The Battle is Real: 10 Ways to Cope with Diabetes Burnout

How often do you think about your diabetes? Do you feel like you’re never NOT thinking about your diabetes? How about management strategies? Are you exercising? Wearing good shoes? Checking your blood sugar regularly?

How about complications? You know that diabetes can damage your feet… oh, and every other part of your body. You are making sure to take care of every possible health concern at all times, right? Oh, and do it with a smile!

If you find yourself so overwhelmed that you start to not care anymore, you may be experiencing diabetes burnout. Diabetes burnout may not be a formally recognized diagnosis, but it’s definitely real. It’s also a common struggle—most type 1’s deal with it as well as many type 2’s.

What is diabetes burnout?

Diabetes burnout is a period of disillusionment and frustration. It’s when a person gets so exhausted from dealing with diabetes that they stop caring. They may do the bare minimum for management or even stop altogether. Burnout can be a person’s way of trying to ignore or forget the reality of their disease.

Doctor William Polonsky, author of Diabetes Burnout: What To Do When You Can’t Take It Anymore, shared this wisdom about people with burnout: “They are male and female, young and old, new to diabetes and veterans of the disease. They are not bad, stupid, or weak people. They are normal folks who are struggling with diabetes for understandable reasons. And their struggles take many shapes.”

Here are 10 things to keep in mind to consider when you or a loved one is experiencing diabetes burnout:

1. Recognize Your Burnout

It’s hard to deal with something if you won’t admit to yourself that it’s there. One of the first, and most essential, steps of going through burnout is recognizing it. Take a deep breath and admit to yourself what you are feeling without judgement or excuses. Don’t tell yourself it’s no big deal or that other people have bigger problems. Tell yourself that it’s OK to experience emotions—the goal is not to let your emotions dictate your actions, not to ignore your emotions altogether.

Respect yourself by recognizing your frustration and allowing yourself to work through it. You can’t begin by burying your head in the sand!

2. Banish Guilt

You cannot beat burnout by telling yourself how wrong you are for dealing with it (in fact, guilt may have been a part of what triggered burnout in the first place). No more guilt. No one is perfect, and most people aren’t even as good as they seem, so don’t feel bad for not meeting a standard that doesn’t really exist!

You may feel like a failure. Maybe you haven’t checked your levels all day. Maybe you’ve just been guessing on your insulin. This does not mean you are a failure. This does not mean you are incapable or a bad, lazy person. These judgements are not only inaccurate, but harmful. Your worth isn’t measured by your glucose meter.

“NEXT” for more ways to deal with burnout

Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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