Unlike treating short term illnesses where there is an end in sight, diabetes management is often a life long commitment to tedious monitoring, doctors appointments and diligence in all things food and exercise related.
Being diagnosed with diabetes forces a person to stay conscientious with their management plan, or else face serious physical complications from this insidious disease. Adherence to a plan can be down right exhausting creating a risk of what is being termed “diabetes burnout”.
Diabetes burnout is a state in which someone with diabetes grows tired of managing their condition, and then simply ignores it for a period of time, or worse, forever. Those with diabetes simply do not have a safe option to ignore their condition. This disease, because of the intensity that is often required to treat it, ends up affecting patient mentally and emotionally.
Burnout is often linked to feelings of failure and not meeting goals/targets you have set for yourself (ie a certain blood glucose range). Diabetes burnout is not an all or nothing issue, it is a mental and behavioral continuum ranging from slightly slackening your treatment approach to all the way ignoring it.
Most if not all people making diabetes will go through some part of diabetic burnout, this is normal. The key would be to be able to recognize signs you are heading towards burnout and learn to pull out of it and reengage your treatment plans to live the most healthy and rewarding life possible with diabetes.
Risk factors of diabetic burnout:
- You are a diabetic and have been doing treatment for an extended amount of time.
- You are experiencing more stress than normal in your everyday life (even non-diabetes related).
- You are bored with the routine (ie same meals, diet, exercise).
- Your family is not as supportive as they once were,
- You are experiencing a sense of hopelessness around your diabetes treatment.
- You are tired of having to be “different” than others, especially in social settings like dinners.
- You are frustrated at your lack of progress in treating and maintaining the proper numbers you need.
Diabetes treatment can be daunting but it does not have to be isolating or boring. You are worth the effort, your family is worth the effort. Make a plan today to combat “diabetic burnout”. Bring this checklist to your medical care provider to help assist you with new ways to manage your diabetes today!
What can be done to prevent or help you out of diabetic burnout?
- Admit you don’t have it all under control. “This winging it is not working for me.”
- Refuse to do this alone! Get support from nurses, doctors, family, friends, dietician, therapist and diabetes support groups in person or online.
- Know your why. Why do you want to stay healthy, what would be not available to you if your diabetes wasn’t under control.
- Start back small. Build into a plan rather than forcing yourself to be perfect. (There’s no such thing!)
- Develop non-negotiables: no matter what, I will check my blood sugar every morning and I will count my carbs at lunch.
- Focus on the controllable. There are a lot of things that you can’t control, so work with those we can control.
- Get creative. Eating the same meal everyday is not okay. Find new things from cook books, social media or the internet.
- Start a mindfulness practice. Learn how to find peace admits the chaos of life.
- Always, always involve a medical professional and ask all the questions you can think of and for support.
By Allie Macphail | Family Medicine Center