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Celebrating the holidays with diabetes

15 December 2019

Don’t let your diabetes put a damper on your holiday celebrations and festivities. By just making a few changes to your day-to-day routine, you can continue to properly manage your diabetes and still be able to enjoy all the fun and festivities of the holidays.

Don’t underestimate how stress affects diabetes

You would think that with all the fun, laughter, and excitement that surround the holidays it would be a stress-free event, but it isn’t. Holidays can be extremely stressful and that stress can really affect your diabetes.

When the body is exposed to certain psychological or physical situations that it deems stressful, it automatically starts to release hormones, such as growth hormones1, cortisol, and catecholamines, that can help give you energy and get through the stressful event. While these hormones, sometimes referred to as stress hormones, are great at helping you cope or handle the stressful event, they aren’t so great for your diabetes.

According to Diabetes UK1, these stress hormones cause blood glucose levels to spike to higher-than-normal levels. These spikes can put you at an increased risk of diabetes related complications that can have lasting effects on your physical and emotional well being.

While the best might be to completely avoid all stress during the holidays, that is almost impossible to do. Since you won’t be able to completely avoid stressful events or situations during the holidays, you can learn ways to make it easier to cope. This can reduce the amount of stress you are exposed to, which can stop it from building up and make your diabetes easier to manage.

Some ways to relieve stress during the holidays include:

  • Taking time out of each day that is just reserved for you – this can include taking a bath, a 10 minute walk by yourself around the block, or reading a book without interruptions
  • Learn relaxation techniques or meditation – simply take deep breaths for 1 minute with your eyes closed or try downloading a meditation app to guide you through a quick meditation exercise
  • Exercise regularly – not only can regular exercise help you relieve stress, but it can also help with the management of your diabetes. This can be something as simple as a short walk
  • Create lists that include all the things you need to do – lists help you stay organised, allow you to delegate tasks to others, and can also help you see any potential tasks that may be difficult for you to manage

Get organised

Getting organised during the holidays typically means creating ‘to-do’ lists, purchasing presents, and planning out schedules. When you have diabetes, holiday organisation can be a little different.

Organising during the holidays when you have diabetes typically includes doing the following:

  • Making a medication plan that is easy to follow
  • Creating a schedule that includes holiday events and activities but also includes time to check blood glucose levels, eat meals and snacks, and exercise
  • Create an organised system for your diabetes supplies – try to store all diabetes supplies, such as medications, lancets, blood glucose monitors and strips, in such a way that makes them easy to carry
  • Always take time to log blood glucose levels and make notes of any problems you may be experiencing – tracking this information can help you notice if any problems are arising during the busy holiday season. Download mySugr for an easy paper-free way to log this information, analyse and share with your healthcare team

The more organised you are, the easier it will be to manage your diabetes.

Learning the perfect balance between following a meal plan and enjoying the holidays

People with diabetes often have to follow a very strict meal plan. You can spend hours planning out every little detail of a meal from what time to start eating to portion sizes and what food should or should not be eaten. Failure to properly plan could result in unstable blood glucose levels cause adverse side effects and undesirable physical symptoms to occur.

Strict meal planning may be easy when you are at home and going about your day-to-day lives, but things change during the holidays. There is so much to see and do during the holidays that it can make it difficult to find time to properly plan a meal. If you want to continue to enjoy the holidays and still manage your diabetes, you may have to be flexible with your meal planning.

Some tips that may make meal planning easier for people with diabetes during the holidays include:

  • Portion control – there will be a lot of food around you during the holidays. Take small portions so you can enjoy a wider variety of foods.
  • Know your food triggers – people with diabetes each react differently to different types of foods. For example, some people experience sudden blood glucose spikes after eating pasta while others see those spikes with potatoes. Knowing which foods trigger spikes in your blood glucose levels will help you determine which foods or dishes you should avoid or only eat in moderation during the holidays.
  • Try to position yourself away from the food to avoid grazing and losing sight of how much you are consuming. Whenever eating, try to use a plate and only eat the portion you served yourself and take time before going back for more.
  • Only take what you can eat – don’t feel pressured to try a certain type of food or drink just because someone offers it to you. If you eat foods you don’t really want to eat, you may miss out on eating something that you really enjoy.

Taking time for yourself can give you the freedom and flexibility to take part in all your favorite holiday activities, events, celebrations, and traditions while still managing  your diabetes. So when the holidays roll around, make a plan. Whenever possible, take a walk or get active after meals. Recognize when you are stressed and make time for yourself. Remember organizing with a to-do list helps reduce stress. Plan your meals or prioritize food by what you enjoy in moderation. Most importantly focus on the things that bring you the most joy during the holiday season.

Happy holidays!

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The views expressed in the Accu-Chek blog are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited or our publishers. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.


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