Do You Have Type 2 Diabetes Burnout?
If you're living with type 2 diabetes, you know how exhausting the day-to-day management of things like blood sugar and diet can be. Here’s how to recognize the signs of burnout, and know when to seek advice and help.
By Marijke Vroomen-Durning, RN
Medically Reviewed by Bhargavi Patham, MD, PhD
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Living with a chronic disease means having to monitor it every day — and type 2 diabetes is no different. If you have this disease, your blood sugar levels, your medication dose, how you eat, how much exercise you get, and the fear of potential complications are likely all top of mind.
While you already know taking these steps is imperative for keeping your diabetes in check, actually carrying them out is no small task, and caring for your emotional health shouldn’t be pushed to the side in the process.
Why Burnout Happens
“Living with diabetes can be challenging. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by diabetes and all that comes with it,” says Jenny De Jesus, RN, CDE, of the Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
Burnout means being overwhelmed or exhausted by physical or emotional stresses, perceived or real. Chronic illnesses are very real stressors, both physically and emotionally, so dealing with burnout when you have type 2 diabetes is a distinct possibility.
You may feel at times that sticking with a diabetes care plan is more than you can or want to handle, and you may get frustrated with monitoring blood sugar or having to watch your diet. Know that these are normal feelings, and that you can take steps to regain a positive outlook.
Doing so can help ward off mental disorders, like depression, which people with diabetes may be at a greater risk of developing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This burden can make managing diabetes more difficult.
Preventing Diabetes Burnout
According to the National Diabetes Education Program, you can help prevent negative feelings from escalating by identifying ways to ease stress. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a few minutes each day to spend time on a hobby you enjoy, meditate, or practice deep breathing.
- Keep a journal to record not just what you eat and your glucose levels, but also to note how you feel — what bothers you and what makes you feel better.
- Ask yourself how you can divide your management plan into smaller steps that will make it seem easier to master.
Finding Ways to Cope
Unlike a job that’s sent you over the edge or a relationship that just isn’t right for you any longer, managing type 2 diabetes is a lifelong commitment. Unfortunately, there may be times when you experience burnout despite your best efforts. If this happens, the first step toward recovery is accepting that you may not be able to handle every aspect of diabetes care without some help. Try to figure out which aspects of your diabetes led to your feelings of burnout, and get help to address them and restore your quality of life.
Reaching out for support from friends and family is essential to relieving diabetes burnout. “They can help you put things into perspective and get back on track,” says De Jesus.
Randy Pike, a news reporter in Grande Prairie, Alberta, who has had type 2 diabetes for the past 15-plus years, knows how helpful family can be. “My wife generally notices signs that I need to eat better than I do,” Pike says.
The more your family and friends know and understand type 2 diabetes, the greater a resource they can be for you. They can attend classes with you or get information through sources like the American Diabetes Association.
Your healthcare team is another important resource. Doctors, nurses, and dietitians who specialize in diabetes care understand the problems that type 2 diabetes can cause. If you discuss your situation with them, they will be able to offer you insights to better manage whatever is troubling you.
Doctors are also learning to be more aware of diabetes-related stress. By anticipating problems, they may be able to show you how to reduce stress before you reach the burnout stage. And if a member of your medical team brings up the subject with you, be sure to answer honestly. Bottling up stress or denying it exists can make it worse.
Diabetes is something that you have to live with, but how you live with it depends on you — how you care for yourself, and, most importantly, whether you seek help when you need it.
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