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Dealing with diabetes burnout

“I’m worried that my wife is suffering from diabetes burnout. She seems exhausted by her condition and uninterested in getting it back under control. What can I do?” Simon Smith

Dear Simon,

Dealing with diabetes burnout is complex. There is no “one solution fits all” because the experience isn’t the same for everyone. Each person lives with diabetes in their own way, and needs different kinds of support. Burnout is often accompanied by stress, anxiety, depression and a host of emotional states like anger, resentment, shame and guilt.

A few ideas to help your wife work around her burnout are:

  • Allow her to feel “burned out”. If she tries to hide that emotion, it just makes it worse. Denial is not good for healing. Help her think of positive things about her diabetes. For example: “At least I am eating healthy.”
  • Nurture her. Spend quality time with her. Teach her to nurture herself.
  • Get her to slow down some things in her life. The idea is for her to have more breathing space in her life so that everything isn’t related to diabetes.
  • Sometimes it also helps if she changes her diabetes management. If she is using a pump, maybe she could go onto normal injections for a while. Or if she is injecting and this is getting her down, she could follow up the idea of using an insulin pump. Maybe wearing a continuous blood glucose monitor might help take the stress out of all the fingerpricks for a while.
  • Encourage her to connect with other people with diabetes so that she knows she isn’t alone.
  • Help her realise that she must not strive for perfection, and accept that fluctuations happen, even when she is trying her best.
  • Instead, focus on her victories: what she is doing right, even the small things. Then, set some achievable goals that build on those successes.
  • Together, try to identify the barriers she has in managing her diabetes. This will help both of you to decide what she needs to change to have better control over both her diabetes and getting rid of her burnout.

Always remember that your diabetes team is there to help you. Remind her that it is never about how you fall, but about how you get up.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator

What to read next?

How to help during diabetes burnout:  Diabetes burnout is unavoidable, when you’re living with diabetes. But how can you help during diabetes burnout? What can you offer someone you love who is struggling?

Diabetes distress and burnout what to do about it?: Diabetes distress and burnout are a reality at some stage for everyone living with diabetes. Here’s advice on what to do about it – from a psychologist living with diabetes.

Diabetes and depression: a helpful guide to know what to do next

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.