Farewell, #OzDOC.

When I first dipped my toes into Twitter three years ago, the Oz Diabetes Online Community was one of the first places where I found peer support online.

I very much looked forward to Tuesday night Twitter chats, where participants would come together and answer structured questions about diabetes in a very supportive and engaging environment.

Inbetween chats, it was not uncommon to put a random diabetes question out there with the hashtag OzDOC and have it answered. OzDOC gave me the opportunity to network with other people with diabetes here in Australia, something I did not have in my own life at the time.

Over the past five and a half years, OzDOC has been largely led by co-founder and operator Kim. She has been the one responsible for making sure the moderator’s throne is occupied each week, and that there is a topic and questions ready to go.

Kim does a stellar job in welcoming participants to the chat, steering the conversation, and most importantly supporting and encouraging participants as they share candid insights about living with diabetes. To this day, chats just don’t feel the same when she is not in the moderator’s seat!

More recently, I stepped up and formed part of a moderator’s group of seven. Together we brainstormed topic ideas and took turns in moderating weekly chats. We’ve also seen healthcare professionals engage in our weekly chats, valuing the insights that I can only imagine would be difficult to gain in a clinic setting.

Another highlight from OzDOC would surely be having the opportunity to meet some of these amazing individuals at Abbott’s Diabetes Exchange in Sydney last year.

When Kim recently announced to the group her intention to step away from OzDOC co-ordination duties, it was a decision I totally understood. Running a support group like OzDOC in one’s own time is a big commitment each week. Even with a team of moderators, Kim still shoulders a great deal of responsibility in making sure chat slots are covered, questions are suitable, social media reminder posts are scheduled, and all of the other behind the scenes administration.

Members of the moderators group were offered the opportunity to take over Kim’s co-ordination duties, however nobody felt they were in a position or capacity to lead. I felt that realistically, this was not a commitment that I would be able to make next year and that the time was right for me to move on.

The final OzDOC chat will take place Tonight at 8.30pm AEDT. Be sure to also check out the Oz Diabetes Online Community Facebook page, where Kim has been sharing a bit of a retrospective over the past couple of days.

After tonight’s final chat, the @OzDiabetesOC Twitter account will cease. Does this mark the end for OzDOC? Who knows. If members of the community would really like for it to continue, then I’m sure that they’ll find a way.

To Kim and to everyone else involved in the OzDOC community in some way or another, I just wanted to say a massive thank you. You have all made my world just that little bit smaller.

Yoga For Diabetes: Q and A with Rachel Zinman

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Rachel Zinman of Yoga For Diabetes at Abbott’s Diabetes Exchange in Melbourne. Rachel and I both began blogging in early 2015, and we first connected during Diabetes Blog Week. Rachel lives and breathes Yoga, and since her diagnosis with LADA, is passionate about helping others to realise the power of yoga in managing diabetes. She spends half the year based in northern NSW, and the other half of the year in South Africa teaching Yoga. Later this year, she will also be kicking off a tour across the US to launch her book, Yoga For Diabetes.

 

 

Rachel is one of the most generous and enthusiastic people I’ve come across in the Diabetes Online Community, with a great respect for other’s opinions and ideas. For some crazy reason she is one of my biggest fans, and I’ve greatly appreciated all of her support and encouragement over the years.

Rachel is kicking off a 7 day online Yoga challenge on September 1, Better Diabetes Management in 7 Steps with Yoga, which you can learn more about here. Today, she joins me here at Type 1 Writes to answer a few questions about the challenge.

Frank: Yoga and diabetes. They’re not two things that I would automatically put together in my head. You’ve obviously been practicing yoga well before diabetes came along. Tell me a bit about how yoga has helped you to manage your diabetes?

Rachel: I started yoga in the the early 80’s. Back then yoga wasn’t trendy at all. I did it because I had a lot of pain in my lower back from being a professional dancer and my chiropractor told me it could help me. I noticed the calming and healing aspects straight away. I felt more energised after a class, my mind was calm, my digestion improved and I found myself letting go of unhealthy habits and being more positive.

When I was diagnosed I focussed on bringing additional energy into the body through strong breathing exercises. I also practiced postures to tone the digestive organs including the pancreas. I worked with the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, to find a practice that suited my physical type (I am very fiery) and the type of diabetes I have, LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults).

I discovered:

  • Improved sleep.
  • Better and more stable blood glucose levels.
  • Increased insulin sensitivity.
  • Resilience in the face of stress.
  • Better digestion.
  • Stable weight.
  • A positive attitude.

Frank: Obviously, you’re kicking off a 7 day yoga challenge on September 1. Tell me a bit about the challenge, and what I would be doing every day if I signed up. How easy would it be to take up the challenge, and what sort of time commitment would I be looking at?

Rachel: The challenge is all about how to incorporate yoga into your life and your daily diabetes management plan. So each practice is between 3 and 10 minutes long and most can be done sitting in a chair or comfortably on the floor.

The practices are designed to reduce stress. A lot of people think yoga is a physical practice to increase flexibility. But there is so much more to yoga than that. There are a variety of tools we can implement to meet the demands of a life with diabetes.

The first step is to discover your Ayurvedic type. On the first day you’ll fill in a questionnaire and read a bit more about your type. Then we’ll explore a different practice each day to calm the nervous system.

Sound, visualization, hand gestures, breath, a simple yoga practice done lying down and on the hands and knees to improve circulation. You’ll also learn a traditional ayurvedic foot massage, which I think is the best part of the challenge.

Frank: The biggest draw card for me when looking at the yoga challenge is mindfulness. I often go to bed with a million thoughts on my mind, and don’t take a lot of time out. Tell me a bit about how taking up your yoga challenge could help there.

Rachel: As I mentioned each practice in the challenge is designed to reduce stress. The biggest stressor is our tendency to get carried away with our thoughts. So whether we are breathing or working with sound, or a visualization or even the physical practice, the guidance is to continually bring our minds back to the task at hand. The more we can bring our minds into a one pointed focus the easier it is to pull ourselves out of our habitual tendency to identify with thoughts.

It actually doesn’t take much to get the mind to be present. We just need to train it. I love that saying, “wherever the attention goes that’s where the energy flows.” So if we are getting caught up in our thoughts about diabetes or anything that stresses us out, that’s where the energy goes.

Bringing our minds to a sound, image or the breath etc. the mind is focused and calms down and energy flows effortlessly.

In my personal experience, these simple yoga practices are the first step in mind mastery and teach that it’s easier to master the mind then we think. We just need to set a few minutes aside and have the willingness to take that first step.

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Rachel blogs at Yoga For Diabetes, and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Her 7 day yoga challenge kicks off on September 1, and you can sign up here.

Prioritising Emotional Wellbeing in Diabetes Care

How many healthcare professionals ask you “how are you going” during an appointment?

Not how are your numbers going.

Or how your diet is going.

Or, how are the number of hypos you are having each week going.

When I say ‘how are you going,’ I mean ‘how are YOU going?’

I must admit that I was surprised in hearing psychologist Lisa Robbins express confidence in the abilities of diabetes healthcare professionals to identify burnout triggers, during our live webcast at DX2Melbourne. It’s my view that the right healthcare professional would be able to identify those triggers.

In my humble experience, I often felt a lack of emotional support from my endocrinologist and my doctor in my early days of type 1. I never felt that they had the time for me on a busy clinic day, and I didn’t really feel too important when there were younger children and families around who understandably required more attention.

It was often hard to open up and be honest with them for fear of judgement. My very first endocrinologist told me that I had very poor control, just weeks after my diagnosis. Meanwhile, my general practitioner often told me that “my sugar levels are too high” without actually offering anything more substantial or helpful.

For the record, I certainly don’t expect that an endocrinologist or general practitioner should have to fill the role of a counsellor. They are qualified professionals in high demand. No doubt they have far better things to do with their time than listen to me blubber on about my diabetes.

However, I do expect that health care professionals will listen to me. I do expect that health care professionals will make me feel comfortable to open up to them. I do expect that health care professionals will look beyond what’s written on the charts and talk to me about what’s going on. I expect that health care professionals will show some empathy during consultations. And I expect that healthcare professionals will offer support and encouragement.

This is not a big ask. This can be done. Even on a busy clinic day. Even when time is limited. Even if you’re meeting me for the first time. Even if you are a general practitioner who is not a diabetes expert. Nobody has to be qualified to be supportive and empathetic, in my opinion. Above all, prioritising emotional wellbeing will assist diabetes healthcare professionals to better address the need for any further psychological support.

Emotional wellbeing helps me to see value in my diabetes healthcare team. It encourages me to continue to manage my diabetes to the best of my ability. A good experience motivates me to keep in touch with my diabetes healthcare professionals and to ensure I have my regular checkups. Above all, emotional well being has helped me to prioritise my health. It’s the difference between walking out of the doc’s office holding back tears, or with the biggest grin that I can’t wipe off my face.

Obviously, my endocrinologist and general practitioner are only individual pieces of the “emotional” support puzzle in my diabetes care. I have my wonderful diabetes educator, who has my undivided attention during every 60 minute session I have with her. I have my family at home, whom I have learned to lean on a little. There’s the wonderful Oz Diabetes Online Community, who I can hang out with on Twitter every Tuesday night. I have my soapbox right here at Type 1 Writes, where I can vent about any topic of my choosing. I also have some amazing d-peeps who I am lucky enough to call friends.

Three years ago, I certainly felt very alone with my diabetes.

Finding emotional wellbeing has helped me to embrace it.