Diabetes and New Year's resolutions

This is a tricky time of year for me. The New Year holiday rolls through and I feel like I'm supposed to make some grand resolution about my diabetes management. Even the expectation feels tired to me, and there's a slight melancholy about it.

I see my endocrinologist at least every three months. Every time I leave his office I resolve to do something. If it was a good visit I tell myself I'm going to work hard to keep doing what I'm doing (often an exhausting effort). If it was a not-so-good visit I tell myself that I'm going to make some major changes and get my act together. Each appointment marks a new start.

Living with type 1 diabetes, I commit to try harder and do better every morning that I wake up. Heck, sometimes I make that resolution from hour to hour as I run the obstacle course of a diabetes filled day.

What makes this time of year any different, and why do I feel the way I do about it?

Maybe because it's the biggest fresh start we get. There's a certain logic to the psychology surrounding a new start. The idea of having a clean slate is attractive, though it can also trick me into procrastinating.

New Year's resolutions start with slowing down

One of the biggest catches is making changes that are too drastic or unreasonable. This is a pattern problem for me, and it's not relegated strictly to New Year's resolutions. Is there anything magical about January 1st that will suddenly empower me to do something I've not been able to do before? I don't think so.

But there is something to the clean slate idea that might help if properly leveraged.

In order to apply that leverage properly, in a way that really helps, I have to be really smart about it. I have to resist getting caught up in the New Year resolution hype and I have to resist my tendency to make big and drastic changes.

I have to slow down.

1. Limit the list of things to change. Part of slowing down is starting with a very realistic list of changes or goals. This is such a basic thing, and you've heard it a million times before. If you're anything like me, you think you're the exception. You think you can tackle a bunch of things because you're really committed this year. You think that you can will your way through the traps that derail all of those other people.

You're not, and you won't. Neither am I. Limit the list. Not ten, not seven, not even five. I'm thinking more like two or three, tops.

2. Break things down. Another part of me slowing down is remembering to break things way down. WAY down. I need to examine each big thing on my list and break them down into actionable, task-level things. This is another very basic thing that we've all heard a million times before.

But I found that I never broke things down far enough. I need to go a step (or sometimes two) deeper, to the point where I remove all thought around the action. If there is even the slightest vagueness around what I need to do, that propels and empowers my procrastination. Remember, these things I'm working on are usually habits of doing or not-doing; if I give procrastination even the slightest opening, it will jump in and set me back.

Going this far usually feels ridiculous when I'm planning, but I'm so thankful for it when I'm in the trenches.

Here's to you in 2013

Slow it down, limit the list, and find the action. Make 2013 the year that you don't fall for the same old New Year's resolution slump that catches so many. And remember, nothing says you can't add more to your list if you've conquered your original items!

About Scott K Johnson

Scott K. Johnson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April of 1980. He has been writing about his struggles and successes with diabetes since late 2004. Currently blogging at Scott's Diabetes, and contributing to many diabetes related projects, Scott stays busy connecting with others living with diabetes.

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