Managing diabetes is a full-time job. In addition to checking your blood sugar, you have to make healthy food choices, consistent exercise choices and constantly think about your numbers. That’s on top of all of your other duties in life, whether they revolve around school, work, family or all of the above.
Like with any job, there are good days and there are bad days. There are feelings of accomplishment, and feelings of burn-out. There are moments of contentment, and worries about your future.
You’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adults with type 2 diabetes experiences depression, and one in three feels distress. Recognizing that you’re struggling is an important step: when you know there’s a problem, you can activate and work towards feeling better. In fact, many of the healthy steps you can take to manage your diabetes are also helpful when it comes to your mental health. Here are five actions you can take to keep burn-out at bay.
- Talk to your health care provider. For many people, diabetes can feel overwhelming, and dredge up an array of negative emotions—anxiety, sadness, frustration, hopelessness and more. It’s normal to feel these feelings from time to time. But if you notice that they’re becoming a constant (i.e. lasting two weeks or more) and you’ve lost interest in participating in activities that once brought you joy, talk with your doctor or nurse. He or she may be able to help; they can also refer you to a mental health provider, who can help you work through those feelings and offer tips and tools to help you feel better.
- Make stress relief a part of your routine. Stress management is important for everyone, and perhaps even more so for people with diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, hormones that your body produces from ongoing stress could cause your blood sugar level to rise. Find ways to calm yourself and make those endeavors a part of your routine. Some ideas include deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and exercise. Again, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional, who will be able to offer personalized ideas that could help you cope.
- Connect with others. Diabetes burnout, diabetes distress, diabetes depression—whatever phrase you want to use, the feelings of anger, frustration and concern about your health and the efforts it takes to manage it all are very real, and many people with diabetes experience a similar fatigue. Connecting with others who are processing the same feelings may help. Ask your health care provider if they can recommend a support group in your community, or do an online search to find a virtual group or meet-up. In doing so, you’ll find people willing to listen, who can also relate. You may also walk away with some tips and tools to use in your own day-to-day.
- Give yourself a “thank you” gift. Day in and out, you’re doing the best you can to look out for your own health. That deserves appreciation, doesn’t it? Consider something you can do to treat yourself for the hard work you’re putting in, whether that means indulging in a soothing bubble bath, booking a massage, going to a movie, choosing a new book or brewing a hot cup of tea. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend who just did you a favor, and enjoy every moment of it.
- Focus on progress, not perfection. Diabetes is a challenging condition to manage. Do the best you can, but allow yourself the grace to not be perfect all the time. Talk with your health care provider about the idea of a “diabetes vacation.” That can mean allowing yourself to be lax every so often, as a way of giving yourself a break. Your diabetes team can share ideas about compromises or perks that could give you a brief—and much needed—respite, while still staying on track most of the time.
Everyone experiences diabetes burnout differently. For some, it means skipping their medication; for others, it could be overindulging in candy or carbs; or lying about their numbers; or experiencing a whole range of emotions. Whatever the case, it’s important to acknowledge that diabetes doesn’t just take a physical toll; it also impacts people mentally and emotionally, and, most importantly, help is available. If you’re struggling in any way, be sure and talk to your doctor and your diabetes team. They can help you empower yourself, so that you are in control of your diabetes—your diabetes isn’t in control of you.