#WCW Babe-Ciara Stevens!
Life with diabetes definitely steered me towards a job helping others.
Wow, talk about a girl-crush. Ciara is a woman who has truly inspired us to redefine success at AT. A native Canadian, Ciara is a thriving intensive care nurse while she manages Type I Diabetes. She is a certified YT and even owned her own studio! Its pretty clear that she has a knack for learning and knowledge. Check out her reading/podcast recommendations and inspiration on living your best life #despitediabetes
Written by Ciara Stevens
We want to get to know you! Where are you from and what makes you, YOU?!
I live in Nova Scotia, Canada (also know as Canada’s Ocean Playground) and I absolutely love it here. I specifically live in a place called the Annapolis Valley. It’s full of culture and brimming with my favourite things like: farm markets, coffee shops and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.
I work full time as a registered nurse in an intensive care unit. I love critical care nursing because of the opportunity to truly get to know each patient and family. Some days can be really tough but often times these days end up being the most rewarding as well. I often think of myself as a “mechanic of the human body” because in my job I’m constantly tweaking, monitoring and influencing the functions of the body.
I am a self-proclaimed “fitness, health and wellness nerd.” I love reading and listening to podcasts that help me to learn about anything in those realms. I love biking, hiking with my dog Cooper, practicing yoga, meditation, and spending time with husband, friends and family.
My entrepreneurial side meets my career: In 2014 I received my 200-hour yoga teacher certification and started a yoga business with my friend Cassie. It was a blast. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to listen to my body and trust my intuition. I was planning/teaching classes, making playlists and practicing my classes. On top of running our new business I was also working full time as a nurse. I was getting “burnt out,” and not looking after my own physical and mental needs. It added up to too much stress mentally and also too much stress on my body, equaling a bad case of tendonitis in my wrist and arm. Since then, I have placed a much higher importance on my own self-care. Live and learn!
Life with diabetes definitely steered me towards a job helping others.
How long have you been living with Type 1 Diabetes?
I have been living with Type 1 Diabetes since I was 11 years old-which makes me a 19 year veteran! When I was first diagnosed I spent one week in the hospital on a pediatric floor. At first, I was nervous, but by the end of the week I loved the hospital. I was so interested in the nurses and doctors and the environment. As my high school years came to a close, I was struggling with choosing a career path, but then one day it hit me: nursing. It felt so right and today I have 8 years of critical care nursing under my belt. Life with diabetes definitely steered me towards a job helping others.
Have there been times you let your circumstances spin out of control?
Life with a chronic illness has ups and downs. I have been lucky enough to have only had 2 hospitalizations due to diabetes, one of which was my initial diagnosis when I was 11. During university I was once hospitalized for a few days with a condition called “Diabetic Ketoacidosis.” At the time I felt like I had an awful flu but as it turned out I was actually a bit sicker than that. This admission was so long ago now but I think that a lack of self-care was involved. As mentioned above in my yoga teaching experience, I sometimes have the tendency to let the “busy of life” take over. Nursing school was busy, I had a new boyfriend (now my amazing husband) and my parents were divorcing. I know that I wasn’t making my fitness, diabetes self-care or mental wellness a priority. Can you see a trend?
The same year I was hospitalized in university I fell in love with fitness. Unfortunately, I had a few emotional battles along the way with this and believe that I did suffer from disordered eating in my last year at school. I’m a firm believer that life is full of so many hidden lessons though. In hindsight, I cannot believe the self-awareness and knowledge I have gained (as you’ll see below).
The bottom line is: Let yourself off the hook once in a while. We are all uniquely human.
Thoughts on social media. What do you love about it, and what have you learned from it?
Social media has influenced my self-confidence both positively and negatively. I have definitely hopped on the comparison train when scrolling through my Facebook timeline or Instagram feed. I recognize this thinking much more quickly now and am quick to avoid going down the rabbit hole that is comparison. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He was smart. I strive to celebrate what I see on my feeds now. Rather than compare, why not embrace the awesomeness that is that other woman or her amazing circumstances?
For years I struggled with body image and self esteem. I believe having diabetes compounded these issues. For me, having diabetes equates to constantly striving for perfection: “treat yourself right, eat right, workout often, do this, not that!” When you are constantly striving for perfection it becomes easy to start mentally and emotionally beating yourself down. Eventually this search for perfection filtered outside of the diabetes realm: “say the right things, teach the best yoga class, etc.” The cherry on top is the media portrayal of “the perfect body.” All of those thoughts can pretty quickly turn into a sh$$ storm in your head. So what has helped me? Positive self-talk and self-acceptance. I noticed that I do not go easy on myself and I have worked on changing that. My quirky personality is what makes me, me. My “big ol’ thighs” are now one of my favorite things about myself. When I feel I didn’t do my best, I look at it as a learning opportunity. Of course I still struggle at times with these things. The good thing is, I have some of the knowledge I’ve gained to fall back on and to help set me back on the right track. The bottom line is: Let yourself off the hook once in a while. We are all uniquely human.
Highly Recommended Reads and Podcasts: A few reads that are helping me on my journey towards deeper self-appreciation are:
- “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. So many great tidbits in there to continually refresh upon throughout life!
- “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things that Matter” by Hal Urban- In University, our professor had experienced so much tragedy in her life, yet was such a strong and resilient woman so I figured it would be a great read. I found it so empowering I think I will re-read it again soon.
- “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” by Pema Chodron
- “The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz
Podcasts: many of which are about empowerment/motivation.
- My go-to podcast since Day 1 has been “The Jillian Michaels show.”
- “Almost 30” is another one that I’ve been listening to lately that always cracks me up and it usually provides a good take-away or two.
- “Sickboy” is a podcast that three local-ish dudes do. It is always funny, and gives great perspective on life with an illness. One of the hosts lives with Cystic Fibrosis and all three are yoga teachers. Their sense of humour is something else
I follow a wide assortment of personalities on social media. Depending on the day, I will be affected differently by the posts and pictures that I see. I know that many captions and photos are highly curated. I also know that I cannot compare the life I lead to the lives of others. Being unique and different is what makes life special. I like to take inspiration from what I can and I tend to use my social media platforms in this way. If after some time I find I no longer jive with someone or something that I follow then I simply unfollow! Easy peasy.
What are 2 pieces of advice you can give other women living with diabetes to live an active lifestyle.
Firstly, move your body on the daily. Make sure you find activities that you truly enjoy. You are so much more apt to make physical activity a part of your daily life if you choose to do things the things you love. Not everyone wants to follow a workout plan, lift weights or get into the newest fitness trend. Walking your dog, doing yoga, hiking with friends or swimming are all great ways to be active!
Secondly, don’t beat yourself up! There will be days when you blood sugar is too high for your workout or you go low during a run. Prepping and planning is so essential when it comes to being active with diabetes, but giving yourself a break when it doesn’t go as planned is also so important too. Keeping a journal of how different forms of activity influence your blood sugar can be SO helpful. I have recently been journaling more and it is so helpful to be able to look back and see what helped or didn’t help last time. Remember, you do have an illness and there will be times that your workout does not go as planned. If it were easy then you wouldn’t be considered to have a disease! Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for progress and health. This will bring about the happy in you.
What does personal success in managing your disease mean to you?
Personal success with Type 1 Diabetes means living a happy, healthy life doing the things I love with the people I love. It means not letting diabetes hold me back, but it also means giving myself a break when it does get in my way. It means working on being positive when responding to necessary changes in my diabetes management. It also means working on expecting these changes throughout life with diabetes. Last summer my husband and I cycled around the Cabot Trail over 4 days. It was tough but diabetes did not get the best of me. I had to be vigilant but I had such a great time. I’ll never forget my husband telling me he how proud he was of me. Mostly though, I’ll never forget how proud I was of myself for overcoming another challenge despite diabetes. I can’t wait to see what else I will do ~ despite diabetes. Hmmmm… I think I sense a new hashtag coming on. #despitediabetes anyone?
Feel free to reach out to Cara and connect with her on Instagram and her blog!
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