As we are approaching six months since adjusting to a new norm with the onset of COVID-19, it could be argued that many, if not most people in the United States are experiencing a combination of emotional and/ or physical symptoms precipitated by stressful life events in 2020.
Tag Archive for: Exhaustion
Did you know that 4 in 5 Americans’ mental health has been impacted by COVID-19? That is 80% of the population! Since there is a strong connection to physical and mental health, it is important to take care of both. Now is a great time to take charge of your mental health.
Have you ever felt like you are just “done” with diabetes?
Are you sick and tired of doing everything you’re supposed to do, but feel like your blood sugar is still out of control? Do you feel like you don’t care anymore about managing diabetes and want to just give up? If any of these things sound familiar, you may be experiencing diabetes burnout.
Diabetes burnout is a state in which someone with diabetes grows tired of managing their condition, and then simply ignores it for a period of time, or worse, forever. Unfortunately, diabetes burnout is common, and most people with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) have experienced it at some point in their lives. After all, if you have T1D, you have to be “on” 24/7, and as much as we would like one, there are no breaks. People who experience diabetes burnout aren’t necessarily depressed and are certainly not lazy. In fact, almost everyone with diabetes, even those experiencing burnout, want to live long healthy lives. But sometimes diabetes can feel overwhelming and folks can get burned out from all the hard work.
What does diabetes burnout actually look like? While it may look different in people, there are some common signs and symptoms. These include:
- Strong negative feelings (e.g., overwhelmed, anger, frustration) about diabetes
- Feeling controlled by diabetes
- Isolation, or feeling alone with diabetes
- Avoidance of some, or all diabetes management activities and being unmotivated to change this behavior
If you have T1D and are feeling burned out, please know that there is hope! Diabetes is hard work, and until we have a cure, it will continue to be hard. However, there are some thing you can try that can help you overcome, and even prevent, feelings of burn out.
Manage your expectations
People with T1D tend to be really hard on themselves. They expect a lot from themselves, and when they don’t meet their own expectations, it can be frustrating. Anyone who lives with T1D knows that it is almost impossible to do everything “right” all the time. And even if you do everything “right”, your blood sugar can have a mind of its own and do some crazy things. If you expect perfection, and perfection is not possible, it’s normal to want to give up. Instead, try cutting yourself some slack. It’s ok to strive for perfection, but it’s important to cut yourself some slack sometimes and be ok with slipping up. And remember that sometimes, having wacky blood sugars is part of having diabetes.
Take small steps
Diabetes takes a lot of hard work and sometimes everything can seem overwhelming. When things get overwhelming, you may not even know where to start. Instead of tackling a big task all at once, try breaking it down into small steps that you know you can accomplish. For example, telling yourself you want to reduce your A1C from 8% to 7% may sound like a Herculean task. However, if that is your goal, identify the specific things you can do today to get there. For example, you can check your blood sugar at least 4 times a day and count carbohydrates at every meal and take insulin to cover. Taking small steps can make achieving big goals seem a lot more obtainable.
Feeling like you’re alone in your life with diabetes is a big risk factor for diabetes burnout. With diabetes, isolation is one the biggest risk factors for becoming burned out. If you feel that nobody understands what you are experiencing or that you are the only person with diabetes that feels this way, life with diabetes can be a lonely place. While feeling supported does not make T1D go away, it can make it easier to live with. Getting support, encouragement and empathy from others can be a critical part of staying motivated to manage your diabetes. Sometimes the people in your life may not know what kind of support you need. Be clear with these people what would be most helpful and what you want them not to do. Remember that other people with T1D can also be a great source of support. These are the folks who know exactly how you’re feeling, because, at some point, they have probably felt the same way. If you don’t know anybody else with T1D, there are resources that can help. Many communities have meet-ups for people with T1D and there is an active diabetes online community on social media.*
If you feel burned out with T1D, you are not alone. Just remember that many people have overcome their burnout and are able to live long, happy and healthy lives with T1D. If you are experiencing diabetes burn out and you feel like you can’t deal with it on your own, it’s important to get help from a mental health professional who understands diabetes. Talk to your endocrinologist to see if s/he can recommend one in your area.
Earlier this week, I found a scrap of paper while cleaning that stopped me in my tracks. On it, I had written “take a year off” followed by a short list of commitments in my personal and professional life. The list included things I had entered into with excitement—like training other people in my profession and organizing community events—but didn’t have the time or energy needed to continue.
At the time I wrote the list, exhaustion was my norm. I was living with episodic and unpredictable pain, and my work was suffering. I didn’t have the energy to do all the things I normally do. I was keeping my commitments but performing poorly, which made me feel miserable.
What I didn’t know when I wrote that list was that depression would soon be a part of my life. I missed some of the early signs, but eventually it became clear that I was not well. The first clear sign came when I felt no joy during the Night to Shine Prom, an event my friends and I had spent months planning. It’s something we always consider to be “the happiest night of the year.” I thought something might have been “off” with the event, but as I saw joy on everyone’s face except my own, I realized something was “off” with me.
It was then I realized I needed a period of rest for my mental health. And along the way of implementing that rest, I learned a few helpful tips:
It Can Take A While
Some commitments are easy to take a break from, while others require more planning. After the Night to Shine Prom, I let the planning committee know that I wouldn’t be able to help plan the next prom. It was emotionally difficult, but it was quick. However, some of my other commitments took time to transition away from, as I had to identify and train a replacement before I could step down. It took months to fully cross off everything on my list, but each time, I felt a weight lift.
You May Second-Guess Yourself
Each person will face different challenges when preparing for a period of rest. I felt like I would be judged, I felt guilty for being less involved, I worried that important things would be left undone, and I didn’t want my relationships to suffer. These thoughts were common in the beginning, and I had to keep reminding myself how important it was for me to rest and recover.
People May Not Support You
Your colleagues, friends and family probably aren’t fully aware of the reasons rest is necessary for you. If their initial responses aren’t as supportive as you’d hoped for, it might mean they’re just surprised, or they rely on you and will miss your contributions. You may find it helpful to explain why you need to take a break. In some instances, though, the best thing you may be able to do is to quietly try to understand things from their perspective.
Stepping Away Is A Surprisingly Positive Process
Maybe you realize how important it is for you to cut back and have fewer responsibilities. What you may not realize is how positive it can be for other people. During the process of transitioning my responsibilities, I got to see people step up who were just as passionate about these roles as I had been. Almost immediately, the energy they brought to the roles resulted in growth and improvement I hadn’t been able to fully offer for a long time.
Rest Is Hard…
Rest is not accomplished by simply taking time off and then going back to your busy schedule. Rest occurs when you allow yourself to be fully inactive. A period of stillness and rest may be a necessary precursor to a more active mental health recovery. After a period of rest, you may find that you are more motivated to engage in activities like exercise, reading, crafting, praying, journaling or spending time with loved ones. You will be more likely to benefit from those wellness-promoting activities if you have taken time to rest first.
But The Results Are Worth It
When you’re rested, you’ll have energy to enjoy the things you love again. You’ll know you’re on the right track when your response to your personal and professional opportunities changes from “Oh no” to “Heck yes!” Even before I considered myself fully rested, I found I had more energy to be a mom, to be a wife and to commit to my work. After resting for a month, I was thrilled with the quality of my work. I even had energy left over to spend on myself and the things I enjoy.
You May Not Have All The Resources You Need To Rest
I am blessed to have the support of family and friends—and access to paid sick leave. I know these are not resources everyone has and sometimes paying the bills, getting your kids to school or taking care of your loved ones may not be things you can readily disengage from. My advice if you cannot commit several days—or, dare I say, weeks—to rest is to take advantage of whatever opportunities you can. Do what you absolutely have to do and then rest the remainder of the time. Maybe instead of committing a month to complete rest, you start by committing a month to only doing the things you need to, letting non-essential projects wait and accepting help from others when it’s offered.
I am grateful to have experienced firsthand the profound impact rest can have on mental health and work. Its positive impact has influenced me to incorporate continued rest into my regular schedule. I feel great, and I am proud of the work I am doing. I know if I want things to stay this way, I will need to intentionally make time for rest.
Coming across the slip of paper that started my journey toward rest was a shock. As soon as I saw it, memories of how physically and emotionally exhausted I was rushed in. I cried as I recalled all the moments and days I lost to pain and depression. Then I realized how much better I feel now and the role that rest played in me getting to a better place. Seeing that slip of paper strengthened my resolve to rest when I need it.
Jennifer Adkins is a wife, a mom, and a psychologist. Her professional interests include treatment of anxiety disorders, improving family relationships, and reducing stigma associated with mental illness.