Shortly after I joined Qualis Health, I was invited to become a Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSMP) lay leader. The DSMP is a six-week workshop designed by Stanford University that’s been proven to help people with diabetes manage and improve their health. As a lay leader, I would be responsible for co-leading workshops.
Once I completed training, it was time to lead my first group. I was excited, but I was also nervous! What if the participants had questions I couldn’t answer? What if they didn’t think it was worth their time?
Thankfully, as the weeks flew by, my nerves subsided. Even though the participants would benefit from this program, I didn’t realize how powerful it could be. The group members gained so much in just six sessions, including:
- Additional health knowledge. DSMP workshops teach people how to read food labels, as well as how making simple changes can improve blood sugar levels. It was rewarding to see the participants begin to grasp that so many factors contribute to their blood sugar levels. That formula is determined not only by what food they eat, but also the amount of water they drink and whether or not they exercise. This additional health knowledge isn’t often discussed in a doctor’s office and yet it’s so valuable.
- An understanding of the power of setting goals. Small goals can have a huge impact, and DSMP workshops focus on this important fact. In one of the first sessions, an attendee with multiple chronic health conditions set a simple goal to ride a bike for five minutes twice a week. The following week he reported that even though it was difficult, he had accomplished his goal and was ready to take on another small goal. By the end of the workshop he was exercising every other day for at least 20 minutes. Not only was he feeling better, but his blood sugar levels were lower—and his wife said he seemed happier!
- A sense of community and peer support. Because they’re highly interactive, DSMP workshops provide plenty of mutual support and encouragement.
Oftentimes the participants were each other’s best source of inspiration. As they shared how they met their weekly goals, I watched them really connect. Not only were they cheering each other on, but they felt accountable to each other.
Even though I was leading the program, I think I gained as much from it as the participants. It was incredible to have a front-row seat each week as they learned to take better care of themselves and become healthier. The workshop may only have been six weeks, but the impression it has made on me will last a lifetime.