One of the biggest mental challenges we face while living with diabetes is the feeling of being trapped. We’re told “no” a lot, we have physical limitations, we can’t eat or drink whatever we want, and after a while, this can lead to burnout.

One of the big ways that I counter feeling claustrophobic with my diabetes, is by practicing gratitude. By “counting my blessings” and being more aware of what I do have rather than what I don’t, I can combat feeling stuck, and instead, feel really proud of who I am and what I’m capable of.

There are some tactical tools I use to help me feel better, too. And don’t worry, none of them involve eating sugar-free candy (yuck).

1. Write it down

Writing down how you feel often gets those fast-moving, anxious thoughts out of your head. A piece of paper is a very non-judgmental space, unlike humans, and you can be as angry or upset or confused as you’d like without someone telling you how to manage those emotions. This tool helps me get out the most raw things that I’m feeling so that when I do approach others for support, I’m a little more articulate with what my needs are. This in and of itself feels freeing because I have a better sense of mental clarity. And who doesn’t want that?

2. Detach your emotions from your meals

As humans (especially American humans), we sometimes put a little too much emotional emphasis on food. This is what causes us to develop unhealthy relationships with it, creating some pretty sticky interactions with how we approach our snacks and meals.

So, to detach my emotions from my food, I try to think of my favorite, naturally low-carb things that help me feel less restricted, and I stick to them exclusively for a few days. This helps me reset my food fomo, and just enjoy some really delicious, nutritious food. For example:

  • Charcuterie plate items like cheese, nuts and cured meat
  • Watermelon
  • Perfect Bars
  • Marcona almonds with rosemary
  • Chicken meatballs and chickpea pasta with pesto
  • Steak with sweet potato fries
  • Kale ceasar salad
  • Taco salad
  • Avocados
  • Heirloom tomatoes with salt
  • Wine
  • Light beer
  • Tequila with soda water and lime

3. Go outside

I live in a tiny, Brooklyn apartment and spend my commutes underground on the subway. There are definitely times where I feel like a hamster running through a maze. Getting outside for a long walk or a jog really helps me decompress, breathe, and surround myself with enough nature to realize that I can be free as a bird if I just allow myself some fresh air!

4. Save energy

I have a tendency to take on too much and wear myself out. Managing a disease like diabetes can be exhausting, even with the simplest tasks like working out for 30 minutes. So, when I’m feeling that “rundown, woe is me, I’m tired of being so restricted all the time” feeling creeping into my mind, I try to take a step back, listen to my body and honor its cry for rest and restoration. I also try to save time and energy in other ways, whether that means putting on less makeup in the morning before going to work work, saying “no” to plans, or going to bed 20 minutes earlier. Little moments of simplicity lead to larger amounts of energy in the long-run!

5. Read a book or dive into a new show

Exploring a form of healthy escapism that is prospective-providing has really helped me to feel freer over the years of having diabetes. Reading a book with an exciting plot allows me to take a temporary mental break from my own life, helping me return to my norm with new perspectives. I also turn to TV shows that are lighthearted and funny, encouraging me to laugh off whatever stressors are plaguing me. I also love cooking shows like Chopped, Chefs Table and Salt. Fat. Acid. Heat. Ironically, culinary shows really help reinforce a positive relationship with food, and that it should always be approached from a place of love, nourishment and creativity. Not restriction and “can’t”.

6. Surround yourself with positive, funny people

This is an important one. We all know those debbie downers who can’t seem to find the joy in anything. They complain and complain until you realize you’ve been sucked into their negativity vortex, and are doing it too. If you realize that you’re spending time with people with that kind of attitude, take some space. Find some fun-loving, dream-chasing people who find joy in every day, laugh at the silly stuff, and inspire you to see the positivity that can set you free.