How to Build Self Control to Improve Diabetes Management

How to Build Self Control with Diabetes, making wise choices, woman holding apple and donut

This post may contain affiliate links. Please review my disclosure policy.

“I think you should go without me,” I said. “The dessert I made is in the fridge, and her gift is in that little bag. Please tell her congratulations and that I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it, ok?” My husband agreed, and I went back to lay down.

I didn’t want to miss the graduation party. I had been looking forward to celebrating all her hard work, and I was thankful to have been invited. But in the couple hours leading up to the time of the party, this is what my blood sugar was doing.

Blood Glucose Monitor Readings - how to build self control with diabetes

The kicker? I can’t tell even tell you why this happened. I ate lunch at 11:15 that morning, and I was fine until almost 5pm. Then this. (And yes, I double checked with a blood sugar meter a couple times, and I actually was that high.)

Here’s how it unfolded: I had decided around 4:15 that I just needed a quick nap before the party. (That’s when my new CGM started working properly and I was around 130 mg/dl.) I remember my high alarm going off at 160. And I remember clicking out of it, not feeling worried because I hadn’t eaten in quite a while. I went back to sleep, thinking it wouldn’t go much above 160. But when I woke an hour later, I saw 335.


So I forced myself up to change out my pump site (just in case there was an issue with that, but I couldn’t detect one). I took a correction bolus of insulin right away. I checked for keytones (none, thankfully), and I guzzled more water than I’d honestly prefer to drink.

This situation is uncommon for me. Do I go high from time to time? Sure. But not very often.

So that’s why I chose to forego the party. I felt tired and grumpy. My head hurt like crazy. And I was exhausted. I felt like I needed to sleep for about three days. But most of all, I felt like this was all out of my control.

Has This Happened to You?

Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? You had plans, but diabetes interrupted them. You suddenly had to shift, move to plan B, or figure out something else entirely.

It happens. That’s life. And that’s diabetes. But this right here is what makes self control so important.

Before we go any further, I want to make a distinction first. We can have self control, but we don’t have ultimate control. Here’s what I mean by that.

Definition of Self Control from Cornerstone University

We can Build Self Control

I love the way Cornerstone University states the definition of self-discipline: “Self-control is the war between impulsivity and doing what’s right or beneficial.” It’s the practice of making wise decisions in the moment.

This is something we build over time. Most of us start learning the concepts of self control as young children when we are told not to hit when we don’t get our way. After a while with some positive reinforcement, we learn to make good decisions. We continue to learn emotional self-regulation in different ways as we grow, and we start to create good habits over time.

Most successful people practice self control regularly. If we have a lack of self-discipline, we risk growing to be a person who is unstable, someone prone to outbursts of violence or anger, or a person who makes rash decisions that often don’t turn out well.

Self control is vital, and it’s something God has given us. In 2 Timothy chapter 1, The Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, his “child in the faith,” to encourage him. He reminded Timothy that, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV). (Paul is such a good example, we’ll be reading his words a lot here.)

In another passage, Paul said something similar when he wrote to the church in Galatia:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-24

We can learn the vital skill of being a self-disciplined person in ways that are pleasing to God with the help of the Holy Spirit.

But We Do Not Have Ultimate Control

Although we can build greater self-control, we don’t have ultimate control. And that’s an important clarification to make.

God is the One in ultimate control. Continuing with Paul here, he wrote to the Ephesians: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” Ephesians 1:11 (ESV). God works all things according to His will. He sees the bigger picture and He is the One in control.

We can read story after store in the Bible that show God’s sovereignty. He controlled the wind and waves (Mark 4:35-41), and He parted waters to make dry land (Exodus 14). God set a tree on fire but kept it from burning up (Exodus 3). He created our entire world (Genesis 1), and He created every one of us (Psalm 139). The list goes on and on. To think we have ultimate control would honestly be pretty arrogant of us.

Proverbs 19:21 on making plans and God's Will

How I practiced Self Control

My self control in the story above included the following things on my to-do list: changing out my pump site, taking a correction bolus of insulin, checking for keytones, and drinking water. That’s all I knew to do right then. The situation was far from ideal, but I did my best. I took control of my own decisions and chose wisely.

What I couldn’t do was have ultimate control of the situation. I didn’t do anything to cause it, and I couldn’t tell you why it happened. Even a few days later now, I still don’t know with any level of certainty. So I practiced self control and did what I could. (It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, so if you’re just starting out on your diabetes journey, give yourself as much time as you need.)

Tips to Build Self Control

Building self control, especially self control with diabetes, takes some time (and maybe some skinned knees). But that’s ok. It’s worth it in the long run because we learn every step of the way.

Here are a few smart goals I have to prioritize self control, to set myself up to make wise decisions in the moment.

1. Take One Decision at a Time

When we live with diabetes, we make decisions all day long. I’ve heard from multiple sources that people with diabetes make 180 decisions more than someone without diabetes. That’s a lot!

Diabetes can be overwhelming. But if you take one decision at a time in the present moment, it’s easier to handle. Here’s how we can break it down with a few examples.

Self Control with Food

In terms of food, try planning ahead as a first step. The more I plan and fix food ahead of time, the more often I’m eating healthier and more balanced meals. That keeps me from reaching for whatever is handy (that typically isn’t nutritious). I wrote a whole meal planning blog post about this topic (with a free meal planning download), so check that out.

(NOTE: this doesn’t mean you need to go crazy and never eat a single sweet bite. I am a firm believer that eliminating sweets entirely just leads to craving and binging. But the vast majority of the plan should create a healthy diet instead of junk food.)

Blood Sugar Control

I don’t like thinking of blood sugar control as much as I like to call it blood sugar management. I mean who honestly and truly “controls” it?

Instead of thinking of your percent in range for your blood sugar levels today, think about how you will help yourself stay in range just for the morning. Then move on to the afternoon. Taking smaller chunks of time is helpful if you’re overwhelmed or struggling. That helps break things down into easy tasks you can complete.

Impulse Control

When you find yourself struggling with impulse control or you are facing a challenge with diabetes, stop and remind yourself to make a good choice right then and there. What would be most helpful in both the short term and long run? Think about the situation and what would be the best way to respond to it.

Social Media

Shut off social media. All you see on there our people’s best days. And when it seems everyone is having a good day but you, it’s even harder. Taking a break from that kind of screen time can be a great way to practice self discipline.

It’s easy to get caught up in feeling bad when diabetes is out of whack. But the basic idea here is to simply make the next decision a good one. When you feel the urge and temptation to make a choice that isn’t wise, remind yourself of the big picture and choose to make a good decision. Then move on to the next one as it comes.

It’s always easier to break long-term goals down into small goals. Small steps are always easier to take! And once you get a string of these good choices under your belt, you will start to see healthy habits forming.

young woman reading the bible and praying

2. Renew Your Mind

I’m a big believer in scripture. It’s the entire reason this blog and my book came about — because the Holy Spirit showed me something new in God’s Word in a section of scripture I had read several times before. Reading scripture has a way of resetting and shifting our perspective in such a healthy way.

Going back to the Apostle Paul, this is what he wrote in his letter to the Romans:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Romans 12:2

In other words, don’t fall into the patterns your flesh desires. Steer clear of adapting bad habits. Don’t make poor choices with diabetes on a whim. Choose not to do things that you know will work against you, like not taking your medication as you should or not seeing your doctor regularly. Don’t make poor eating choices every day, or avoid regular physical exercise.

Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Being in God’s Word can refresh our perspective in a way like nothing else can. And you and I dealing with diabetes? We deal with a lot that challenges our perspective. We need renewing!

That’s why I have so many free Bible reading plan downloads for you here. I want to encourage you to be in the Word and renew your mind. Allow God to reach you and renew you through His Word!

3. Be Prayerful

Along with reading God’s Word, prayer is key in trying to build self control. Prayer can help us take our eyes off ourselves and focus on God and His will for us.

I wrote a post on praying about diabetes not long ago. It’s currently one of the top three most popular blog posts on my website.

Prayer can help us develop self control as it repositions our priorities. How often have you been praying and thought of something in a different light? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been prayer journaling and my perspective shifts as I’m writing. There’s just something about prayer that realigns our priorities. It’s like pushing the reset button.

Is prayer a personal habit you have developed? Do you pray regularly? If not, I would highly recommend doing so. Trust me — give it a good try for a while and see how you think and feel.

Writing a Prayer for Diabetes. Pictured: a woman sitting at a table journaling prayers

4. Prioritize Sleep and Rest

If you ask me, sleep is underrated! We need sleep to keep up with our physical health and mental health. And good sleep can lower our chance for heart disease and prevent depression. It can also lower the risk of weight gain and help with our memory. But diabetes can wake us and eventually cause sleep deprivation over time, can’t it? So we have to prioritize and make sure we are getting enough.

And rest is important, too. (There is a difference.) An article in Forbes magazine says getting adequate rest (not overnight sleep, but rest) can do things like help your body heal, boost creativity, reduce stress, and improve productivity.

Without good sleep and rest, we run the risk of diabetes burnout, which affects our mental health. And that’s a slippery slope we can easily roll down.

What we need is a clear mind to build self control, and both good sleep and rest help with that. So make sure you get good sleep. Manage stress levels (which can cause extra cortisol and higher blood sugars). And be sure to prioritize rest. (Here are some practical ways to prioritize rest if you need ideas.)

5. Find an Accountability Partner to Build Self Control

Having a plan and reaching a clear goal is challenging on our own. When we are the only person striving for something, it takes tremendous willpower. But if we have an accountability partner, it’s more encouraging.

I would challenge you to ask someone in your daily life to check in on you from time to time. Tell them about your action plan and what you’re making a conscious effort to do. Tell them what you’re doing and why. And ask them to check in with you each week to see how things are going. They can be there for you when it gets hard, and they can celebrate wins with you as well!

Although I have blogged about the two diabetes friends you need, this doesn’t have to be someone who has diabetes. This could be anyone in your life who also has a goal they’re trying to reach. You can team up and check in with each other to spur one another on. Small groups are great for this as well.

We don’t grow in our comfort zone, friend. Reach out and ask for someone to help you do the hard things.

The Importance of Self-Control

Having self control is such an important skill because it help us with the day-to-day decisions we make. It plays a significant role in our choices and thought processes. When we hone the critical skill of self control, it’s not common if something goes off the rails. When we have the self control we need to make wise decisions throughout the day, we will see our diabetes management improve. Then, issues like the one I explained above are more and more rare.

When this incident happened, other than the physical effects of feeling pretty awful, it wasn’t horrible. And it was pretty short lived. Like I said before, this doesn’t happen all that often. I wasn’t scared. I just did what I could and waited.

When your daily routine for diabetes care is managed with self control, it makes the one-off times so much easier to handle.

How it All Ended Up

In case you’re wondering about how my blood sugar turned out on the evening I mentioned at the start of this post, here’s what happened.

That was a pretty steep drop, and it made me nauseated to go down that quickly. But I will take temporary nausea over blood sugars in the 300s. I dropped back down nicely and was never so pleased to see 150.

Blood Glucose Monitor Readings afterward - how to build self control with diabetes

DID YOU Enjoy this Post about How to Build Self Control?

If you enjoyed this post, would you please let me know? I would love to hear from you!

If you want more diabetic friendly recipes, please join my VIP list and follow along on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for the latest updates.

NOTE: I am not doctor or diabetes educator. Nothing here should be taken as professional medical advice. Please consult your medical team with any questions you have.

Looking for More?


How to Build Self Control with Diabetes

Related Topics

The Role of Rest with a Chronic Illness
How to Look at Diabetes Differently
The Importance of Slowing Down

Bible Reading Plans

How to Apply Bible Verses About God's Goodness to Living with a Chronic Illness
how to find strength in weakness, pictured: young girl laying on a couch with her arm over her eyes
Finding God in Isolation
Looking for more devotions? Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul is on Amazon

Like this Post? Share with a Friend:





Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes


Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

There are lots of goodies here: devotions, diabetic friendly recipes, Bible reading plans, and more. So grab your favorite (sugar-free) beverage and enjoy your stay.







Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul is now available on Amazon.

Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul by Kaycee Parker




Diabetic Recipes
Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul
Bible Reading Plans - Instant Downloads - Printable
Devotions on Diabetes devotional blog