Diabetes support groups can be a crucial tool in managing your diabetes.
Peer support can be the missing link in helping people with diabetes address the psychosocial and emotional health aspects of their condition. Diabetes support groups, both online and off, have made my personal experience with type 1 diabetes more positive. You, too, can benefit from those connections. Whether it's exercise, diet, or emotional health hurdles, peers who understand what you're going through are a powerful resource for living well.
But what exactly does peer-to-peer support provide, and how is it different from what I get from my doctor?
A "Me, Too!" Moment
Have you ever spied someone checking their blood sugar before eating lunch? Have you heard someone ask, "Is this soda definitely diet?" before they're willing to take a small sip to confirm? There is something intensely powerful about having one of those "me, too!" moments. They confirm that you aren't alone in your journey. When you see other people doing what you do and dealing with what you deal with, it can be so comforting.
With that "me, too" moment comes emotional support. There's a lot of focus on numbers, like A1C, weight, and blood sugars, but there's more to diabetes than just the basic data. Living with a chronic illness comes with some emotional weight, which at times may be hard to carry all on your own. Reaching out to others who know what you're going through can make talking about your experience with diabetes easier. Your frame of mind needs to be in tip-top shape in order to manage your health, so don't be shy about asking for help when it comes to lifting the mental load. You will be better for it!
Diabetes Tips and Hacks
With a crew of people with diabetes (and their caregivers) at your side, you're now armed with more lifestyle hacks and tips that you can carry. Clinicians are tremendous resources for providing sound medical advice, but people who also live with the disease can help you integrate that great advice into your actual life. Daunted by the idea of that "diabetes diet?" Connect with your peers to find delicious meals and recipes that are realistic and actually taste good. Unsure of how to wear an insulin pump with your wardrobe? People in the community can show you the best clips, pockets, and bags to help make medical devices easy to wear. Wondering how to make exercise a realistic part of your week? Go hyperlocal and ask your clinician to help you put together a walking group.
Access to sound and reasonable medical advice is necessary for a healthy life with diabetes, and peer-to-peer connections are just as essential. Sitting with a group of people who understand the intimacy of your condition, both emotionally and physically, can be a powerful healing and dealing strategy.
Do you want to connect with others who have diabetes? Talk with your healthcare team about local resources, like in-person meet-ups and support groups, to see what's available nearby. If there's nothing in your area, don't fret! You're no longer limited to your zip code or time zone, thanks to the Internet. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of online resources for people with diabetes that are just a mouse-click away.
National Institutes of Health, Emerging Diabetes Online Community
Diabetic Living, Group Support Tips for People with Diabetes
diaTribe, Diabetes Blogs and Forums
Joslin Diabetes Center, Diabetes Lifehacks to Make Your Days (and Nights!) Easier