Type 1 diabetic, Gabrielle Mixon, shares the pitfalls and peaks of managing her condition in a new workplace.
Managing diabetes at your workplace can be daunting or you can use it as an opportunity to share more about your condition. I’ve always chosen the easy, take-it-in-your-stride-approach and in all honesty, that hasn’t led to outcomes that really benefited me. Sharing that I have diabetes at a new job is something I’ve battled with, however, I have become bolder over the last couple of years and with certainty I can now say the best advice is to develop these simple habits: speak, prepare, feel (SPF).
My mistake was that I did not like speaking about the fact that I am a Type 1 diabetic. This was for a number of reasons that don’t make sense to me anymore. One reason was that I just wanted to be as normal as the next person and not draw any special attention to myself by referring to myself as a diabetic.
My lesson learnt was to speak about the chronic condition openly. Seeing as I have to live with it, I ought to live with it more openly, even in the workplace.
One of the first things is to let the HR team or person know that you have a chronic condition. Should anything happen to you while at work that information is vital to know and for the purposes of office etiquette and catering to your health requirements, conditions should be made known to HR. It also saves you a great deal of pressure if you are in a meeting and need to excuse yourself because you have a low sugar and need to treat it.
You become a floodlight into the life of a person with diabetes who makes several hundred more decisions everyday than the average person, according to research. One decision you can make to manage your diabetes in a new work environment is to speak openly about having it. Tell your team or colleagues your story and how it has impacted your lifestyle and how you got diagnosed. The only way to overcome the nerves you are feeling is to open up about it. You’ll be astounded by the support and ease that comes with opening up.
A large portion of our population are undiagnosed diabetics. So, in speaking about it you can simultaneously raise awareness and perhaps help another colleague who is undiagnosed.
One of my mistakes: taking the previous night’s dinner for lunch. Usually I enjoy higher carb content meals at night because it sustains my blood glucose level through the night and prevents me waking up with a low blood glucose at early hours of the morning. The problem with this easy lunch is that my blood glucose and energy level suffer because of it.
My lesson: Prepare lunches that are proven to not affect my blood glucose and energy level negatively. Your well-being is of the utmost importance, as the saying goes ‘’health is your wealth’’ and you can’t be a productive worker without first taking care of yourself, diabetic or not.
A little extra time used to prepare your lunch will result in great energy and productivity at work. Plus, your successful health management will be to your benefit in adjusting to your new job more efficiently.
My mistake was that in a previous job, I got used to eating cake on every birthday and whenever there was a reason to celebrate in the office. The pressure and natural desire to belong and fit in socially was more important than the guilt I felt for having a high glucose after eating the cake.
Not only did I feel terrible physically which resulted in lower productivity but I’d emotionally beat myself up for having failed at controlling my blood glucose level. Double trouble.
My lesson is to simply get used to feeling comfortable with having the conversation with yourself about how low glucose makes you feel or how high glucose makes you feel. When you can honestly say something makes you feel bad and come to terms with the empowering belief that only you are responsible for making yourself feel otherwise, you change your behaviour, which changes everything.
No one knows the impact of the condition if they do not have it or have not experienced it before through people close to them. Still, nothing compares to actually going through it yourself. As people with diabetes we go through highs and lows, literally and figuratively.
Over the last two years, speak, prepare and feel are habits that I’ve picked up and have really begun to work for me greatly. I urge you to take what you need from this and begin applying or share it with someone.
I believe in the below affirmations more now than ever:
- It’s normal for you to feel nervous
- It’s okay to snack in meetings
- It’s okay to take time away from your work to test your glucose
- It’s okay to drink a lot of water and use the restroom. Some people need smoke breaks, others need bathroom breaks. As a person with diabetes I need the latter.
- It’s okay to take a break when you have low blood glucose and to use the time to readjust to normalcy.
- It’s okay to take a bit of time preparing a considered lunch whether at home or in the work kitchen.
- It’s okay to be different to your co-workers and have different needs.
- It’s okay to say no.
- It’s okay to say yes
With affirmations that empower you to prioritise your diabetes in your new work environment, you can thrive in your occupational spaces despite having to deal with the unexpected and unique experience that comes with being diabetic.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Gabrielle Mixon is an advocate for T1 diabetes.
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