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Burned out: 6 keys to combating diabetes distress

Diabetic equipment: glucometer with blood sugar test strip inserted This blog is coauthored by Dr. Katherine Gallagher and Dr. Rachel Wasserman.

Imagine you had a job that kept you on call 24/7 with no weekends off, no vacation days, no pay and no recognition or appreciation for your hard work. Sound like a recipe for burnout? Sounds like type 1 diabetes to me. With numerous and relentless demands of diabetes management, it’s no wonder diabetes stress and burnout is fairly common for youth with diabetes and their caregivers. Do you think you or your child might have diabetes burnout? Here are some signs to watch for:
  • Feeling overwhelmed with diabetes care
  • Feeling extremely irritated or frustrated about diabetes
  • Feeling that diabetes has taken over your life
  • Avoiding diabetes tasks
  • Feeling like no one understands what you are going through
So what can we do to battle burnout? Here are our top 6 tips:
  1. Emphasize efforts, not numbers. Blood glucose ups and downs are part of living with diabetes and cannot always be predicted or avoided. One way to reduce burnout is to focus on what your child is doing well for their diabetes care, at any blood glucose value. By focusing on things kids can control, like diabetes care behaviors, and less on things that are harder to control, like blood glucose numbers, we help them feel more confident.
  2. Aim for progress, not perfection. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t always control your diabetes perfectly. Remind yourself you are doing your best, follow your treatment plan as closely as you can and ask for help from friends, family and your Texas Children’s diabetes care team!
  3. Acknowledge the tough parts AND any benefits. Diabetes is hard, and it’s OK to say it out loud! Sometimes by trying to be positive, we forget how important it is to acknowledge when things are tough. You might also help your child notice anything they’ve gained because of diabetes – maybe they’ve made new friends, overcome something scary or learned more about how to keep their bodies healthy.
  4. Schedule time to connect. Sometimes it can feel like all you talk about with your child is diabetes and that can be exhausting for everyone. Try setting aside some special time to spend one-on-one with each of your children that has NOTHING to do with diabetes. Play a game, watch funny YouTube videos together, go for a walk or do another activity together. Even if you don’t end up talking much, that’s OK – this diabetes-free time together can help battle burnout.
  5. Connect with others who have diabetes. It can be tough to deal with anything all by ourselves, especially diabetes. Talking to people who can relate to your experiences helps us remember we aren’t alone, make new friends and can even support others. Check out, or to find resources, hear about others’ experiences, or connect with other youth and families living with diabetes.
  6. Tell your team. If you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry or alone with your diabetes, or find yourself avoiding thinking about or caring for your diabetes, let your Texas Children’s diabetes care team know – having these feelings doesn’t mean you are failing or that you’ve done anything wrong! We can help you understand how to make these feelings better and connect you with support to make things feel easier.
Dr. Katherine Gallagher, psychologist