Seven Life Hacks for Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Living with diabetes day in and day out, you need to figure out tricks to help manage your condition and give you peace of mind. Here are some top hacks from people who have been managing Type 1 diabetes (T1D) for decades.

Key takeaways:
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    Your blood sugar will never be perfect. Always carry something with you in case you have low blood sugar such as juice, glucose tabs, gummies, or candy without fat.
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    You have to figure out how to relax.
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    Mark and organize your insulin!
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    Learn some easy tricks to help carb count more accurately and go easy on yourself.

1. Your blood sugar will never be perfect

Your diagnosis means you will have elevated blood sugars. Even if you follow your doctor’s instructions by the book, and just when you think you have things figured out, something will happen and you will have high blood sugars.

This is hard for Type A perfectionists. It is very frustrating when you are trying your very best and it is not reflected in your blood sugar levels. Numerous things can affect your blood sugar, such as stress, sickness, menstrual cycles, menopause, or even a change in schedule. And then, sometimes we don’t know why it’s high despite our best efforts.

You need to set realistic goals for yourself, so you don’t get too upset. If you set out with the mindset that everything you do needs to be perfect, you will be angry, frustrated, sad, disappointed, discouraged, and stressed all the time, which in turn can also affect your blood sugar.

If you try to do your best and then problem-solve what caused your high blood sugar, you can learn to prevent it in the future. Remember: diabetes is a game of averages not perfection.

2. Figure out how to relax

In this stressful world with our phones constantly dinging and alerts going off, along with our already busy life with responsibilities and over-scheduling, we are under constant stress unless we have a way to relax and manage it.

Figure out how to relax and de-stress. People don’t often realize how much stress, even if it is an everyday constant in your life, affects your whole body including your diabetes management. This could even be taking a walk outside for 10 minutes, standing on the grass barefoot to enjoy nature and ground yourself, practicing some deep breathing, laughing and getting together with friends, watching a funny movie, enjoying a hobby- puzzles, crafts, golf, or bird watching. The sky's the limit.

Often people don’t realize how stress has affected their health until they are faced with serious health conditions and need to make lifestyle changes. Use diabetes management tools, like stress management, to add more balance into your life and take some time for yourself.

3. Plan

Planning for emergencies or surprises is key in diabetes. Life doesn’t always go as expected so planning and being prepared is key. Always carry something with you in case you have a low blood sugar such as juice, glucose tabs, gummies, or candy without fat (like gummy bears or Swedish fish, but nothing with chocolate or peanuts).

Even if you are going out for a short time, have something in your car or pocket. Low blood sugar always seems to happen at the most inopportune times and when you don’t have something readily available. Have backups to avoid an emergency low blood sugar and panicking to find something to eat. Don’t rely on others to have what you need.

4. Buy in bulk

Even the most meticulously managed person with Type 1 will get low. We know that. Buying glucose tabs, juice packs, gummies, or candy in bulk will save you money in the long run. It applies for other out of pocket items like alcohol pads (although if you buy too many they expire and dry up). Think of cost-saving tricks to reduce your diabetes-related expenses.

5. Mark and organize your insulin!

If you are on multiple daily injections, mark your long-acting and short acting insulins identifiably so if you grab them, you can quickly and easily know which insulin you have in hand. This can avoid major issues if you go to take insulin to cover your meal and end up taking long-acting insulin and vice versa. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation where you may need medical attention or eating a lot to feed the insulin and avoid a severe low blood sugar.

6. Learn some easy tricks to help carb count more accurately

Learn portion sizes of the foods you eat most commonly, this will help you more accurately carbohydrate count and dose insulin.

Look at the portion size / grams of carbs of food labels:

Nutrition Lable

When first starting to count carbs, many people measure their food (cups, tsp, tbsp, etc.) so they have a mental picture of the portion size for the future. There are some apps on the market that allow you to take a picture of your food and it provides the estimated number of carbs in the portion size. There are also tricks to “eyeball” portion size when you are eating out.

  • Your fist is about the same size as one cup of fruit or pasta.
  • Your thumb (tip to base) is the size of one ounce of meat or cheese.
  • Your palm (minus fingers) equals three ounces of meat, fish, or poultry.
  • Your cupped hand equals one to three ounces of nuts or pretzels.
Portion Guide

7. Go easy on yourself

You are busy working, taking care of your family, finances, and having a life like everyone else in the world, so at one time or another, your diabetes may take the back burner. You may forget to take your medication or insulin, eat before realizing you didn’t check your blood sugar, miscalculate how much insulin you need, forget your diabetes supplies and have to run home again, or even get into a rut with your management.

This is all normal – it happens to EVERYONE! Don’t be too hard on yourself – forgive yourself, and don’t dwell on what didn’t work out but learn from it. And finally, know that tomorrow is another day with a clean slate.

Follow these seven tips to make life easier while you manage Type 1 diabetes. From managing your blood sugar levels and insulin, to learning how to plan and shop, relax and not be too hard on yourself, it’s possible to make life easier for yourself.

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