How Important is Support in Diabetes? It’s a Game Changer
I was once asked how important support really is in managing diabetes. This is difficult to explain in words beyond “BIG!” But it definitely helps to turn to the research, which shows that even the perception of support is shown to improve commitment and sustainability in behavior change, and in diabetes self-care.1,2 How powerful is that! That even the idea that you are being supported makes a difference! So for sure, that tells you a little about the impact that actual support has right there.
Importance of support for type 2 diabetes management
This reminds me of a presentation I heard with Dr. William Polonsky who stated that "so many of our successful patients…don't do diabetes alone."3 I see this to be consistent in my work with people with diabetes. One reason for that, I believe, is the psychological side of diabetes, and just how big of a role that plays. This involves appreciating how complex diabetes is and the fact that it is self-managed diabetes. You need the support for learning how to execute daily tasks of self-management and also support for navigating the tough times and challenges that come along with it.
Over my years of working with individuals with diabetes, I can see that people who have more support (even perceived support) seem to stick to their goals more often, recover after times when they got off track from goals, and better navigate difficult seasons of life. I also tend to see more confidence and less anxiety, as well as a general sense of hope from knowing that you have people you can turn to for advice, info, and support.
The key here though is healthy support systems. The opposite can definitely happen if you have an unhelpful or negative support system. For example, you may have family members or coworkers who don’t support healthy eating or who mock or discourage healthy behaviors like exercising. These are sources of sabotage and unhelpful support. It’s true, your behaviors tend to reflect those of the individuals you hang around the most.
How to turn negative support into positive support for diabetes management
If you are experiencing unhelpful support, especially within the home environment, then it is even more important that you develop a variety of means of support outside of the home. This may be a coworker or friend, a workout group or walking partner, or even attending a support group. In these cases, you have to be intentional about developing these sources of helpful support and learn to roll with the resistance you may get at home, in the office, or in other settings.
Often times, people find it helpful to think of themselves as setting an example for their loved ones who are unsupportive of healthy behaviors. This can be more of a long term plan where at first you will need to set protective boundaries around your behaviors and gain support for them outside of the loved ones. Then, with time, they are able to see the positive outcomes of your healthy behaviors, things like more energy, better mood, improved sleep, etc. Seeing these positive changes in you is something to be desired and others will likely begin to show an interest.
Types of support available for type 2 diabetes
When thinking about the importance of support, it helps to think of all of the different sources of support available to you. There are not just people, but also places, programs, and tools that help to support healthy behaviors. Then, when it comes to social support, there is a myriad of sources of support people to tap into…. Just consider the folks involved in your diabetes care team alone. And then there are the folks in your social network. Go ahead, list them all out. Remember, even the perception of support can impact your health in a positive way!
How long have you been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?