Balancing Work Life And Diabetes

Managing our personal and working lives is always a challenge. Throw diabetes into the mix, and suddenly, there are more decisions to think about each day. Sometimes, I feel like I'm spinning through the house and can almost feel the silky cape flapping behind me as I race from the laundry to the dishes, homework, papers, grades, and crying baby. Suddenly, I realized that I tested my blood sugar 15 minutes ago and "oops!" I forgot to look at the results. Or, I realize I gave my bolus or injection and, in the middle of the craziness of this life, I forgot to eat. My job for the last 10 years has been a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom, which meant I was at home and could eat when I wanted (as long as there was no screaming child). Now, as I am venturing back into the working world, I find myself having to come up with more creative ways to stay on some sort of schedule. This creativity has included eating a ZonePerfect bar for lunch in the 10 minutes of free time that I have between the classes I teach. This is not the best approach and there are days that I ended up on the high side, but it works for now. I've learned that balance is a goal, not always a guarantee.

Lesley Hoffman Goldenberg works full time. She says:

I have Friday off but I often have to run programming or teach on the weekends. On the days where there's religious school, I'm often at work from around 10 am until, sometimes, 8 or 9 pm. I try to bring a healthy dinner or run out and get a salad in the middle of it all. But, I end up eating at work and synagogue food is so unhealthy! They always have bagels, fattening tuna or egg salad, and/or pizza. I can actually handle and count pizza pretty well, but it's not filling. So, the eating part and working late is definitely a challenge. The great part about my job is that I run my own show. I certainly have bosses, but I am very autonomous and can get my work done as I please. If I need to chat with a doctor during the day, log my blood sugars, or leave for an appointment, no one bothers me about it or even necessarily knows. It's wonderful and I am very grateful for this position.

My advice is to always place diabetes high on the priority list, either as the first item or as the second one. Don't let it slide down. It's hard and it can be challenging depending on what kind of work you do, but it's imperative and as important as work or family. Otherwise, work and family won't matter, and diabetes will take over your life. Put diabetes on the front burner so, eventually, you can put it on the back burner. It will never take care of itself but it can be so well controlled, that it will seem "easier."

Emily Wefelmeyer teaches high school math. Her first class is at 7 am .

She says:

I am not a morning person to begin with, so my mornings are pure chaos. The biggest challenge for me is when I have my infusion set come out as I am in the shower (only happens on the days that I hit snooze 3 too many times!) and have to replace it, get dressed, grab breakfast and lunch and still be [able] to [arrive at] work on time (we have to be there 5 minutes before the kids, so there is no extra room).

Luckily for me, I am in a section of the building where we all cover for each other, and the group of ladies that I'm with is fabulous. They have covered my classes if I don't make it in because I need to change sets, they have covered for 3 minutes when I had to go back on shots, and they have covered for the last 5 minutes of the day so that I can make a doctor's appointment on time. I would not know what to do without them.

Jennifer Ahn is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist dealing with high-risk pregnancies. She says:

Some days, I have to be at work by 7 am, other days at 8 am. I usually work until 4:30 or 5 pm, depending on my day. I am on call two times a month, which requires me to stay overnight at the hospital. I try to exercise either in the am (6-7) or in the evening after work. It has been a little more challenging of late as I recently moved in with my fiancé. . . so work/life and health balance are a little off sometimes, especially because my commute is now a lot longer. But, he understands that work and exercise are important to me. So, I tend to wake up around 4 to 4:30 am to get things done and get my workout in. Not a problem as I am an early bird.

Claire Blum's work schedule can be very stressful. She says:

My schedule is generally irregular and unpredictable, but I come prepared for whatever happens, and test, eat, bolus, treat lows, and care for my diabetes as an integrated part of my life. I just do it and keep going. Most of the time people are totally unaware of what I am doing. I remember going out to eat with a group of health care professionals, and sitting next to a diabetes educator who was entirely amazed that I had checked my [blood glucose] BG and given a bolus, without her notice . . . all the while carrying on a conversation.

Managing Work-Related Stress

Rachel Garlinghouse feels confident and comfortable in her job, but admits that diabetes never ceases to surprise her:

Though I don't have a lot of work stress, diabetes is a full-time job in itself. Some days, especially after a series of bad highs and lows, it's very hard for me to go to work. But I feel a sense of responsibility to go, even if I'm not feeling well, because I'm only there 2 days a week. I have, on occasion, called in sick, but most times I just trudge through the day. I've found that lying around at home can sometimes make me feel worse, because then I focus on the negative effects of my disease. Feeling responsible for the writing educations of my students pushes me to get through bad days.

Eating at Work

An important part of successfully managing our health is eating well at work. That means stopping to eat when you are in the middle of a project or bringing in a healthy lunch instead of eating from the vending machine.

Claire Blum says that in the past, she was prone to allow work to take precedence over eating:

I could not be bothered to take the time to eat or prepare healthy meals. My meals often consisted of prepackaged food that kept my blood sugar from dropping, but provided little nutrition. As a result of my poor nutritional intake, and other medical challenges, my health declined a great deal. Since then, I have learned to pay attention to my body's signals and find that preparing and carrying food that is healthy for my body not only helps me feel better.. . it also helps me achieve the things I most want to do!

AUTHENTIC ADViCE

■ Lesley Hoffman Goldenberg says:

My advice is to always place diabetes high on the priority list—either as the first item or as the second one. Don't let it slide down. It's hard and it can be challenging depending on what kind of work you do, but it's imperative; it's as important as work or family. Otherwise, work and family won't matter and diabetes will take over your life. Put diabetes on the front burner so eventually, you can put it on the back burner. It will never take care of itself but it can be so well controlled that it will seem "easier."

Honor and care for your body . . . Your dreams depend on it!

■ Rachel Garlinghouse says:

I'm a strong believer in this: Women, especially those with a chronic illness, must put themselves first. If you don't take care of yourself, how will you take care of others in the ways they need and desire? My husband, my daughter, my parents, my students, my friends—they deserve the very best from me! So I take my disease seriously. I say "no" often, because I take working out, cooking healthy meals, and making time to relax very seriously. Once a woman decides she is worthy of a healthy mind, body, and spirit and she takes steps to cultivate healthy wholeness, she will become the best partner, mother, employee, friend, [and] daughter that she can be.

I love my work; I love interviewing people for my freelance assignments and teaching students how to write the five-paragraph essay. People say, "Do what you love to do and happiness or money will follow," and I believe that to be true. Living with diabetes is often compared to a full-time job or a third (or fourth!) child. However, it doesn't have to be our only job or our only child. We need to figure out how to make room for more than managing our illness. Finding fulfillment with the work we are passionate about makes for a well-balanced life, and the more balanced we are, the better we feel.

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