Dealing with Diabetes Burnout
Life with diabetes is hard work. Every day you are responsible for doing all the right things to keep your blood sugar under control. The scheduled pin pricks and glucose meter testing; the insulin injections and other medication; the constant monitoring of what and when you eat – put it all together and things can certainly feel overwhelming at times.
Logically, you know there is no plan B to managing your disease. You can’t ignore or avoid the added responsibilities that come with a diabetes diagnosis. However, we’re only human and sometimes the pressures of constantly being on the ball simply become too much to handle. This is when you risk experiencing diabetes burnout.
What is diabetes burnout?
Diabetes burnout essentially means falling into a state of abject frustration or complete exhaustion due to the daily demands of managing your diabetes. This condition goes well beyond those “bad days” we all have and often leads to some real dangers, namely becoming so discouraged and frustrated that you throw in the towel on your diabetes management and treatment plan altogether.
You might miss medication or doctor’s visits. You might give up on your diabetes diet and start binging on junk food. You might stop exercising. It’s important to note that diabetes burnout isn’t just about becoming apathetic in terms of your diabetes health. It often drives dangerous and deliberately self-destructive behavior.
What triggers diabetes burnout?
It’s often difficult to pinpoint any one factor leading to diabetes burnout. For many individuals, it comes down to the snowball principle. Things just keep building up and building up until at some point they become too large and unruly to emotionally handle. That being said, there are some situations that might be the “final straw” triggering diabetes burnout.
- New job stress or personal hardship. When other aspects of life become amplified with anxiety or tension, it can make managing diabetes seem a lot less important.
- New diabetes-related complication. It can be extremely frustrating and disheartening to learn you’ve developed a diabetes-related complication despite all the time and energy you put into managing your blood sugar. It can be enough to make you question all your hard work and develop feelings of hopelessness, which can lead to diabetes burnout.
- Undo difficulty controlling blood sugar. It can also be emotionally taxing when you can’t seem to get your blood sugar under control despite the constant finger pricks and test strips. Again, you might come to feel that all the hard work you put in is pointless.
- Time and money. There comes a time when all of us living with diabetes question how much the disease has cost us in terms of time and money. If we’re in a fragile or exhausted state, the realization just might trigger a bout of burnout.
Signs you might be experiencing diabetes burnout
Diabetes burnout usually manifests itself by causing you to change how you approach your diabetes heath and treatment plan. You might:
- Skip scheduled blood sugar tests.
- Miss doctor’s appointments
- Stop taking medication as prescribed
- Go on an eating or drinking binge
- Stop exercising
- Put on weight
You might also:
- Become lethargic or unmotivated
- Become preoccupied with the notion that diabetes is controlling your life
- Isolate yourself from friends and family
- Have trouble concentrating
- See a decline in your job or school performance
- Notice a change in sleep patterns
Some might argue that diabetes burnout is the same as depression, however, that’s not quite accurate. Depression is defined by a sense of hopelessness and futility that pervades most aspects of life. Diabetes burnout is distinctly related to the specific stresses and struggles that come with managing blood sugar on a daily basis. If you’re experiencing any of the signs or behaviors listed above, you might be suffering from diabetes burnout. So, what can you do?
7 ways to avoid or bounce back from burnout
There’s no way to remove the frustration and struggles that come with managing diabetes from your life. But there are steps you can take to avoid spiraling into full-blown diabetes burnout.
- Forget being perfect
Some people develop an odd preoccupation with perfection when managing their diabetes. Unfortunately, that’s just not how this disease works. There will be off days no matter how diligently you stick to your dietary, fitness, and medication programs. Don’t strive for the impossible. Do your level best each day and understand that, occasionally, your blood sugar may not be the ideal number. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, and, on more days than not, you’re right on top of things when it comes to your diabetes.
- Accept your feelings
It’s impossible to bounce back from burnout without first accepting that you’re experiencing it. Once you acknowledge your feelings, you’re then free to begin the process of working through them.
- Talk frankly with your care team
Your doctors and care team are there to help you manage your diabetes. If you sense you’re experiencing diabetes burnout or are headed down that path, talk to your doctor. Maybe there are alternate medication and lifestyle solutions that can alleviate some of the pressure you’re feeling.
- Take a vacation from diabetes
This tip should only be done with the support of your diabetes physician and care team. Sometimes, it’s okay to take a few days off from your strict diabetes management program. Maybe you test your blood sugar twice a day instead of four times. Maybe you allow a few indulgences into your diabetes diet. Maybe you take a few days off from working out. The idea being a slight break from the daily rigors of managing diabetes just might re-energize you and help you avoid diabetes burnout.
- Connect with people who’ve been there
It can be hard to share your hardships with someone who’s not living with diabetes – who’s not in the same boat as you. Fortunately, there are numerous support groups that invite you to connect with others striving to manage their disease, including the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) online support community. It’s a forum for those with diabetes to share, listen, learn, and connect with others who know exactly what it’s like to live with the disease.
- Consider adding a little technology to your routine
While technology has created a faster-moving and arguably more stressful lifestyle for many people, there are also plenty of mobile apps and websites designed to guide you in meditation and mindfulness, yoga, fitness programs, healthy cooking, time management, and other healthy habits. Try one to see if it can help alleviate some of the stress surrounding your diabetes management program.
- Think small
Diabetes burnout is the result of being overwhelmed by the rigors of your diabetes management program. One way to avoid this is to strive for small victories that together add up to healthy diabetes management. For example, instead of making your fitness goal a one-hour workout routine, promise yourself that you’ll take a nice walk after lunch. Eventually, you may work into a more rigorous routine, but getting there in small, manageable chunks can alleviate some of the stress you might be putting on yourself.
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