Being in control

Being in control

The Psychology of Blood Glucose Testing and how to achieve positive results.

The psychology of blood glucose testing is the psychology of being in control. In diabetes settings. "How is your control?" is a question we get asked, and ask of ourselves, a lot. Not surprising when we consider one of our most basic human needs is to feel in control.

It’s one of the reasons babies cry so much, because they are not able to control their environments at all. They are fully reliant on others, so the discomfort of hunger or a wet nappy urges them to cry for attention to get their needs met. Of course, fast forward from the cradle a few decades and most of us are able to control virtually every aspect of our daily lives. However, diabetes can be one part of life that can feel completely beyond our control at times, even when we feel we are doing everything ‘right’.

Instant Feedback

Blood glucose testing is the key to feeling more in control of your diabetes. It puts you in the driving seat because it provides you with instant feedback on what actions you need to take — whether that’s having more or less to eat, taking additional units of insulin or something else. The important distinction is that the feedback, which blood testing provides, is fact-based rather than feelings orientated. The sense of a lack of control is often grounded in feelings. Blood glucose testing helps you plan for the future. It enables you to see what you might do differently. A high blood glucose result after a new food may mean you might like to give yourself an extra unit or two of insulin next time you make that food choice for example.

Top Tips for Changing Your Blood Testing Routine

1. Set an achievable goal. If you want to make changes to the frequency of your blood testing, set an achievable goal to start — one that is a bit beyond your current comfort level but not so ambitious that it feels overwhelming. So perhaps you currently test a few times a week, in which case maybe increasing this to once per day would be a good starting point to aim for.

2. Put in place reminders. Think about what time of day you will test (a range of times of day is good to get an overall picture, while a series of consecutive days at the same time can help with troubleshooting particular challenges). Write a reminder in your diary, leave a note where you will see it, or set an alarm on your phone — whatever helps you turn that plan into a reality.

3. Share your new plan: Tell someone you trust about your goal and plan. If you think it would be helpful, you could invite them to be your Accountability Partner. They have your permission to ask how you’re getting on and gently challenge you if you get off track.

4. Reward yourself: We don’t do anything in life without a reward. We work for pay and satisfaction, eat for the reward of flavour and the feeling of a full stomach, watch TV, or engage in hobbies to relax, and blood glucose testing is no different. Once you are in the habit of it and start to track the payoffs, you will no doubt feel that the renewed sense of control is in itself an incentive; however, in the early stages of any change, planning rewards are an important part of the process. Develop a list of treats you could engage in and give yourself one each day or perhaps a bigger one at the end of the week. Rewards don’t have to cost anything. They could be listening to music, enjoying a hobby, a relaxing bubble bath, reading a great book, a hug from your partner, whatever works for you.

Alongside the practical actions of blood testing, you might find it helpful to create more positive associations with your blood testing kit. The carry cases that meters come in can be a bit medical looking, so you might like to use a small make-up bag or pencil case that better reflects your personality, style, and identity. This can also act as a symbol that you are making a fresh start with your relationship with blood testing, and enjoying the renewed sense of control it brings. Remember though, there may be some blood glucose patterns that you can’t seem to explain, in which case, ask a member of your health care team. Two heads are always better than one and with all this data in hand, they can combine their expertise of diabetes with your own personal experience — together helping create results to be proud of..

Dr. Arif Maghribi Khan  is a mental health counselor.