Diabetes burnout is a well-documented condition among people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. While major life changes such as starting a demanding job, having a baby or losing a relationship can kickstart burnout, the simple tedium of day-to-day management is usually the main trigger.
For those with type 1, the pressure of trying to get erratic blood glucose levels under control can push you into the burnout zone. And for people with type 2, burnout may be triggered by the frustrating ongoing battle to maintain a healthy weight.
"Burnout is much more than feeling a little down," says counselor Helen Edwards, who also has type 1 diabetes. "It involves an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness – that you just cannot go on with your diabetes management."
These feelings can translate to classic depression symptoms such as sadness, frustration and lethargy. Or you may also swing between feeling angry, self-critical, flat and completely frazzled. After all, it has been said that managing your diabetes is like having a job you don’t want and don’t like but can never resign from. While there’s no magic bullet to cure burnout, there are simple strategies to help you address the recurring emotions, reactions and challenges that can leave you feeling like you’re in a holding pattern.
Problem: I’m sick of diabetes complications
Solution: "Instead of giving up and doing nothing, use the new information about your health issue to motivate yourself to make positive changes to your diet, workload or stress levels. This can then help stabilise your blood glucose levels and improve your wellbeing," says health psychologist Lisa Engel.
Problem: I’m frustrated with my blood sugar levels
Solution: "Look at the small picture. Imagine your readings are morning, midday and evening movie sessions and use words like ‘high’ or ‘low’, not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. ‘This can help you maintain perspective," says Helen Edwards. "You’re then more able to think, last session’s reading was a blip and if I make a few adjustments now, my blood glucose levels will probably be back on target tomorrow.’’ Bye-bye panic.
Problem: I’m tired of my family nagging me about my diabetes
Solution: Update your partner, friends or family on your blood glucose levels and self-care, so they don’t worry. "Explain that nagging makes you defensive," says Edwards. "Your partner needs to respect that you alone are in charge of your body. Ask them for back-up that would help, such as not bringing home doughnuts, becoming your exercise buddy and focusing on what you’re getting right."