Diabetes management can feel a bit like walking a tightrope 24/7 between highs and lows. The recommended blood glucose range to stay within is small – only 4 mmol across the standard range of 4 – 8 mmol/L (75 to 140mg/dl)* and it is well publicised that the more time you spend outside of that narrow target range, the greater risk you have of developing complications.
Having these blood glucose guidelines can be empowering and motivating, especially if you are seeing ‘safe’ blood glucose numbers. However, it can be even more disempowering and de-motivating when your blood sugar is ‘unsafe’ and falls outside the desired range.
In order to ‘stay safe’ and in control of diabetes an intense, stringent routine is needed on a daily basis. This may mean checking blood sugar upon waking in the morning, before and two hours after a meal, before going to bed, and through the night. As well as, weighing and measuring food and meals, reading nutritional labels, counting carbs and administering insulin accordingly. Not to mention recording all of these actions for a diabetes educator/nurse, GP or Endocrinologist to assess, and the time spent organising medical supplies.
So without question, an enormous amount of time EACH and EVERY day is dedicated to managing diabetes– just to ‘stay on the tightrope’ and survive. For someone without diabetes, it would be somewhat like telling the lungs to breathe or heart to beat– to remain healthy and alive.
Sounds exhausting? It is!
These periods of intense diabetes control may last weeks, months, or even years, but sometimes people ‘fall off’ the diabetes management tightrope because:
This means there may be times in life when diabetes management is forgotten or avoided and as a result blood glucose control suffers. This can be the beginning of diabetes burnout.
Diabetes burnout is similar to being burnt out with study or work – when no matter how hard you try, how many hours you put in, it seems like there is no point in trying anymore as nothing’s helping and you’re not succeeding. This sense of hopelessness is not a nice experience. It’s also common for burnout to be accompanied with feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, anger, shame or guilt. However, how someone experiences burnout is varied in regards to why and how it presents, it’s duration, and the extent to which someone functions whilst burnout.
Someone suffering from diabetes burnout may participate in behaviour that is harmful to their health, such as missing medications, not testing blood glucose, approximating/guessing insulin dosages, or eating foods that may dramatically impact their blood sugar.
There are some key things you can do to prevent or reduce the duration of diabetes burnout:
Accept your burnout and that you are only human. The fact is diabetes is a difficult disease to live with, it has a mind of it’s own at times and it’s ok to have moments in which you dislike it. Don’t be too hard on yourself for being burnt out – see it as a signal that something needs to change.
Life is busy, but because you need to put so much energy into managing diabetes can other areas of your life use less of your energy? Reevaluate your other behaviours, responsibilities, and commitments – Think about what you could change, get assistance with or stop doing to improve your quality of life. Remember to make some time-out for you!!