As diseases go, I often joke diabetes is not a bad disease to have. We have some measure of control and there are well-defined steps for improving quality of life. However, in spite of these positive aspects, we all get tired of diabetes. We get tired of monitoring blood sugar levels, taking medications, dieting, exercise, being mindful, and dealing with the unfairness of it all. Sometimes well-meaning family and friends become "diabetes police" and wear us down, actually making matters worse. We can experience what is called diabetes burnout when the stress of managing diabetes becomes more than we can handle. We become lax in self-treatment and sometimes almost forget we have diabetes. What can you do to avoid burnout and become motivated again?
It is important to try to avoid diabetes burnout because the longer you ignore taking care of yourself, the longer the practice may become permanent. The results can be worsening of your condition and the development of complications you could have avoided. If you are already burnt out, read on for ways to take small steps in the right direction and find motivation.
How to Avoid Burnout
- Accept that you can't be perfect. Diabetes is unpredictable and your blood sugar levels can fluctuate due to things out of your control or for reasons that are hard to identify. Hot weather, stress, hidden carbs, high blood sugar levels as your body rebounds from low ones, and illness are examples of factors that can affect your blood sugar levels but are hard to identify. Accept that you may not be able to control your blood sugar levels 100% of the time, and don't beat yourself up over the occasional high blood sugar levels.
- Remember it's all about you. Taking good care of yourself is giving yourself the gift of a better quality of life. You have the power to take the steps to make sure you remain as functional as possible and avoid losing mobility, losing limbs, or worse. Do it for yourself and know you are worth the effort. Bank on a better life.
- Become proactive in solving management challenges. Identify and list areas you are having a hard time in and try to come up with solutions. Are you having a hard time exercising? Brainstorm about why this is and how you might be able to overcome the challenge. Find an activity that's easier, more convenient, or that you enjoy. Do not be afraid to ask others for input. You can ask your doctor, others with diabetes, or even post the question on an online diabetes social network or forum.
- Connect regularly to the diabetes world. Join in-person or online social networks, subscribe to a diabetes magazine or pick up a free magazine offered at some pharmacies. It helps to know you aren't alone and to keep on top of the latest news, products, and developments.
What to Do if You Have Given Up Already
- Take small steps in the right direction. Take small, slow steps and maybe you will feel inspired to take some more. Even if you aren't doing everything perfectly or did something small, celebrate the positive things you are able to do.
- Take a doctor-guided break if needed. Tell your doctor that you are tired of diabetes and experiencing diabetes burnout and ask about taking a planned break with their guidance. Communicate what aspects of diabetes management are causing stress and ask for advice. Try to loosen up on some lifestyle prescriptions, but do not stop taking your medication.
- Find inspiration. Read diabetes magazines, books, blogs, or join groups and social networks to find others who may inspire you to follow their lead.
- Reestablish a connection with the diabetes community. Try to reconnect with the diabetes social community. Lurk in online communities if you don’t' feel like interacting or just subscribe to a blog you find interesting. At least do this if you feel you can do nothing else.
- See a diabetes educator. A good portion of people with diabetes never go to see a diabetes educator. If they do, they do not go often. This is too bad because diabetes educators are good resources. See one to refresh your basic knowledge. Explain you are experiencing burnout and they will probably have some good advice.
- Count your blessings. Perhaps you have been overwhelmed with feelings that having diabetes is not fair. Remember, you have some control with diabetes and there are creative ways to care for and treat yourself so you won't feel so denied. Connect with others in the diabetes community because they understand exactly how you are feeling and see how they deal with this.
- Make peace with the diabetes police. Have lectures or arguments with family and friends over diabetes management brought you down? Try to remember that your family and friends love you and think they are helping. They want you in their lives for as long as possible. There is no greater treasure than loved ones. Have a talk with them and let them know that their current efforts are making it harder on you and you are under stress. Ask for their help in relieving stress and let them know you need a little break. Tell them you will let them know how they can help you more effectively once you are ready.
- Make sure you are not experiencing depression. Depression could be causing you to feel unmotivated and overwhelmed, making it harder to carry out diabetes management practices. Talk to your doctor about the situation and have them rule out depression as a cause or magnifying factor.