The Blog

Hypoglycemia: Be Aware or Beware!

Here are some ideas about what to do when dealing with a normally rational individual who becomes utterly irrational when running on empty.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Or, put differently, "beware, all things change" and "be aware, so you can respond constructively to change."

Both statements apply to you and me, every second of every day, for all our lives. Sounds simple, right? But, it isn't, especially because changes occur within and around us, for so many complex and interrelated reasons -- and our skill with noticing these changes can vary, moment by moment.

Sometimes "I change my mind" and sometimes "changes in my mind affect me." As a result, it's best to be aware... beware the consequences. For example, now that it's summer (and time for intense physical activity), you're more likely to encounter some of those normally pleasant people who totally decompose when their blood sugar plummets. If you're aware of what's happening, you can respond constructively -- for both of you. If you're not paying attention, the whole situation can go from bad to worse -- and fast.

Know anyone like that? If not, look around more closely. They're kids and adults, and, who knows, maybe you? So here are some ideas about what to do when dealing with a normally rational individual who becomes utterly irrational when running on empty.

  1. Beware of the seemingly natural expectation that people's moods stay level no matter the circumstance; they won't. When you burn tons of calories, or sweat out lots of liquids, your brain and your body change in ways that can alter your moods. Most challenging of all, you might not even know what's happening because you're in the midst of it. Even if you normally have a high degree of self-awareness, there might be times when you aren't able to discern your own moods accurately, much less understand your emotions or mange them.

  • Be aware of what's happening right here, right now. This means, cultivate mindfulness. In fact, the greater your awareness, the more likely you are to distinguish between feelings and facts. When someone has low blood sugar, they can feel like the world is against them. Usually, it isn't, and even if in fact it is, things often improve once the body receives the nourishment it needs. In contrast, matter often get worse when people believe that the anger and overwhelm of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are accurate reflections of reality.
  • Stay focused and flexible in the midst of changes -- whether your dealing with someone who is hypoglycemic -- or experiencing low blood sugar yourself. I find the best strategy for dealing with this is staying mindful.
  • Here's what I mean ...

    Imagine a hypoglycemic kid who throws a massive tantrum about a truly unimportant issue. If you're a parent, you've probably been there -- maybe in a parking lot, maybe at the movie theater or at a friend's house. It's clear to you that your kid needs to eat something, but your kid doesn't see that picture at all.

    Several things are happening at once. Your kid's brain and body are dealing with insufficient fuel, and the outward result is probably some fairly unpleasant behavior. Your brain and body are probably reacting to the stress of the situation, and these reactions can compromise your ability to respond constructively. What happens next is all about where you place your attention.

    If you focus on your kid's condition, and prioritize food and fluids, things will probably work out fairly well, fairly fast. If, however, you get stuck on your kid's behavior or your associated anger, misery, or embarrassment, then things will likely get worse, equally as fast. Your ability to stay present and emotionally balanced will largely determine which approach you take, and which outcome results.

    It's most important to stay mindful of what's happening, right now -- right here -- rather than worry about the past ("I can't believe she just started crying!") or the future ("What are other people going to think about us?"). Stay present, and deal with the root issues. In this case -- stay calm, and provide something to eat and something to drink, ASAP.

    Mindfulness is the key because it addresses the reality of constant change -- and hypoglycemia is just a very simple, very familiar example of change. If you stay focused on the present, you're less likely to get disoriented -- because the present is always present. Mindfulness means you're here, dealing with what's here, and so you're not as likely to follow unconstructive detours. All things change -- low blood sugar usually self-corrects with calories; irrational tantrums resolve, and increasing self-awareness improves prevention.

    Once again, we're back to "beware" and "be aware." Beware of what can happen without mindfulness. Be aware of what's happening now, in and around you -- and change!