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Personal Story: How I Used Meditation and Natural Remedies to Balance Type 1 Diabetes

Personal Story: How I Used Meditation and Natural Remedies to Balance Type 1 Diabetes

I decided to write this story in order to “celebrate” my twentieth diabetes anniversary this fall. In this article, I’m going to tell you a bit more about how it is to live with this particular medical condition and what you can do to improve your overall health — from an entrepreneur’s perspective. Read on to learn how to balance your diabetes when you are your own boss, and the boss of others.

A few words about life with diabetes

Let me just start with this: It’s not that bad. I was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes at a very young age — 6 years old, to be exact. And I have this haunting memory: as optimistic as I may sound, I was devastated when I found out that I had it.

For almost a year, I stayed indoors, didn’t go to school, and thought it can’t get worse than this. Then, something happened during a family trip. There was this parking lot we entered with our car. In a car close to us there was a girl, probably around my age at the time. She waved and smiled at me. I half smiled and waved back. I expected her to run towards me when her dad stopped the car. But then the door opened and she didn’t get out. Her dad came and picked her up and placed her in a wheelchair. And that’s when it hit me: it CAN get worse than my diabetes. Stupid me!

From that point on, I was a different person. The first thing when you get diagnosed is to accept it. It took me a year, but it shouldn’t have. This year, in May, I turned 26. And now, closing in, is my twentieth diabetes anniversary this fall. Growing up with Diabetes, it sort of became part of who I am as a person. I talked about it two years ago in an interview for DiabetesMine.

The bottom line: you should know that you are a fighter, a survivor, a “doer.” You know that you can’t give up. You learn to live with it and adapt it to your lifestyle. Note that I’m not advising for the opposite, to build your life around your condition. And that is the perfect foundation for entrepreneurship, as well — one of the reasons why I encourage people who have a medical condition to go into business. But this isn’t enough to trigger the hunger for being someone above average, for starting your own thing and for doing an amazing job at being happy and balanced.

Family support, before everything else…

I remember clearly the impact my family had on me.

My dad is the type to always encourage me to find my own way. He would always be there to remind me if I screwed up, but I don’t think there is one person more proud of my achievements than he is.

I remember, in forth grade, he came home after sealing a deal and showed me this 100 USD bill: “This is money, sweetie.” I reached out to grab it. He then added: “Sweetie, this is our money. If you want your own, you have to earn it.” That’s how I became “obsessed” with American dollars. And it’s probably the earliest business advice I ever received.

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Since we’re both diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I feel he gets me better than anyone in a way. The scariest thing is when one of us is sick or when things get out of hand. As twisted as it may sound, I’m lucky to have someone in the family with the exact same medical condition.

My mom helped me in another way: she made me feel comfortable with my diabetes and never settle for less just because “I have it.” I had to own it. She also taught me that no matter the situation, I should always take my work seriously: as an employee or as a self-employed individual. And she taught me about responsibilities, how you should feed the mouths you’re responsible for before feeding your own. That’s a great lesson when you have your own business: always pay the people you work with, your employees, your collaborators, before you pay yourself.

My big brother is the one who told me about remote work. He also encouraged me to learn design and HTML in 2004. He would bring me home software versions from the University (he studied IT), so I could have access to Flash, Photoshop, and later on, Adobe Creative Suite. Whenever I had trouble with fixing something or installing a program, he would just say “Google it,” or “Read online about the new upgrades.” That educated me in searching and eventually finding solutions on my own, without relying too much on others.

It’s important to have support from your loved ones. My brother and I always say that it’s truly sad not to have a family in this world, because you won’t find genuine support elsewhere, no matter the quality of relationships you have with other people. That includes support for your diabetes. Here’s the thing: in life, as much as in business, you need a leap of faith. Just like Yoda says “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” You either do it, or you don’t. I know it sounds a bit like a cliché, but taking your weaknesses and limits and transforming them into strengths is not impossible. It’s just a matter of perspective: what might seem an early disadvantage could later become a core advantage.

Rule of thumb: keep your diabetes at a conversational level

Let me explain: imagine you are out in the park, every day, jogging. Jogging is healthy and sports in general go hand in hand with a healthy diet. I’ve always had a healthy diet and sports were always present in my life. Just like jogging, Diabetes should be kept at a level that allows you “to make conversation” – or at least, that’s what doctors say: “Don’t stress too much,” “Don’t laugh too hard,” “Don’t drink more than one bottle of beer or a glass of wine,” “Don’t stay up late working,” “Don’t cry or overexert yourself emotionally,” “Keep it at a decent level,” “Slow down.” The truth? These things are close to impossible when the adrenaline of starting your own business kicks in. Or when life kicks in, in general.

I’ve been there too and I get the impression that people with diabetes feel double the pressure and the stress compared to those who don’t have it. Maybe because we are more sensitive. For me, there were times when, no matter how hard I tried to keep that healthy mindset, I lost the secret recipe. Anxiety, stress, fear of failure, and the burdens of a “must succeed” mindset. I told myself that life doesn’t happen so that you can keep it to a “conversational level.” Life is tough. Business is tough. And it’s a challenge worth taking if you can take responsibility for your actions. But then you see your family hurting each time you don’t take care of your diabetes. And that’s not a good habit, is it?

So, the rule of thumb is to keep it at a conversational level. Try everything until you find the secret recipe for a healthy balanced “D” life.

The Secret Recipe

I might lie if I say there’s a universal one, but I’d like to outline what worked for me and my diabetes in terms of sports, meditation, and natural remedies.

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1. Dancing

I loved all the dancing activities I did. I originally started with ballet around the age of 7, but had to quit at some point due to personal reasons. However, 2 years ago, I rediscovered dancing through tango. The dynamics are amazing, it’s one of those activities that you share with a dancing partner and that can help you in many ways. It starts with personal development, which is key in any stage of a medical condition. It helps in accepting and moving on, while being aware of it. I wrote an entire post about how tango changed me personally and professionally.

Bonus points: it helped me get over a breakup, a big step in the healing process.

2. Sports and the outdoors as forms of meditation

I love biking, jogging, playing basketball, football, badminton, and volleyball. To add more, I travel a lot, so walking long distances by foot is also included in the outdoor activities. Without sounding too funny, occasional mushroom-picking excursions also happen, especially during summer or autumn, when it’s “the season” in the mountainside of Romania.

I think sports and outdoor activities are amazing if there is fresh air involved. Combine it with some time off from the city ruckus and you get the perfect combination for a special type of meditation. Here is what you need to do in order to make it feel like meditation:

  1. Be surrounded by fresh air, nature, and silence.
  2. Be alone or surrounded just by people that you are absolutely comfortable with.
  3. Either listen to nature (birds singing, rivers whispering, wind blowing) or to a relaxing tune.
  4. Be relaxed and don’t let your mind run off to stressful places.
  5. Induce yourself into a state of wellbeing, where your only goal is to have no goal.
  6. Meditation is a journey, which involves a Start and Finish line, most of the time in the form of a cycle.
  7. As you get into a state, you live through it, you also have to get out of it, in order to complete it.
  8. Take everything at your own pace. No rush, no pressure.

3. Mindfulness as Meditation

I’m not a big fan of classic meditation techniques. Personally, I don’t like to sit in just one position to help me channel my energies. I like to work with my mind and body in creative and dynamic ways. Though I’m not also not a fan, yoga is highly recommended to Diabetes patients, due to its complexity and relaxation attributes.

Getting back to the topic of Mindfulness. I love practicing a series of simple-yet-efficient exercises, which I will list below.

Breathing Exercises

The first thing you can do in order to restore peace and bring your heartbeat to normal is to become aware of your breathing. When things get nasty for me and my blood sugar is in danger of rising at any minute, I take some time off, lie in my bed or on my couch, play some relaxing lyric-free music, and do breathing exercises. In order to create an even more relaxed environment, I either opt for aromatherapy or for Himalayan salt. If you own a Himalayan salt lamp at home, you can also leave that on, maybe 30 minutes prior to your exercises. Here is more info about its health benefits.

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Back to breathing. I try to focus on my breathing as much as I can, and gradually breathe in and breathe out at a slower pace. Warning: don’t fall asleep, as you may induce yourself into a state of self hypnosis without planning to do so. I usually set a playlist with 10-15 minutes of instrumental music, after which I add more vivid songs with lyrics that are sure to wake me up. You don’t necessarily have to lie down, you can do it in a park, on a bench, or just by sitting in a nice lounge or café. The idea is to have as much comfort as possible and to center your attention on the breathing, not on the people passing by or the background sounds.

Concentration and Deconcentration Exercises

This one is a simple exercise you do in the morning and in the evening.

In the morning. After you wake up, while still lying in bed, close your eyes for 5 minutes, but be careful not to fall asleep again. Then, start counting from 0 to 10. Note that you won’t be just counting the numbers, you’ll also be drawing each number, slowly and in detail, with your mind. Without distractions. It takes time to be able to do it correctly, and if it gets boring with just numbers, try adding shapes, letters, or even an entire equation each morning. It works great by improving single-tasking and increasing the ability to focus.

In the evening. Just as you concentrate, you also have to “deconcentrate” — to disconnect, to undo it. So, at night when lying in bed before falling asleep, take another 5 minutes and count down, from 10 to 0. This time, you’ll be erasing the “drawings” you did in the morning. For extra relaxation, add some “breathe in, breathe out” breaks of 3 breaths for every 3 numbers. It works amazingly for getting a good night’s sleep. And with blood glucose running high in the morning (we call it the “Dawn effect“), you need a good sleep to temper the sugars down. Remember that any aggressive dreams or bad sleeping episodes can send the wrong signals to your liver, which may trigger a release of glucose deposits located in the organ.

Awareness Exercises

This one is also simple: an awareness exercise is something you practice everyday by being extremely conscious about it. For example, drinking your coffee in the morning. Here’s what I like to do:

  1. Go to your favorite café and scan the place. Look for the best seat there is, with the best view.
  2. Sit down, and before pulling out your devices from your bag, just be aware of what is happening next to you.
  3. Smile when the waiter or waitress comes to get your order. Ask them how is their day with a positive tone.
  4. While you wait for the coffee to be served, again, scan the café and notice the people around you. The decor. Look if anything is new, changed, or improved.
  5. Sip your coffee while noticing the taste, the temperature, the texture, the feeling it gives you when you drink it.
  6. Enjoy every last drop of it. And, if preferable, don’t add sweetener or sugar. Just enjoy it bitter and in its natural state.

4. Natural Remedies

While there is a huge debate surrounding the actual benefits of natural remedies for Type 1 Diabetes, I won’t argue in saying that as long as you don’t fully replace your daily insulin dose, you are safe.

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I’ve always treated natural remedies as a way to add more value to your wellbeing, compared to using them as a sole healing method. Not to sound sarcastic, but after 20 years of Diabetes, it’s not like drinking herbal tea or rubbing minty oil will make my pancreas work like new. So, while treating this topic with extra care, here are a few things you can do or eat to balance your diabetes like a boss:

  1. Herbal tea. Go to the countryside or look for organic/bio gardens where people grow their own herbal plants. Make them an offer they can’t refuse and get that stack of healthy benefits. Freshly picked plants from the field, if infused in hot water, usually taste like hay. And that, my friends, is healthy!
  2. Salty and spicy. Don’t be afraid to try salty and spicy — just not in the usual way. Try Himalayan salt lamps, or any “salty” things that burn or melt really slowly, in order to recreate an environment similar to the seaside’s salty breeze. Spicy things are also good, especially if it’s really hot, because it makes you sweat. Did you know that we eliminate sugars and toxins by sweating? Not bad for a diabetic person.
  3. Bitter fruits. There is nothing like eating raw bitter fruits, starting from grapefruit and continuing to wild fruits or (really) green bananas. They have little sugars, which is great for a snack and, in case you didn’t know, everything bitter helps the kidneys. Homemade remedies made by mom, passed down from her mom and grandma, always contained bitter plants and bitter fruits. And they always worked when our kidneys (my dad’s and I) would act finicky.
  4. Raw fruit juices and homemade flavoured water. Keep in mind that fruit juices, even homemade, have more sugars than fruits eaten separately — possibly even doubling the amount of carbs. And that’s where flavored water comes in. As a member of the Diabetes gang, most of the time you end up enjoying something sweet only if your blood sugar is sort of low. Hence, my final “natural remedy” is actually water with different flavors. And since it’s summer, I’m carefully placing pieces of fruits in my ice cube forms, so that I can drink water at a room temperature with fruity ice cubes in it.

Some conclusions of my own after 20 years with “you know what”

I’ve seen cases of people who gave up fighting and just found an excuse in having diabetes — to justify their failures or, even worse, their complete ignorance. I don’t think I mentioned what could be perceived as a limitation when you’re a “D” Entrepreneur. Here is a list I came up with:

  • You need sleep, a quiet environment and a healthy lifestyle
  • You can’t afford to have too much pressure in your life
  • You need to keep your health in check all the time
  • You need positive people to surround you, because being depressed with diabetes is really bad for you
  • You can’t eat too much sugar, too much greasy food, or junk food
  • You have to take a break every now and then, otherwise your body won’t take it
  • It’s ideal that you don’t smoke and keep your alcohol consumption limited
  • You have to undergo regular check-ups
  • People won’t understand you 100 per cent, and you can never expect them to
  • People won’t know what is wrong with you unless you tell them what’s going on
  • You have to stay focused and stick to your program
  • There’s no other way but to live with it
  • It’s difficult if you have a full-time stressful job, because just how much medical leave can you have access to?

If you take a look at it, what diabetes does to you is to send warnings that you have to be in control of your lifestyle, decisions, and choices.

Even a healthy person needs plenty of rest, a healthy way of life, and can’t afford to have too much stress and pressure. Everyone needs a check-up every now and then, and everyone needs positive people around them. Eating junk food is bad for everyone. We all need a break from time to time. We shouldn’t shouldn’t smoke or drink too much alcohol and so on. However, not everyone keeps these things at the forefront of their minds all the time — it all comes with being aware. 

I’ll end this article with a favorite quote from another young entrepreneur, one who touches on the need to not be perfect:

I don’t need a mask. You don’t need a mask. I don’t need to hide my imperfections. I’m human. You’re human.

I think it supports the healthy attitude towards having a “special” thing about yourself, even it it’s a medical condition. I think having diabetes helped me, because I learned that I had to live with it and deal with it. Which proved to be a good principle in my line of work and life in general.

Featured photo credit: [Photo credit: Dialysis Technician Salary] via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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