Diabetes tips

How to actually think like a pancreas

March 10, 2023

How can we, as people living with type one diabetes, more effectively do the job of our pancreas?

Maybe you’ve been told along the way that it’s about getting your insulin rates and ratios as accurate as possible, about having predictability in your routine, about identifying your body’s patterns, about getting your carb counts right.

But if you’re constantly in a frenzy of reacting to all of these different factors and that chaotic feeling is just making you feel even less in control… then what if it wasn’t about doing MORE, but actually about learning how to take a pause? 

On a recent episode of the “Reclaim Your Rise” Podcast, Risely Founder, Lauren Bongiorno, sat down with Sam Tullman, who was T1D at age 8 and co-founded Diabetes Sangha, an online community dedicated to meditation and mindfulness practices for people with diabetes.

Sam explained, “in order to think like a pancreas, we have to remember a pancreas doesn't have thoughts, feelings, and emotions. A pancreas is this amazing sensing device that basically sees what's needed and does what's done. So, we want to say ‘think like a pancreas,’ but we're stuck thinking like people, which is natural.”

So, what does it look like to think like a person when you have diabetes?
As you probably know… it's thinking about:

  • Things you “did wrong”
  • Decisions that you could have made differently
  • Anticipating what’s coming next
  • How bad you feel in the current moment and how frustrated you are that it's happening

Sound familiar? This is what makes it pretty difficult to “think like a pancreas.”

So what if we can instead, as Sam says, “learn for a second to actually set our people minds aside - not make it disappear, not push it away, certainly not kill or destroy it or anything, but can I just take it off for a moment and see it here and see everything else going on, too? Once we learn that skill of saying, ‘I'm gonna take this moment to not think like a person’, all of a sudden we CAN think like a pancreas and we can make a little bit wiser, more thoughtful decisions about our blood sugar and our management.”

Setting our “people minds aside,” as Sam calls it, is actually the skill that mindfulness practice and a lot of different meditation styles are really getting at.

For Sam, the ability to leverage mindfulness has been a game changer. While it didn’t happen overnight (and he shares more about his journey to developing a regular meditation practice in the episode), implementing mindfulness has helped him decrease the negative thoughts that come up regularly with managing his T1D. Mindfulness has allowed him to make space in his mind, which turns out to be the key to thinking more like a pancreas.

We’re curious: Have you ever tried meditation? Have you seen benefits from mindfulness in your T1D management? 

Be sure to check out the full episode with Sam here or wherever you download your podcasts. 

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