Just do it?
If you have lived with diabetes for a day…. or a lifetime, you have been told all the things you need to “do”. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Exercise. Count carbs. Take meds. Test your blood sugar. See your doctor. Correct anything that doesn’t produce glucose levels in range. Do it better. Do it more. Do it perfectly……or else all sorts of bad things will happen!! Does that really motivate you? Or just scare you silly?
If you answered “scared”, then you have flipped into rescue mode, known in medical speak as your “Sympathetic Nervous System“. It’s the automatic part of your brain and nerves that sounds the alarm when there is danger. It diverts your energy and resources away from “maintenance projects” (like healing, immunity, and growth) and unleashes your emergency centers. These centers prepare to deal with this imminent danger by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, unleashing glucose stores from your liver, and releasing waves of stress hormones that shunt blood and energy to your extremities (away from your organs).
The price you pay
When your mind experiences fear – real or imagined – these systems kick into place. When your body thinks it needs to fight, it shuts down the healing parts. Since we live with diabetes, we have need for a lot of repair and restoration to combat the effects of our weird glucose levels. It helps to prevent complications. Our bodies know how to heal – but they need time and resources to do it.
If you spend a lot of your day worrying, regretting, feeling judged (or judging), preparing for the worst, feeling ashamed, suffering, or pretty much any other negative emotion internally your body thinks there is a a constant crisis. Living in a constant state of 911 drains your energy and makes it more difficult to sleep, digest, and maintain metabolic balances…..yep that means glucose control!
Getting better = feeling better
Luckily, all hope is not lost! Your body has a built in system to counterbalance the effects of your 911 system (sympathetic nervous system). It’s called your “Parasympathetic Nervous System” – and it is dreamy! Literally! It feels a bit like waking up, a meditation, a nap, a warm bath, watching a movie on a lazy afternoon, lying on a quilt looking at the clouds, floating on an air mattress in the water or an intentional deep breath where you relax and let go. Simple – right? It feels sooooo goood!!! We crave it all the time.
So why don’t we do it more? A few common reasons: we add it to our “to do” list so it becomes “one more thing”, we think down time is “lazy” (US culture is not helpful), we (wrongly) believe it doesn’t serve any purpose (um, healing and restoration – I’ll take more of that), or we don’t have “time” (ha! – but you have HOURS for Facebook or if they were giving our freebies at 7-11 you would find some “extra” minutes). It feels like it will be too hard. What if we can make it feel easy! Winner!!
The voice in your head
Your biggest obstacle to finding more parasympathetic goodness and feeling better is YOU! It’s that voice in your head that spounts off all the words of judgement, punishment, guilt-trips and warnings that have your brain thinking there really is a bear chasing you and you can’t rest. By the way – when you are being chased by a bear – in real life or just in your mind, you will make snap judgements. Fleeing from a bear? The comfort of apple pie is worth it! Sky is falling? Not the time to go for a stroll. Judge bringing down a hammer? Unlikely you will act in your best interest.
So it obviously requires some change on your part. Let’s start with something easy and simple – that is always the best way – right? So the voice in your head has a VERY hard time competing with images. When your brain is imagining a sandy beach, the voice in your head gets distracted “oooh, that sunset it beautiful”. We can use this to our advantage! In just two simple steps.
Step 1: Notice you are in 911
When you are feeling stressed, your shoulders are up around your ears and it seems like there is no way out. Stop. Take a deep breath. Look around and see if there are any bears, cliffs, oncoming cars or other physical threats. If not, pay attention to your thoughts. What is the voice in your head telling you? Stop a minute and listen.
Not too hard to do that – right? Just pay a bit of attention. If you notice a ball roll into the street and see a child you stop your car. Not a lot of effort to prepare for that. If you notice the weather change, you grab a sweater or switch to shorts. Again – no PhD required. If you notice your 911 system in full force, mentally pull over to the side of the road and let it pass. Do not, I repeat do not, hop on the ambulance!!!!
Step 2: Pick a picture
Since the voice in your head loves words, no sense in piling any more into the mix. It will just stress you out more. Instead use one of these 6 cues and take a little mental vacation. Just picture it in your head and feel it with your senses. Your mind won’t know the difference and it will believe you are in the best place to rebuild, relax, restore and rejuvenate. Just take a few deep breaths, give yourself permission (because this is GOOD for you), and let your senses feel what’s in your mind’s eye. It can be from a previous experience or something you imagine in your future. See it, smell it, taste it, sense it, hear it, experience it. Again – your brain doesn’t know the difference and your body gets the benefit.
- Love – imagine being held by someone who is safe, enjoy the security, the warmth and the acceptance
- Joy – imagine when you were ultimately surprised and excited, when it just happened out of the blue and you had no time to consider the why or how
- Peace – imagine when you were relaxed, secure and calm – perhaps holding a baby or a pet – perhaps a moment in nature
- Happiness – imagine a time when life was effortless and everything was going your way – you were in the flow – allow a smile to grace your lips
- Health – imagine and remember how your body felt when you were a child, or another time when you felt stable and able
- Belief – imagine all the possibilities, the truest and wisest part of your self that is hidden under obligations, expectations and fears. Be inspired by them on your mind’s movie screen
Enjoy and Allow
All that stands between you and feeling a WHOLE LOT BETTER is your permission to do this. When you spend some time in a parasympathetic state you will gift yourself with calm, better decisions, better choices, more energy, more tolerance, more patience, more creativity, more possibility, and more freedom. It’s free. It feels good. It’s totally within your control. It gets easier the more you do it.
Actually just by reading this blog post, something inside you has shifted and you will be a just a bit more aware the next time you slip into 911 mode. When you are just a bit more aware, you notice a bit more. When you notice a bit more, you see things more clearly. When you see things more clearly, you make new choices. Choices made from clarity are always better than choices made in haste or out of fear.
What do you know? You have already started! Take a deep breath and imagine a big “High 5” from me! Feel it? Way to go! ✋
You got this! Let me know how you enjoyed your mental vacation!
Need more? It’s all in my 5 Step Program – just watch the video and learn the lessons! Mention this blog and I’ll throw in a free zoom coaching session when you purchase the 5 Step Program!