Diabetes Burnout: A New Approach
Diabetes Burnout can prove catastrophic for anyone with this condition if we’re not aware of it, and on it!
Yet on the same token it’s one of the most natural occurrences when living 24/7 with diabetes.
Having encountered most challenges herself in living with T1 diabetes for over two decades, and working professionally in the field of mind-body medicine, in part of her new book, Mind Body Diabetes, (Findhorn Press, 2016), Dr Emma Mardlin talks about diabetes burnout and what we can do to successfully overcome it.
by Dr. Emma Mardlin
Diabetes burnout is typically defined as the following: “A state of disillusion, frustration, and even submission to the condition, whereby a patient consequently ignores diabetes for a period of time. Burnout occurs when patients grow tired of managing their condition or prove unwilling to proactively change.”
To paraphrase, it means being fed up with diabetes to the point of being past caring, hence ignoring it for a bit to give yourself a break, which, for a condition that requires 24/7 responsibility, is pretty natural. In fact, psychologically, it would be pretty unusual if we didn’t experience, threaten, or seriously contemplate this at points.
Here’s the burnout paradox, though: The more someone ignores diabetes, the more it plays up, causes havoc, and requires more attention than before.
Like a dramatic, attention-seeking child (or cat, in my case!), if you ignore them or overlook their initial need, they’ll punish you by going the extra mile to really get your attention so that you have to notice them. That then takes even more attention, leaving you a lot worse off. Diabetes is no different; it just has far more nasty tricks.
This makes ignoring diabetes as a way of having a break from it far more trouble than it’s worth—well, unless you’re a glutton for punishment . . . and that in itself is something to be mindful of.
Remember the question: “For what ultimate, deep-rooted purpose would you want to cause yourself harm?” That’s the only real outcome of ignoring diabetes. In which case, we arrive full circle back at the mind-body root of diabetes being about “not feeling you can enjoy the sweetness of life.” You would effectively be trying to have a break from your diabetes but actually triggering worse problems. However burnout is about emotion not rationale.
So how can you beat burnout?
Be Aware and Acknowledge the Signs
Acknowledge the signs, so that you can recognize burnout in yourself and act on it — bring it into your conscious awareness.
Also as work on yourself, be aware of “mini burnouts,” because there will inevitably be stages on this journey when you might experience little bumps in the road.
There are plenty of resources and advice throughout this book to successfully deal with this. Talk to someone you trust and work out the best plan for you to overcome burnout — because you can!
Be Aware of Your Personal Needs
Sometimes you need a break, but unfortunately just ignoring diabetes is never going to give you that. So what else can you do to give yourself that boost to get back on track and really make positive changes that will ultimately give you a proper break from diabetes? Give yourself another way to let off steam.
Even if it’s just for a day, do something to feel free in other ways. Have some fun. Have treats (just inject/medicate accordingly, without getting too hung up on it). Take the day off. Go out somewhere. Do something different — something that helps you to feel free but in a safe and positive way. Even though you still need to check sugars, remain diligent, and medicate accordingly, taking your foot off the peddle a little can make all the difference and recharge your batteries. Visit the coast or theme parks; explore nature; go on activity, leisure, and special experience days; pamper yourself; take a mini break, and so on. Just have some spontaneous fun to blow out, do something different and break routine.
Even giving yourself a day or two in order to do something like this every month, can just shake things up a bit. Create this special time to indulge yourself because you still need to let off steam — just do it productively so it never harms you like burn out!
Create a Far Bigger Focus than Diabetes
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: life is for living. If diabetes is your sole focus, you need a bigger purpose to blow it out of the water. There’s no reason it should consume your life, and the minute you find something more important, you’ll just get on with it. This may be in the context of your career, family, romance, well-being, hobbies, spirituality, education, or business.
What’s Your Real Intention with Diabetes?
Presumably, if you’re reading this book it’s to do something positive and active about diabetes, which you can. This will allow you to emotionally and physically break free, so make sure this is your focus. Allowing diabetes burnout to take over is a seriously flawed strategy; it will only ever set you back. Burnout meets no ultimate positive intention.
What’s the Trigger, the Real Root?
What is triggering your burnout? Boredom, complications, regimes, responsibility, hypos, self-destruction, external life issues, discontentment, bullying? Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface, and no one just gets burnout without a deeper trigger. You can uncover this by asking yourself the question: “For what purpose am I so fed up that I don’t care?” Then keep asking this question as many times as necessary to get to the real trigger and emotion, which you can then resolve using all the other appropriate resources.
Take the Pressure Off Perfection
Let your ability to successfully acknowledge and deal with your imperfections actually be your perfection, then you really can’t go wrong. Remember to give yourself a break and the recognition you deserve in dealing with diabetes 24/7. Too much pressure and expectation upon yourself can have a very detrimental effect and push people in the opposite direction eventually. Accept that there are sometimes bumps in the road, but if you take the positive learnings from them, see them out, and focus on the best you can do about them at the time, you’ll be just fine.
Apply these strategies. There’s no need for burnout, as it serves zero positive purpose. Choose to take control of diabetes. Avoid it controlling you. You’re better than that, and you now have all the resources to go beyond just controlling to breaking free from it properly. Let that be your focus.