Burnout syndrome in diabetics. Causes and ways to overcome

He is your constant companion. Early morning. During breakfast. During the trip to work. During a presentation in front of partners. On the way to the gym. During another attempt to give your body a good exercise. During dinner. And also, late in the evening and even late at night, when he needs to eat or drink again.

It demands your attention every day and every minute. You can’t forget about him and you can’t ignore him, because he’s so capricious.

No, I’m not talking about a newborn baby who sleeps a lot and allows his mother to rest a little. I’m talking about type 1 diabetes. When he appears in your life, office work, which you used to think took up most of your life, becomes a real paradise.

At a minimum, a newborn baby smiles from time to time and gives others joy. What about type 1 diabetes? It leaves dozens of marks from daily punctures on the fingers. He is like an insatiable vampire, constantly thirsting for another dose of your blood.

Undoubtedly, all of us, people living with type 1 diabetes, understand that our disease requires constant attention and responsibility, and also causes us physical pain on a daily basis. But each of us falls into a stupor and shock when one day he realizes that there is no more strength and energy left to continue the fight against diabetes.


When talking about burnout syndrome in diabetics, people usually imagine the worst-case scenario: a diabetic patient deliberately injects exactly the amount of insulin necessary to maintain his life, and does not check his blood glucose levels for weeks. But this scenario is far from the only possible one. Burnout syndrome can manifest itself in different forms, different scales and for many different reasons.

You may have felt tired of living with diabetes because your blood sugar drops again while playing sports, which you have been addicted to for three years now, and all the changes made to the exercise program have not brought the desired stability. Or, perhaps you are going through a divorce from a person whom you loved with all your heart yesterday, and these experiences do not leave any room for thoughts about diabetes at all.

Or maybe you are just tired of the daily routine. Counting carbohydrates, finding a place for the next injection, always running out of test strips, endless numbers, episodes of hypoglycemia or, conversely, sharp jumps in sugar and a haunting sensor for continuous glucose monitoring that persistently wakes up at 3 in the morning, when all you want is – just sleep.

How does burnout syndrome manifest itself ? In a variety of ways, from actually completely disregarding the doctor’s orders to continuing to perform daily procedures for managing diabetes in the face of emotional emptiness. Recognizing the symptoms of burnout syndrome is quite simple – here are some typical scenarios of behavior:

  • Hiding real blood sugar levels from parents so they don’t get upset or worried
  • Uncontrolled meals without considering the possible effects on blood sugar levels
  • Sweet soda, beer, strong drinks… just because it doesn’t matter
  • The constant desire to let things go
  • Just enough shots of insulin to keep you out of the hospital
  • Intentionally maintaining blood sugar levels at elevated levels, as low sugar levels lead to unnecessary stress
  • The absence of any desire to count carbohydrates and injecting insulin “by eye”, because the need to constantly monitor any details is already seriously fed up
  • Avoiding fresh vegetables and fruits because eating is too healthy when everyone around you is only doing what reminds you of a healthy way of life is already too much.
  • Reluctance to shoot insulin or check blood sugar levels in the presence of classmates or friends, because you want to feel like everyone else, and not “always sick”
  • A month of depression after another trip to the hospital, when it turned out that retinopathy was slowly but surely progressing, or the doctor diagnosed neuropathy or some other complication
  • No one sees tears in the pillow yet, because diabetes becomes an unbearable burden
  • The transition to the “autopilot” mode, behind which lies constant fear, self-flagellation and fear of asking for help.

In general, burnout syndrome can be both a consequence of the constant striving for the ideal: for ideal indicators of glycosylated hemoglobin for a year in a row, for ideally following the instructions of parents, spouse or spouse, for the ideal implementation of doctors’ recommendations, or simply a direct consequence of living with diabetes, when you are ashamed give in and ask for help.


1. Realize the current situation . This first step seems quite simple, although in practice it is the most difficult, because admitting one’s weakness is far from an easy task. What does “realize” mean? Ask for help (even if you have no one to rely on except yourself) and give yourself the opportunity to feel all the facets of the surging syndrome.

It’s no secret that many of us are completely focused on the needs of diabetes care, following the recommendations of the doctor and following the instructions of parents and loved ones – in such conditions there is absolutely no room for listening to our feelings. With burnout syndrome, “feeling” is, first of all, accepting the situation, allowing yourself to give free rein to emotions, whatever they may be: despair, exhaustion, depression, weakness, and even such native anger at the fact that diabetes is forever.

Give yourself time to get over the burnout syndrome. The main thing is to remember to keep your blood sugar in a safe (and not necessarily ideal) range and take care of your health as much as necessary so that burnout does not lead to a hospital bed. In truth, every person with diabetes (regardless of its type) has the right to give up at least once in their life and realize that they are tired of diabetes.

2. Set a time frame . The second step is to create a realistic plan to overcome the syndrome. Despite the importance of the first step aimed at coping with the onset of the syndrome, prolonged “freezing” in this state is not safe for your own health. Ask yourself a direct question: “How much time do I have to deal with burnout syndrome?”. A week? Two? Or maybe three whole months?

By setting a time frame, you can better plan to overcome the syndrome, because the third step is real change, and not necessarily in the daily routine associated with diabetes management; it can also be changes in other areas that will make your life more enjoyable and better manage your diabetes.

If you’re a busy parent, you may benefit from delegating house cleaning to someone else for at least a couple of months while you gain the strength to get back to your old life. If you are a university student and work two jobs, you may want to slow down and focus on your studies and health care for a while. Or perhaps you are working at a job that you have really dreamed of quitting for a long time, or you solve dozens of non-stop tasks every day, and you simply do not have enough strength to think about diabetes as well. Look at your life from the outside, think about what can be changed, and try to find a balance.

3. Set realistic nutrition and exercise goals . One of the main reasons diabetics develop burnout is the constant pressure to eat right and exercise. Oh yes, everyone also considers it their duty to tell us what diabetics should not eat. (Tell the “experts” they shouldn’t eat that ill-fated donut either!)

Of course, you should not expect from yourself that from an emotionally devastated, diabetic person you will instantly turn into a guru of proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, you should not, because this will only aggravate the situation. Instead, when you’re ready to make a change, make a commitment to yourself to do one new thing that will have a positive impact on your health—like taking a walk during your lunch break, or going to the gym right after work on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, or following the principles of eating healthy for breakfast, or limiting your sugar intake to one sweet a day. Let it be something simple enough, but specific. After a month or two, feel free to add another new habit.

4. Set realistic blood sugar goals . The idea of introducing a new, simple and specific habit will also be useful in relation to blood sugar management. Again, you should not expect drastic changes from yourself with a wave of a magic wand. It is much more logical to think about what you could do in order to improve your current performance – for example, check your blood sugar every morning immediately after waking up, be more careful about choosing the dose of insulin for dinner, so that by the time you go to bed , the blood sugar level was within the desired range, or just never leave the glucometer for a minute , and the rest will come by itself.

Simplicity and specificity. Step by step. After a month or two, once you’re ready, think about what other habit you can add. And yes, do not hesitate to seek help from your doctor! If you are still shy, it may be time to find another doctor. Do not give up – use all available opportunities to create the team you need.

5. Praise yourself . Everything is not as simple as it seems. Even if your blood sugar levels are near perfect and everything is going according to plan, it is only because you are doing your due diligence. And even if the blood sugar level is above the target, you still try to continue to live on! Praise yourself for your efforts, because life with diabetes can only be understood by those who go through it every day.

Remember, you have the right to experience burnout once and you also have the right to overcome it, no matter how long it takes. Just take a deep breath and remember that you are not alone in dealing with diabetes.

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