named Katherine Center. 

I think in some ways this is a life lesson for me. For me it means go after your dreams, dare to be successful, be true to yourself, reach to be your best, brightest self. Even if that means you stand out. For someone who grew up shy, that’s a tall order.

But I’ve realized not a selfish one, as you might first think, but an unselfish one. The more we shine, provided we do it not from arrogance, but authenticity, striving to be our best self, the more we inspire others to shine, be brave, dare to go after their dreams. 

The photo above signifies this for me. I took it last week on my morning walk. The single tree in bloom, reaching ever upward, reminds me of this quote. Stand tall, let your gifts shine and those around you will be moved to do the same. 

These are the two things I’ll be practicing this year.

Six spiritual qualities to de-stress

Celebrate the gift you are

Nan Huaijin, a Chinese spiritual teacher, died last month at the age of 94. He had many followers and popularized complicated spiritual ideas on living. 

Someone sent me this list this morning. It was titled, “Six qualities for being a person,” and just reading it makes me less stressed. Less stressed about my unending workload, too many emails, my temporary residence in my boot cast and the 24/7 news cycle. 

1. Be calm; speak less, listen more.

2. Be slow; do things unhurriedly, neither impatiently nor impetuously. 

3. Be patient; faced with injustice, don’t become angry or give vent to pent-up feelings.

4. Yield; step back, be as boundless as the sea and sky. 

5. Be light. View everything lightly, for many things will become smoke with the passing of time. 

6. Be even, which is being ordinary, being balanced.

I have to say I particularly like number 5 for its visual image that whatever I’m worried about right now will be nothing more than vapor a week from now. 

Works for me. Have a great weekend.

What I learned from Alice Sommer Herz

 

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Last April at just about this time I was the dinner speaker at Diabetes Sisters’“Weekend for Women.” One hundred women with diabetes gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for a weekend of bonding and learning. The weekend’s theme was ‘Celebrating Our Strengths’ and that was the theme of my talk.

I began with the life story of Alice Sommer Herz, the oldest living survivor, now 108 years old, of the Holocaust. You are probably wondering, as were the women gathered in front of me, why I would talk about a Holocaust survivor? This is why: Alice is a perfect example of using our strengths to get through troubling – for her harrowing – times, and thrive. 

Alice, her husband, Leopold, and their six year old son, Stephan were rounded up and sent to the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstaadt. Alice’s mother had been sent there three months earlier. Her mother would die in the camp. Her husband would die in an extermination camp and Alice and her son would two years later be freed. 

When Alice entered the camp she was already a budding concert pianist and she was ordered to play in Theresienstaadt’s orchestra. She knew she had a choice: refuse or resent the request or let music be her salvation and release her from the day to day suffering. Forty-four thousand people lived in the camp barracks that were built for three thousand. A piece of bread and bowl of broth was all they got to eat for the day. But Alice let go of anger, which could have destroyed her strength and spirit, and chose to play music with an open heart.

Alice survived, one might say thrived, under such austere, horrid conditions because she did not succumb to anger, resistance and hatred. Do you see a connection now with diabetes? She spent as much time as she could doing what she loved, playing music. She found a personal reason to stay as healthy as she could, which was to protect her son. And she remained hopeful for a better future. Throughout, Alice did not hate but maintained her optimism.

Reading Alice’s autobiography, A Garden of Eden in Hell, I found so many lessons for us living with diabetes:

1) Find a reason why it’s important to you to stay healthy

2) Grieve and move on, always looking forward

3) Rely on your strengths to get you through

4) Do more of what you love

5) Have a network of support

6) Be hopeful and expect things to get better

As Alice wrote in her book, “I have never learned to give up hope.” And neither should we.

The power of positive being

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I happen to believe that positive psychology can be a force for good – good for one’s self, and like the rings in a pond that ripple out, good for others. Whether it’s writing down at the end of each day three positive things that happened – many call this keeping a Gratitude Journal – or painting a picture in your mind of yourself at your best, which then generates actions on your part to make that picture real, positivity is a powerful force.

By positivity I don’t mean wishy-washy positive thinking, affirmations and telling yourself everything will be O.K. when you don’t really think it will. I mean focusing more on positive things that happen around you and to you as well as using more of your positive emotions: kindness, forgiveness, patience, curiosity, wonder.

As social scientist Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s research reveals, the more positives we associate with in our lives the more robust we are: more creative, more open to possibilities, flexible, emotionally strong, physically healthy and socially connected. As Dr. Boyatzis’s, organizational psychologist at Case Western Reserve University, research reveals the more positively-focused we are, the more we stimulate neurons in the brain that open us up cognitively, perceptually and emotionally. In other words, it pays to be hopeful, to dream and to look on the bright side.

Yesterday my friend Miriam Tucker was in New York and we had an interesting discussion over lunch about this topic. She had recently written about it. You might like to read her article

While we tend to shy away from being hopeful and positive for fear it will brand us Pollyanna-ish or we’ll end up with egg on our face if we fail, why not conduct an experiment? 

It was found that people who kept a Gratitude Journal for 2 months reported feeling happier, with fewer physical problems and increased their physical activity. They also benefited from sleeping longer and feeling more refreshed. 

I keep a gratitude tally in my head most days, noting at some point three positive things that have happened. While I can’t tell you what it may set off in my brain, I can tell you it rewards me in the moment with a warm glow.

Above a page from my book, “The ABC’s Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes.”

The role you were born to play may just be a heartbeat away

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Comedian Stephen Colbert 

Whether you know who Stephen Colbert is or not – by the way he’s the comedian who hosts his own late night TV show, “The Colbert Report,” I recently read an article in the New York Sunday Times magazine about him where one line made my skin tingle.

The author says, “The role he (Colbert) was born for…hadn’t yet come his way.” It references the fact that Colbert wasn’t very successful when he began his comedic career because he looked too bland, too sane and too conventionally good-looking. That the role he was born to play, the character he currently plays on his nightime parody show, is the one he unknowingly was waiting for. And by virtue of not giving up, for years, but persisting, he eventually got to play his role.

The take-away for me is if we haven’t known great success in the past, and/or are trying to find our way now, perhaps the role we were born to play – whether that’s in our work, love life, family etc, just hasn’t yet come our way. It may still be waiting for us if we just persist.

It inspires me to think that one day all of what I’m doing now may come together to fruition in a new way and be my penultimate role. 

Well, it’s a nice thought isn’t it? 

The power to tame disease

A simple yet powerful talk

I came across this video while reading psychologist Arloski’s blog on wellness coaching. 

It’s about Dr. David Servan-Schreiber who succumbed to brain cancer almost twenty years after he got it. 

During Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s years with cancer he inspired people who have cancer to fight for themselves through diet, being present and hope. 

I found the video moving and a confirmation of how much our bodies are the result of what we do. As Servan-Schreiber says, “Food is something you do to your body three times a day.” The idea of food being something we do to our body was a different way of looking at what we choose to put into our mouths. 

You can substitute “diabetes” for “cancer” throughout this short video and I guarantee you will get something out of it. Even if just a reminder about how you’re caring for yourself and your diabetes.

Thank you Dr. Servan-Schreiber. 

Dancing with your provider?

A Swiss approach to healing

As I head out to San Diego for the annual Roche diabetes bloggers social summit, I want to leave you with a beautiful piece of film that looks at the patient-provider relationship from an entirely different angle. The dance floor.

Imagine gathering in a room with fellow patients and providers to dance. Imagine how much more open everyone immediately becomes, how much more trusting and real as bodies bump up against each other. Doctors were as surprised as patients at the joy and openness they felt and how everyone lost their label of patient or provider and become a fellow person. From there, and then outside the dance room, interaction comes from a much more real and connected place. 

Imagine this quality of relationship with your care-giver. Once you do, you can imagine what this project discovered, that both care-giver and patient saw each other differently, the quality of the relationship changed and both were able to better nourish and advance the wellness process. 

Benedetta Barabino created this project in Switzerland where she lives. Benedetta holds a PhD in biology and a creative and curious mind from which she is always working on out-of-the-box projects to advance the healing process. 

I met Benedetta at the annual International Diabetes Federation World Congress conference almost two years ago where I was impressed by a similar project she was working on: having patients and providers work through blocks and barriers and advance healing through scripting and directing a play of their disease experience. 

Crazy stuff? Not so much when you consider what we’re doing isn’t working so well and that creative expression – whether dance-therapy, art-therapy or acting – can open a door to healing we seldom expose ourselves to.

By the way, the dance classes continue in Switzerland. Enjoy the video.

How brave are you with your life?

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“Be brave with your life, so that others can be brave with theirs.” That’s a quote I read recently. Unfortunately I can’t remember where, but I do remember it, because I love it.

It means stick your neck out, follow your dream, sing your song and know that you’re not being pushy, but a role model inspiring others to do the same. 

While I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I did assume a mantra last year, “Be bold.” And it moved me to do things, and risk rejection, I wouldn’t have otherwise. And that stretched me and brought me wonderful new things, and projects, like writing for the Huffington Post and speaking at numerous conferences to both patients and providers.

This year my mantra is, “Be bolder.” And, I now find myself repeating often in my head, “Be brave with your life, so that others can be brave with theirs.” Being brave with your life is not about ego, it is about dropping your ego; it is about putting yourself out there, and as an example leading others to follow. It is a selfless act not a selfish one.