November 27, 2023
Blood sugar testing is crucial for diabetes management, but it can be bothersome or distressing for some. Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) have revolutionized how we monitor blood glucose without the hassle of finger pricking, making the process more convenient.
If you’re unfamiliar with this device, let me provide a brief overview. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a wearable device designed to track blood glucose (sugar) levels every few minutes, both day and night. This innovative technology consists of a small disposable sensor positioned under the skin, typically on the stomach or arm. The sensor continuously measures sugar levels and transmits this data to an attached transmitter, often linked to a separate receiving device like a smartphone.
While there are many benefits to CGMs, they also present challenges. One significant challenge is the anxiety and stress associated with frequent blood glucose monitoring.
Patients often tell me, “I avoid checking because it stresses me,” while others check excessively, afraid of exceeding their goals. Both cases raise concerns. The first state makes you complacent and prevents you from taking action at the right time. On the other hand, the second state increases anxiety and stress.
When you are anxious and stressed, your body releases hormones that have the power to either raise or drop your blood sugar levels. High levels of stress can cause the release of sympathetic hormones, which can increase cortisol and glucose levels. This is exactly opposite to what you want.
Explore this blog to discover tips to overcome the anxiety related to blood glucose checking and maintaining a balanced approach to diabetes management.
How often should you check
The advantage of using a CGM is the wealth of data it provides. However, this constant stream of data can be overwhelming. If you find the data comforting and it doesn’t distract you, feel free to check it whenever you want.
On the other hand, if the data overwhelms you and hinders your focus on other aspects of life, you have the flexibility to change how often you check your CGM. You can take readings off your watch or phone and use the receiver selectively. Alternatively, you might choose to leave the receiver at home when going out or only check your CGM when it alarms.
If too much data causes stress, remember that just because your blood sugar is available doesn’t mean you have to know what it is.
Even if your reading is high, you can control it, so don’t panic!
There are no inherently “good” or “bad” blood sugar levels. People with diabetes often receive praise for “excellent” readings and criticism for “poor” readings. However, it’s crucial to remember that these readings are merely numbers, providing information to guide adjustments in your routine. Instead of succumbing to panic, consider seeking support from professionals such as your diabetes educator, nutritionist, internal medicine specialist, or endocrinologist. They possess the expertise to guide you in comprehending and effectively managing your blood sugar levels.
Take a break when needed
The length of time you use a CGM depends on the type of diabetes you have and your blood glucose control.
For individuals with type 1 diabetes, wearing a CGM more often can contribute to better control. However, there’s no rule stating you must wear it all the time. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a break from the CGM when needed. Whether you need a pause from having a diabetes device on your body or a break from frequently monitoring your blood sugars, the choice is yours. Taking breaks can even have positive impacts on your mental health.
For those with type 2 diabetes, using a CGM provides a window of opportunity to identify red flags in your blood glucose related to medicine, food, activity, and stress. This information allows you to address these factors optimally. You can use it for a few weeks and collaborate with your healthcare provider, diabetes educator, or nutritionist to optimize glucose levels. This turns the CGM into a valuable learning tool rather than a constant glucose monitor policing your every move.
Know your targets
It’s crucial to know your targets, and remember, there’s always a range. Fluctuations within the target range are normal, and you don’t have to consistently aim for the lower limit. Targets are personalized, so don’t strive for perfection right from the start. Achieving optimal results takes time and effort.
Be patient; results won’t happen overnight. Persistence with the right choices is key, and improvements will eventually manifest. Start your journey from where you are, avoid comparisons, and focus on your unique progress. Your diabetes management is a personalized journey, and your efforts will yield positive outcomes over time.
Join a Group of Supporters
If anxiety persists, consider joining a support group or seeking individual counseling. A therapist with expertise in diabetes can offer practical advice to cope with test anxiety and assist in overcoming fears related glucose fluctuations. Seeking professional support can be a valuable step toward managing anxiety associated with blood sugar testing.
In summary, Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is a promising technology with the capacity to significantly improve glycemic control if you are living with diabetes. Embrace it as a tool to enhance your glucose control without compromising your emotional well-being. Utilize it as a means to understand your glucose variations and collaborate with your healthcare provider, nutritionist, or diabetes educator to address them effectively. While every technology has its downsides, the key is to use it efficiently for your advantage.