Taking a holistic view of diabetes can help people with the disease live better lives, stay healthy and feel more confident about themselves.
Erin Dolan admits that when she was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes around 30 years ago, she experienced a loss of self-identity, fear of judgement and lack of confidence.
These days, however, she takes a holistic approach to the disease, which entails focusing on her whole self (rather than just her diabetes) to find a balance between her mind, body and spirit. This has worked so well that she is now a health coach with her own business called Crazy About Diabetes that helps those with diabetes to lead more fulfilling lives.
You don’t have to feel alone. There are so many resources available to help anyone with diabetes progress their health — and live their best life.
“Diabetes is often referred to as ‘an invisible disease’ because you can’t tell if someone has it just by looking at them,” says Dolan. “Yet it comes with many physical and emotional challenges. That’s why it’s important for anyone with diabetes to find ways to reduce their mental stress, while being aware of the effects that physical activity, food and nutrition can have on their body. Finally, by embracing their diabetes, they can increase their self-esteem and lift their spirit.”
Tapping into resources to boost physical and mental health
To help her mental health, Dolan swims in the sea, has run marathons and even cycled across Central America. But mindfulness practices don’t have to be as big and ambitious as that. “If you have diabetes, it’s constantly on your mind,” she says. “It’s exhausting. So being present in the moment with something you love to do gives your mind a much-needed break. It could be cooking, gardening, knitting or dancing. As long you enjoy it and it redirects your focus, it’s a valid mindfulness practice.”
When it comes to bodily health, Dolan has reassessed her relationship with food. “There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet,” she says. “It’s up to each individual to experiment with cooking, crowding out processed foods and bringing in healthier alternatives.” She also advocates meal planning and using technology such as carb-counting apps to help make the process easier.
To soothe the spirit, Dolan stresses that people need to embrace their diabetes (rather than wishing they didn’t have it) and connect with others in the same position. “It can be an isolating disease,” she says. “Yet you don’t have to feel alone. There are so many resources available to help anyone with diabetes progress their health — and live their best life.”