13 Tips for Fighting Diabetes Burnout

April 13, 2012

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are 2.3 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. The disease is the fourth leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives, affecting about 16% of the population. Information about diabetes from Tanka friend Lifescript runs occasionally in our blog, Walking the Way of Wellness.

Living with diabetes can be a daily grind. You're constantly monitoring your diet, exercise and blood sugar readings. But hang in there. You don't have to feel like Diabetes diabetes doesn't have to feel like it rules your life. We have 13 expert tips to help you fight burnout. Plus, how much do you know about diabetes? Take our quiz to find out...

Ready to toss your syringe, insulin and diet foods into the nearest trash can?

Chances are, you have "diabetes burnout."

San Diego psychologist Susan Guzman, Ph.D., calls it the "I Quit Attitude."

"Diabetes is like the full-time job you didn't want and can't quit," says Guzman, director of Clinical Services at the Behavioral Diabetes Institute in San Diego.

"It's a lot of work. And the best payoff is that nothing bad happens," she says. "That's not terribly rewarding."

Still, it's important not to give into feelings of futility. Stopping self-care - testing your blood sugar, exercising or taking medications - can bring on dangerous complications, such as eye, nerve, kidney and heart problems.

Women diabetics may be especially prone to burnout. As the family caregiver, "they have a harder time prioritizing their own needs," Guzman explains.

With diabetes, it's important to put yourself first. Use these expert tips to keep burnout at bay:

1. Do a depression check.

Make sure your mood isn't masking clinical depression.

"People with chronic health conditions face a higher risk for chronic depression," says diabetes educator Pamela C. Butler, M.S., C.D.E., manager of Touro Diabetes Center in New Orleans.

In a 2009 English study of 4,300 Vietnam veterans, type 2 diabetics were almost four times more likely to suffer from depression than men who didn't have the disorder.

If you're experiencing depression symptoms - sadness, insomnia, changes in appetite, loss of interest in your usual activities - for two weeks or more, talk to your doctor.

2. Give in to frustration.

Taking medications, exercising, watching your weight and eating well goes with the diabetes territory.

So it's perfectly natural to have a self-pity party once in a while.

"Stew for a few minutes," with a spouse, close friend or diabetes educator, advises Butler. Then vent, to "release all that pent-up emotion."

3. Get perspective.

When blood sugar numbers fluctuate or you've gained weight, it's easy to get discouraged and think you've blown it for good, says Guzman.

"People tend to notice what they're doing wrong or the changes they still need to make," she says.

Let go of what's wrong and focus on what has gone right. Not sure how?

4. Celebrate your "wins."

Write down 10 things you're doing right every day. This will keep you going on difficult days. It'll also boost your spirits.

"It's important to notice all the little wins," Guzman says. That includes remembering to check your blood sugar or snacking on celery with peanut butter, not chips.

5. Cut calories, not pleasure.

Eat one serving, not two.

"The biggest error is taking in too many calories, period," says Laurence Kennedy, M.D., chairman of Endocrinology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.One serving of rice means half a cup; a serving of fish three ounces, about the size of a woman's palm.

And eat more whole-grain rice, pasta and bread, and lean proteins like fish and chicken.

Everyone - with diabetes or not - should eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and skip the high-fat fast foods and sweets, Kennedy says.

To read this article in its entirety, go to 13 Tips for Fighting Diabetes Burnout.

To follow LifeScript on Twitter: @LifeScript

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