Five Ways to Fight Diabetes Burnout
Are you tired of monitoring your blood glucose, of taking your medication? Of restricting foods? Are you tired of routines, of doctor’s appointments, and bills? Are you tired of low and high blood sugars, of your loss of spontaneity? Do you just want to give up? Well… you might be suffering from diabetes burnout.
Diabetes burnout is a state of mind that may affect people who have been taking care of their diabetes for years, and are now psychologically, emotionally (and sometimes physically), tired of it. They may suffer from anxiety, depression, anger, and overall apathy. They may even stop doing some of the things they need to, and become engaged in dangerous patterns, such as completely ignoring their diets, or guessing on the amount of insulin they might need, without counting carbohydrates.
We all go through some form of diabetes burnout at one point or another. Whether it’s not committing to an exercise plan anymore, or completely ignoring what we were doing, it’s easy to become tired and seek respite from what is burdening us. Unfortunately, many of us think that respite can come from completely throwing everything out the window… when we’ll just make ourselves more anxious, and out of control because of wacky blood glucose levels.
One of the main problems is that many of us focus on perfection. We may visit health sites, which may give us the wrong impression that the goal is to eat perfectly all year long, and never make any ‘wrong’ choices. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how life works, and it’s very detrimental for a person living with chronic illness. In my years of living with diabetes, I’ve struggled with burnout off and on. Gained and lost weight off and on… and I can best suggest that the most effective strategy for dealing with burnout is to simply plan for it. Don’t pretend like you can avoid it, but simply plan for it. If you know a certain area of diabetes management makes you struggle, rethink it.
- Attach Exercise to a Social Activity You Enjoy: When you tire of exercise, but love nature photography – take your camera out for long walks around the neighborhood, or parks. It’ll give you an excuse to be happy, and not focus on an actual chore.
- Schedule Treats or Days Off From Your Diet: You can make these be holidays, for example. Or, you can schedule a particular treat for once a week. Say that you love pie and you don’t want to give up pie. Schedule a lean salad dinner, and then have a slice of pie. When you do this, your mind begins to look forward to it as a great little respite/vacation/treat. It’s a lot easier to do the things we need to do when we know we’ll have a break soon.
- Include Your Support System: If you struggle making breakfast in the morning, maybe a family member could help carry the load for a while, or they could help pack your lunch. Or if you’re forgetful, make a list for someone to help pack your diabetes supplies.
- Give Yourself Permission to Feel Bad: Understand that it’s perfectly normal to feel frustrated, or angry, or hurt, or just plain tired. We all get emotional. Acknowledge what you’re feeling, and then schedule mental breaks for reading, practicing a favorite hobby, or socializing with friends.
- Change the Way You Look at Things: And the things you look at will change. Many of us are used to focusing on caring for ourselves in order to avoid scary and horrific diabetes complications; few of us focus on taking care of ourselves because we love our families, our jobs, our hobbies. Focus on taking care of yourself because it will empower you to keep enjoying and loving life, and your family. When you’re at your best, you can be the most creative artist, the best mom or dad, the best spouse, and the best athlete.
Diabetes burnout can happen to all of us… It can sneak up on us like a thief in the night, and it is an undeniable part of chronic illness management. If you are experiencing diabetes burnout, don’t despair. Get some help. Talk to a supportive person, a doctor or a diabetes educator. Together, you may be able to work through some of your challenges and make a plan of action. You don’t have to go it alone.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your diabetes?