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How to Develop Your Diabetes Action Plan

How to Develop Your Diabetes Action Plan

Smart goal setting can help you stay on top of your diabetes management.

Managing diabetes requires care, commitment and planning. With your diagnosis, it’s helpful to develop an action plan that is specific to you.

To develop this plan, you’ll work with your healthcare provider to decide which goals are best for you and how you’ll reach them. Here are some tips to get you started.

Be S.M.A.R.T.
To manage your diabetes in the way that’s best for you, you’ll need to set some personal goals. The American Diabetes Association suggests conceiving them as “S.M.A.R.T.”:

Specific: Decide exactly what you want to achieve and how that will look. For example, you might say, “I will walk 4,000 steps (about 2 miles) every other evening on a route I map through my neighborhood.”

Measurable: Find a way to measure your progress so that you’ll know when you’ve hit your goal. Try, “I will use a smartphone app to track my steps and the days I walk.”

Attainable: Make sure you have what you need to achieve your goal. If some element is missing, figure out how you’ll acquire it. In other words, “I will use the health app that comes with my smartphone or download another app that tracks steps. I’ll also buy good, supportive walking shoes.”

Realistic: Your goal needs to be something you know you can achieve, and you need to feel a commitment to it, not just an obligation. That could translate to a statement like, “Committing to exercise as a lifestyle change is important to me, and this plan will help me achieve that change.”

Time-specific: No open windows here. Set a realistic timeline or deadline for yourself for meeting your goal. As in, “By the end of the first week, I will have walked 12,000 steps.”

What kinds of goals should you include?
The key areas for goal setting to manage your diabetes and blood sugar levels are:

These seven areas of management are what the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) calls the AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors.

Talk with your healthcare provider about appropriate aims in each of these areas. Everyone’s needs will differ, and your plan should put the “personal” in personalized management.

Remember not to overlook the mental health, or coping, aspects of your plan. Getting a diabetes diagnosis can be unsettling or even shocking, so be sure to include goals related to maintaining a healthy outlook and getting support when you need it.

And you don’t need to set big goals for each of these. You can create small steps and short-term targets (for example, “Eat two servings of vegetables every day this week”), re-evaluating how your plan worked for you as you reach each deadline.

A special case: illness
The best-laid plans can go off the rails when illness strikes, and your diabetes management plan isn’t immune to this possibility.

Of course, you do have some control over your wellness and you should do your best to stay current with screenings and preventive care that are recommended for your age, health history and sex. These steps can include regular blood pressure checks, screening for breast and colon cancer and ensuring that your vaccinations are up to date.

But even the most careful attention to such details can’t completely protect you from diseases like the common cold. That’s why you’ll need a plan B for sick days when viral or other illness strikes. This kind of planning falls under the “problem-solving” area of your management plan. You can’t predict every situation that arises, but you can establish in advance what you’ll do if your health or other areas hit an unexpected curve.

A sick-day plan might involve more frequent blood glucose checks, a commitment to keep up food intake, increased liquid intake (sugar-free) and notes about what should trigger a call to your clinician. As with all parts of your management plan, the sick-day steps should be developed in coordination with your doctor.

Evaluating your success
Each time you reach a deadline, it’s a good idea to pause and look back at cases where you met your goal—or fell a little short. If you came up short, look at the factors that interfered with your progress and see what you can do to reduce those obstacles for your next steps. Talk to your clinician about ideas for adjusting a goal or minimizing obstacles.

These moments of self-evaluation are also your time to establish your next set of goals, in partnership with your doctor.

You’ll also need to commit to reproducing your earlier successes. The process of managing diabetes is an ongoing one. Maintaining the beneficial changes you make in your lifestyle is key, and refreshing your goals as you assess your progress can help.

Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself for meeting your goals. Include in your plan some small but special indulgences for achieving your aims, such as a long, quiet bath or a nice (healthy) dinner out.

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