How to shift out of T1D perfectionism

Featured Podcast Episode
April 15, 2024

By: Lauren Rapaport

Calming the T1D Chaos Series (Part 2 of 3)

One morning, I woke up feeling stressed and overwhelmed by my to-do list, with an all-consuming thought that time was slipping away. I could feel the stress rising, and nothing about my morning routine felt appealing.

That's when it hit me.  

I was in survival mode, particularly the flight response. That means, my brain had perceived a threat and sent my nervous system into survival mode (fight, flight, or freeze). When this happens, my default reaction is to act, stay endlessly busy, and obsess over every task as if everything is critically important and must be done perfectly and immediately.

This is my body's way of maintaining an illusion of control and keeping me safe from threats. 

The good news? I knew exactly what to do.

✨ Three-step process

Here's a three-step process to increase awareness of what’s happening in and around your body, help you shift from survival mode to calm, and bring back your critical thinking.

1. What do I notice?

First, tune into your body. What do you notice? Is it a physical sensation? A thought? Behavior? 

I noticed stress, overwhelm, and anxiety building in my body. I noticed the thought that time was slipping away and all the things on my to-do list. I could feel a pull or a compulsion to do everything humanly possible on my to-do list. 

If you can, identify any stressors or threats. Remember, we enter survival when the brain detects a threat. My behavior made so much sense, when I realized I had an upcoming trip, a class I was scheduled to teach, and the deadline for this blog. This clarified what my brain had perceived as threats.

3. What do I need? 

Based on what you notice, what do you need? 

I looked at my list of self-soothing tools, and with this level of anxiety, I decided a tapping meditation would be the most calming. Tapping, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is a powerful stress relief technique where you concentrate on a negative emotion and tap your fingertips on 9 specific meridian points of the body. This action sends a calming signal to the brain, letting your brain know it's safe to relax. 

3. What’s next? 

Drawing on the results of steps 1 and 2, decide what is next. 

So, I picked a tapping meditation that was specific to anxiety, did the meditation, and I felt tons better, bringing me back to a state of calm.  Transitioning from survival mode (fight) to my calm state, I regained my critical thinking, and it became immediately clear that not everything was urgent. This clarity made it easier to sort tasks, identifying which to-dos could easily wait until next week.

✨ Applications to T1D

This same approach can be applied to T1D. Making T1D decisions is much easier when your brain isn’t muddled and foggy and stuck in survival. It’s so much easier to make decisions when you’re clear-minded and calm. The next time you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, you can apply this same process. Ask yourself what do you notice, what do you need, and make your decisions from a place of calm and clarity. 

✨ In summary

The key to regulating your nervous system is making this a daily or consistent practice. At first, tuning into your body and differentiating between physical and emotional sensations may be difficult, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable. It's like the initial soreness you feel from lifting weights at the gym—regular practice reduces that discomfort over time.  But the more you return to your calm state, the easier it is to do over time.

Stay tuned for Part Three of the Calming the T1D Chaos series, where I'll share about my decades-long struggle with binge eating, and how recognizing the signs of survival mode and how regulating my nervous system were crucial in overcoming these struggles.