Loosen Up Once in a While

Taking a vacation from my diabetes management.

Kerri SparlingBy

August 2011 — The last time I took a relaxing vacation with my friends was in college. Before jobs, marriages, and children, I would take beach weekends with my girlfriends and we'd make complete and utter messes of ourselves in all possible ways — sunburns, eating crap food, and having a few drinks. Relaxation was easy to come by then, and I didn't appreciate it while I had such ready access to it.

Fast-forward six or seven years, and I'm busier than I could ever imagine. With a house to manage, a one-year-old daughter to chase after, and a full-time business being run from my home office, I'm a little short on free time these days. Then add in my diabetes management and hours flip into days, which mush into weeks, and all of a sudden I blink and a month has flown by.

Which is why, when two of my friends asked me to join them for a few days on the beach in the Dominican Republic, I said YES without thinking, starting to mentally pack immediately.

Prior to my pregnancy, diabetes management was my priority because I wanted to have a baby. I knew my A1C needed to hit stride before I played host to a fetus, so I buckled down and made that number happen. Then we got pregnant. Then the baby was born. And then burnout hit.

Coupling diabetes burnout with my busy schedule was a recipe for distracted disaster. Everything was starting to suffer, including my emotional health. (Because there's nothing more fun that waking up from a sound sleep, panicking, and yelling "Did I put my pump back on?!" and "The laundry detergent needs to be burped!" in the same night.) Instead of tightening things up, I needed to do the exact opposite: I needed to play it fast and loose.

You would think that loosening the reins on my already-slacking diabetes management plan would be the worst idea ever. But it was exactly what I needed. Sitting on the beach for four days with my best friend at my side and a drink with a little paper umbrella in hand was exactly what I needed to get my head on straight. It's easy to get wrapped up in the nonsense of life when it all seems to be coming at you at once. "Oh my god, I need to load the dishwasher, answer emails, explain why you can't lick the cat's tail to my daughter, and … aw shoot, did I forget about a conference call?!" I needed to be away from as many responsibilities as possible for a few days. Focusing solely on de-stressing would make it easier for me to get my head realigned. And a realigned head would lead to better-controlled diabetes.

On vacation, we answered to no alarm clock. Cell phones were turned off. Emails weren't checked. Laptops were held captive in our luggage, and I barely even wore shoes. We slept in some mornings, and woke to see the sunrise on others. Our schedules were ours again, and not dictated by work, family, or obligation.

Upon my return from vacation, I downloaded my blood sugars and saw that in a full five days, I was only above 200 mg/dl twice and under 60 mg/dl once. The graphs on my Dexcom reflected the same steady control. I felt more in the groove of testing and reacting to blood sugar numbers, and I felt more in tune with my health, and more in control of my diabetes management. After only five days away? Could loosening up be the quick cure to diabetes burnout? Does it make sense to "let go" in efforts to gain control? Should this topic be researched, in depth, by way of another Caribbean vacation?

The answer to that last question should be a resounding "YES."

Visit Kerri's website.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 14, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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