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Diabetes is a disease that requires self-management every day. An individual with diabetes needs to decide multiple times a day if he or she will (or will not) do the many tasks required to optimize glycemic control and thus reduce the risk of short term and long term complications.

What are common barriers to self-management that people with diabetes face?

Barriers can be separated into three categories:

  • Motivational
  • Behavioral
  • Emotional

The focus of this article is to discuss motivation. Some healthcare providers have adapted an interviewing technique called Motivational Interviewing to help patients overcome barriers to change. The purpose of Motivational Interviewing is to have the patient address uncertainty (mixed feelings) regarding change. Motivational Interviewing is intended to be a conversation between the patient and healthcare provider that assists the patient in answering:

  • Why do I want to make a change (OR why am I considering making a change)?
  • What concerns do I have about making a change? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • What is my plan for making the change? How will I reach this goal?
    • Consider the acronym SMART when setting a goal:
    • Goals should be
      • (S): Specific
      • (M): Measurable
      • (A): Achievable
      • (R): Relevant
      • (T): Timely

Many people find that change can be easy to keep up for the short-term, but what keeps change in the long-term is staying motivated. Often, before a person decides to make a change, they need to believe that there is value in making that change. In other words, “What’s in it for me?”

A few of the SHORT TERM benefits that come with diabetes self-management/improved glycemic control:

  • Improved self-efficacy and self-esteem
  • Increased energy
  • Improved sleep
  • Fewer sick days
  • Improved focus
  • More stable moods
  • Improved physical performance

A few of the LONG TERM benefits that come with diabetes self-management/improved glycemic control:

In my years as a diabetes educator and dietitian, I have gained much wisdom from the patients (and families of patients) I have educated. Some of the common things reported to me that have helped patients make positive changes and stay motivated include:

  • Staying focused on how improved blood glucose control will help now, instead of always thinking about avoiding “diabetes complications”
  • Viewing blood glucose readings as information that helps with decision making instead of labeling blood glucose readings as: “good”, “bad”, “high”, “low”
  • Having a plan for when things go wrong or don’t go as planned
  • Having a good support system
  • Learning how to cope with those individuals who are not supportive
  • Being able to forgive yourself if you “fall of the wagon” and start fresh tomorrow
  • Not setting perfection as the goal

What motivates you and keeps you motivated?  Please share your comments and experiences with the community.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Vallis, M. 2009. Barriers to self-management in people affected by chronic disease. Diabetes Voice, 54 (Special Issue):5-8.
  2. Scheiner, G. 2011. Think Like a Pancreas. Boston, MA. Da Capo Press.