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Diabetes and Self talk: What are you telling yourself?

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me!"

Stuart Smalley, a character played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live, may have been a little over the top, but Stuart was on the right track when it comes to self-talk and positive affirmations.

What is self-talk? It's the way you "talk" to yourself inside your head. Self-talk can be positive or negative. And with all of life's complications and stresses, we can easily start down a path of blaming ourselves, which can be self-defeating.

I've noticed that those with diabetes are proficient at self-chastisement. "My blood glucose is high; I screwed up again." What might be better to say? "Yes, my blood glucose is high, but it's only one reading, and it will come down." Admittedly, this is easier said than done sometimes.

Common thought patterns that lead to negative self-talk include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking. Looking at situations in extremes — "If I'm not good, I must be bad."
  • Never-or -always thinking. Wanting total perfection — "I must always follow my meal plan."
  • Negative thinking. Focusing on negative ideas — "Why does it matter, I'll get complications anyway."
  • Overgeneralization. Assuming one thing is the same as another — "Eating one cookie is the same as eating the whole bag."
  • Catastrophic thinking. Exaggerating something's importance — "I can't keep my house as clean as I used to, so I must be a failure."
  • Over-personalizing. Taking responsibility for something that may be outside of your control — "I got diabetes because I ate too much candy; it's all my fault."

How can you break yourself from these thinking patterns?

  • Reverse negative thoughts. Try to explain things to yourself differently — "I am a good person who deserves better."
  • Hang out with people who think positively. Positive people can be a big support system if you let them.
  • Stay away from negative environments if possible.
  • Distract yourself. When negative self-talk begins, take a short walk, meditate, pray, do breathing exercises, practice tai chi, listen to music, read, or keep a "gratitude journal" — start writing down everything for which you're grateful.

It's possible to start changing your negative thoughts to positive ones through steps like these. Sometimes, though, self-help tips aren't enough to break out of a negative thinking cycle.

Negative thinking can be a symptom of a more serious condition, depression.

If you're experiencing depression, your healthcare provider can refer you to a therapist who's trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT therapists teach people how to change such negative thinking.

In Minnesota, we've recently been experiencing record-breaking high temperatures. My positive thoughts are: I'm grateful for air-conditioning, access to swimming pools and ice tea.

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