Volunteer abroad and empower children with diabetes

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.31.01 PMSummer program, apply now

Here’s an opportunity I wish I could take advantage of, but unfortunately I am too old, oh yes, and I don’t speak Spanish. But if you are a young person, at least sixteen years old, do speak Spanish and would love to have a life-changing experience empowering young people with diabetes, AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) is for you.

AYUDA is looking for volunteers to help children with diabetes in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. You don’t have to be in medicine and you don’t have to have or know about diabetes, you will be trained. 

The Dominican Republic program runs mid-June to early July. The Ecuador program runs mid-July to early August. Applications are being accepted now until February 1 and here’s everything you need to know. 

Have a safe and wonderful journey.

A coaching conference in health leadership

So, can I say I’m a Harvard graduate when I come back from this weekend in Boston? 

I’m going to the Institute of Coaching, a Harvard Medical School affiliate for the fourth annualCoaching in Leadership and Healthcare conference. 

It promises to be both educational and interesting with some of the leaders in the coaching field leading discussions and facilitating workshops. Many also come from the field of positive psychology. People like Margaret Moore, Carol Kaufman, Bob Kegan and Richard Kogan. 

This is an annual conference designed for those in psychiatry, psychology, behavioral medicine, mental health clinicians, physical medicine & rehabilitation and coaches.And healthcare providers who want to add coaching to their repertoire of skills. Here’s a detailed itinerary.

While we know patients with diabetes are still failing, in droves, to adapt healthier lifestyle habits, coaching patients is beginning to be recognized as a key instrument and support to help patients improve their diabetes self-management. 

Of course I’m looking forward to the great seafood tonight as I’m meeting a friend on the waterfront by my hotel.

A few minutes of fun from Ginger Viera

Poking fun at diabetes (yes, pun intended!)

Just for fun my bud Ginger Viera and Allison Schauwecker from dLife, both living with type 1 diabetes, posted this video “Thanks to Diabetes…?” 

They laugh a lot and came up with a kick-me-on-the-side-of-the-head ways diabetes has made them stronger. Sure looked like fun making it. 

What would your answer be if you started a sentence with the words, “Thanks to diabetes…..

Take a look. You may get some ideas.

Second International Positive Psychology conference

If you read my last post you won’t be surprised that I just spent 4 days in Philly at the Second World Congress on Positive Psychology sponsored by ippa – International Positive Psychology Association

ippa promotes the science, practice, collaboration and communication of positive psychology. Let me tell you first, that doesn’t merely mean thinking good thoughts. 

In a nutshell, positive psychology is a practice and a means to greater well being and happiness. The road is largely composed of: Being engaged more of the time in positive emotions (love, play, curiosity, compassion…) than negative ones (fear, guilt, shame…); Being engaged with life – you know those times when you lose track of time because you’re in “flow” with whatever you’re doing; Enjoying loving and supportive relationships; Having meaning/purpose in your life; Having a sense of accomplishment. 

In a practical sense, it also involves discovering, focusing on and using our strengths (you can take a surveyhere), being engaged in a mindfulness or meditation practice and being solution-focused rather than problem-focused.

The conference speakers were the world’s heavyweights in the field including psychologists and PhD’s Martin SeligmanBarbara Fredrickson and Ed Diener (these are merely the names I remember) as well as scientists, neurobiologists, university professors, psychologists, you get the idea. We participants were largely 1200 therapists and coaches from 62 countries around the world. I was indeed struck by the amount of Australians, Asians and Europeans who’d made the journey.

In general the conference is a coming together to share scientific research that validates the positive effect of positive psychology. 

There was so much to take away after 4 days of back to back lectures, workshops, and symposiums that I, and my mind, are rather exhausted. But these are a few things I took away:

1. Positive psychology is not just about being positive. It’s about living with your full range of emotions – including the negative ones – in a healthier way. Or as Dr. Fredrickson would say, it’s about using your positive emotions to broaden and build your resources, skills, connection to others, flexibilty and perspective to create greater well being and happiness.

2. Meditation and mindfulness do increase biological (slow and strengthen heart rhythm, increase circulation, lessen inflammation) and psychological health (increase compassion and awareness, make your thinking more open, quicker to see solutions) – and, it’s high time I got back to a regular practice.

3. If people are not ready to change behavior, they need information not persuasion. If they’re ready they need a plan and if they’re taking action they need to know how they will prevent relapsing back into their old behavior.

4. Focusing on what you want is a much more compelling strategy to move forward than avoiding what you don’t want.

5. “Coping” is a word that signifies “less than.” Whereas “thriving” and “flourishing” are words that signify “more than.”

6. Love is the seed that forges bonds, weaves social fabric, promotes health

I’ll also give you three things you can do right now and on a daily basis to up your Positivity Quotient and create greater health –  and you can do them without attending a conference or reading a book: 

1) Reflect each evening while falling asleep on 3 things you are grateful for or that went well that day

2) Give out more praise and compliments than you do criticism

3) When you get angry, catch your breath, pause, and try to see the personwho’s making you angry, not what they just did. We are all caught up in the stresses of life. Slow down and change or reframe the interaction.

My mind and my heart are all about this field and it’s a strong place to work from for anyone who has, treats or coaches anyone with a chronic illness. The next conference in the U.S. will be in two years. Maybe I’ll see you there.

A book to help minimize high and low blood sugar

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 4.06.17 PMNew book by Ginger Vieira

Two posts ago I wrote about Ginger Vieira who’s making a very impressive footprint in the DOC (diabetes online community). 

Today my interview with Ginger about her book, “Your Diabetes Science Experiment” is on theHuffington Post. Here’s the link.

She’s got a lot of great information about exercise and managing those nasty fluctuations in our blood sugar.

The power of blood sugar penning

I’m a type 1 who rarely logs her blood sugar numbers. I test about six times a day ordinarily, more when I eat a meal out and don’t really know how many carbs are in it, or take an unexpected walk and don’t know where its left me, or do a presentation and know the pre-talk jitters are messing with me or my sugar’s rising fast in the morning and I haven’t even had breakfast yet… and on and on and on. You get the idea, I test frequently. 

But I never log my blood sugars. Sure, I hear you say, why bother they’re in my meter. But I never look at them, never download them. And if you’re saying to yourself, they’re in my meter, you may not pay them much mind either. 

A few months ago I had a short spate of  logging my numbers because I started with a new endo and was asked to write them down. For about six weeks I wrote them in a log book. Once a week I sent them to my endo. So I began to look at them and noticed some overarching trends, ’tis true, yet at the same time a certain randomness – and without the additional information like what was I eating and did I walk that morning and had I already taken a unit of Apidra to blunt my early morning rise – they seemed just like floating numbers not attached to any relevant information. So, sure enough when I stopped sending them to my endo I stopped writing them down.

Now I’ll contradict all I just said. If you’re new to blood sugar testing or going through a patch where your numbers seemed to have changed for no apparent reason or you just can’t figure them out, I do think logging can help you spot patterns. It also makes you more aware that you indeed have blood sugar numbers and that they fluctuate throughout the day. 

And, writing them down with paper and pen seems to win in winning your attention over just letting your meter collect them. In this little piece in Diabetes Forecast magazine, “The Value of the Logbook” Laurie Terrio, a cde and type 1, lost her own argument of meter over logbook when she began to write them down and really see the impact of her numbers. 

If you need a little extra help with your blood sugar, try the pen. You might just find something worthwhile peering back at you from a real page.

Do you remember when it all began?

I was really caught short the other day. Spending most of my personal time around diabetics who know the score, I was faced with my neighbor’s mother who had just been put on insulin and was scared witless to give herself a shot. She asked if I would lead her through it so she didn’t make a mistake. She was using an insulin pen, which I do not use, so I had to read the instruction sheet right along with her. In doing so, I realized just how confusing and daunting this can be.

First there was the screwing in of the pen needle. Do you do that while it’s still in its protective plastic case or liberate it first? I still don’t know. Then there was the actual slipping off of the needle cover to expose the slinty steel thread. Then the priming: tap the exposed insulin cartrige a few times – how many is a few times and what exactly are we looking for? Carol was looking for something while I figured this was just about sending any air to the top of the cartridge. But how would she know that? And I saw she took pains to tap the cartridge in a particular way as if tapping otherwise wouldn’t be right. Then you’re instructed to dial a dose of two units to release any air in the cartridge. With this motion one should see a drop of insulin escape from the needle. Well, I did, but Carol didn’t because at that point she told me her vision’s not very good and she wasn’t wearing her reading glasses which would probably help. Oy, I thought, we’re dealing with units of insulin and your vision’s not very good? And being as nervous as you are about this, you’re not wearing glasses? Is this denial?

OK, air test performed and I ask Carol how many units her doctor said she needed to inject. She looked at me confused and said, “Doesn’t it say on the instruction sheet?” Yikes, power outtage of the mind, total disconnect, no apparent understanding that you dose for your needs based on food, exercise, blood sugar count. But I can’t blame Carol. She doesn’t know what she hasn’t been told, or what hasn’t been clearly communicated. Whereupon I see what a major breakdown we have in our medical system. You need to manage this disease, yet probably millions of people with diabetes are walking around with no information, misinformation and totally unprepared to take it on. Hmmm…doesn’t bode well for rising medical costs or the millions who’ll find themselves in hospital beds in years to come, as one diabetes educator expressed to me. So, we held off the injection till Monday when she could ask the doctor how much insulin she was to take.

Monday night I ran down to her apartment to guide her through her first injection. She answered the door in a T-shirt and no pants. I was about to say, “Do you want to put on some pants?” when I realized she was thigh-exposed for her first shot. How foolish of me not to infer this, but then I shoot through stockings, jeans, and usually just tuck up my shirt and go right through my abdomen. Anyway, within 5 minutes I had guided her through her first injection, her shaking hands steadied and she put that pen in that naked thigh like a trooper, hit the button, and because she told me she heard the click, extracted it quickly only for me to see that the dose button had only dialed down from her dose of 8 units to 6. So I instructed she put the needle in her thigh again, click the button fully, wait 5 seconds and then extract. She was loathe to do it, not because it meant sticking herself again, but she’d been clearly told not to use a needle twice. Wow, since I use my syringes a week or two before changing, I saw again the long journey from novice to old-hand. In again we went and out. This time the full dose dispensed. Mazeltov! Success, and she was smiling. Her high pitched shaky voice calmed to a quiet gleeful whisper and a new insulin-dependent diabetic was born.