Diabetes Burnout - What Is It?
How to Avoid Diabetes Burnout
You know the drill: To manage diabetes, you have to keep track of what you eat, your physical activity, your blood sugar levels, the correct amounts of medications, and all other lifestyle habits. And with type 1 diabetes, it never ends. To stay healthy, it takes diligence on a daily basis, says Alison Massey, RD, CDE, LDN, a dietitian and a diabetes educator at the Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. But all of that constant focus and effort can take a toll on your psyche.
“Despite knowing this is what you have to do, it can grow tiresome, frustrating, and lead to burnout,” says Frank J. Sileo, PhD, a licensed psychologist and the executive director of the Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, N.J.
You can take steps to renew your commitment to personal well-being with type 1 diabetes when your stamina begins to wane. Here's how.
Watch for Signs of Diabetes Burnout
It takes a great deal of time and energy, but taking care of yourself is the only way to prevent type 1 diabetes from taking a toll on your health. “Poorly managed blood sugar, especially for long periods of time, increases the risk for serious diabetes-related complications,” Massey says. To keep your diabetes management plan on track, watch for these warning signs of diabetes burnout:
Emotional exhaustion.Managing a chronic illness like diabetes takes an emotional toll and can leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and down, Dr. Sileo says.
Social withdrawal.Sudden distance from friends, family, and other support systems such as co-workers could signal diabetes burnout.
Decline in activity or performance level.Reaching a point of just getting by or doing no more than the minimum that is physically or mentally required of you may suggest diabetes burnout.
Negligence about medical care.This is one of the most dangerous signs of diabetes burnout. Cancelling doctor’s appointments, not taking medications as prescribed, eating poorly, and not exercising are warning signs that you’re not taking care of yourself as you should.
Tips for Coping With Diabetes Burnout
If you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the daily demands of managing type 1 diabetes, try these suggestions to help beat diabetes burnout:
Accept your feelings.“It's okay to feel frustrated, angry, or sad," Sileo says. "Don't hold back your feelings. Reach out to trusted friends and family." Massey suggests looking for a diabetes support group where you can talk with others who can relate to what you're facing. And if things feel too overwhelming, talk with a mental health professional who specializes in chronic illness.
Be aware that diabetes burnout may increase your risk for depression, Sileo says. “Burnout and depression share some similar symptoms, such as low energy, feeling sad, and decreased performance or involvement with others,” he says. “Depression is different from burnout in that individuals struggling with depression may also present with symptoms of low self-esteem, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms don’t typically exist with burnout.”
Get help with daily activities.Asking for help doesn't demonstrate weakness, Sileo says. He encourages it when people aren't feeling up to tackling all of their daily tasks. Picking up groceries, refilling medications, stopping by the dry cleaner — these are all errands someone else can do while you use your energy to manage your type 1 diabetes.
Learn to say “no.”No one can do it all, and when you're feeling overwhelmed by efforts to keep type 1 diabetes under control, something else has to go. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be permanent, Sileo says. It can just be until you feel well enough to take on another task. But it can be permanent if the stress that comes with a task or obligation is simply too much —– for example, perhaps it's better to be a member of a club instead of club president, he says.
Identify what you can and cannot change.“You may not be able to change someone else's behavior, but you can change how you react to it,” Sileo says. “The same can be said about your type 1 diabetes. When you feel more in control of your disease, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out from it.”
Set realistic goals.Start with managing your blood sugar well. Blood sugar levels don’t always have to be in the target range, Massey says, so "stop aiming for perfect and aim for good enough." And when any task seems too daunting, break it down into smaller tasks that you can do one step at a time, Sileo says.
Prioritize, make lists, and establish a routine.Knowing what needs to happen next can lend a sense of control when you're dealing with a disease you might feel is controlling you.
Make time for yourself.At least once every week, do something you want to do. “Take a break from diabetes,” Sileo says. “Engage in an activity or conversation with family and friends that is void of diabetes entirely.
Video: Diabetes Burnout is Your Right | Donuts & Diabetes Day | Chronically Motivated Project Ep. 12
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