• Diabetes burnout can come with feelings of frustration and exhaustion that can make it difficult to follow treatment plans.
  • Joining a support group, switching up your recipes and exercise habits, and accepting your emotions can help you beat diabetes burnout.
  • Finding ways to cope with stress can also help you prevent diabetes burnout from coming back.

Managing type 2 diabetes can feel like a full-time job. And, like many demanding roles, it can lead to burnout that makes it hard to stay on track.

“There’s never a break,” says Tami Ross, RD, a certified diabetes care and education specialist and the author of “What Do I Eat Now?: A Guide to Eating Well with Diabetes or Prediabetes.”

Keeping up with everything that diabetes requires, including monitoring blood sugar levels and going to regular doctor appointments, can be exhausting. Add on everyday stressors, the pandemic, and other chronic conditions, and you can easily start feeling depleted and defeated.

While diabetes burnout is common, there are ways to recover from it. Keep reading to learn about the warning signs of burnout and what to do about it.

Even though there’s no standard definition for diabetes burnout, it usually involves feeling frustrated and exhausted from the daily demands of managing the condition, according to a 2019 article from the American Journal of Nursing.

Diabetes burnout affects more than just your emotional health, though. It can also impact your ability to control your diabetes. In a 2018 study, more than a third of adults with type 2 diabetes pointed to burnout as a barrier to following treatment plans.

Universally, people with diabetes burnout become “overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes and [are] tired of managing their condition,” says Andrea Newcom, RD, a diabetes care specialist and health coach at Omada Health.

Identifying diabetes burnout can be tricky because “it’s unique to the individual,” says Shahzadi Devje, RD, a certified diabetes educator.

The length, severity, and signs of diabetes burnout not only vary between people, but also within the same individual. One episode of burnout may look different from another, depending on what’s going on in your life.

While there aren’t standard measurement tools for the condition, diabetes burnout may include psychological symptoms, like:

  • feeling like diabetes controls your life
  • negative emotions related to diabetes, such as frustration, anger, resentment, hopelessness, or overwhelm
  • a sense of defeat or failure
  • a lack of motivation to follow treatment plans, even if you’re worried about your health
  • isolation or feeling like no one understands what you’re going through
  • a pessimistic outlook

Changes in the way you’re managing the condition may also be warning signs of diabetes burnout. You may have the condition if you find yourself:

  • reducing how often you check your blood sugar — or not checking it at all
  • not taking diabetes medication as prescribed
  • skipping doctor’s appointments

Symptoms of diabetes burnout can also be physical. The stress-related condition is linked to sleep changes, headaches, body aches and pains, and more frequent bouts of illness, says Devje.

Although symptoms may overlap, diabetes burnout and depression are not the same thing.

“[W]ith diabetes burnout, these feelings are specific to diabetes,” says Ravi Kavasery, MD, the medical director of quality and population health at AltaMed Health Services.

With depression, however, the sadness, frustration, and hopelessness pervade all areas of your life, Kavasery says. According to a 2014 study, about 20 to 30 percent of people with diabetes experience depressive disorders.

If you think you may have depression or diabetes burnout, talk with a healthcare professional to figure out the root of the problem and ways to cope.

While it might not be possible to get rid of the daily demands of managing diabetes, there are ways to beat burnout from the condition. Here are some tips on recovering from diabetes burnout.

Accept your feelings

When you’re feeling burnt out, you might be tempted to push through, ignore your feelings, or bash yourself for not following through with treatment plans.

Yet the first step in managing burnout is accepting its presence — including the emotions that come from it. Journaling can be a helpful tool to explore your feelings in a judgment-free space.

Be honest with your care team

Talking with a doctor or healthcare professional about your burnout symptoms can feel uncomfortable or even upsetting. However, Kavasery says it’s important to remember that “you’re not doing anything wrong.”

“We all need support in different ways, and sometimes our individualized care plans stop working for us,” he says.

When talking with a healthcare professional, be honest about the ways diabetes burnout is affecting your life. That way, you can work together as a team to address the problem and find solutions that work for you.

Pinpoint the specific problem

Counteract burnout symptoms by getting strategic about what’s causing them to begin with.

Ask yourself: What about diabetes management is stressing you out? What in particular is making it harder to focus on your health?

If the problem is an unrealistic diabetes management plan, like exercise goals that don’t fit into your busy schedule, talk with your healthcare team about alternative solutions.

“Your goals and targets must be relevant and fit within your lifestyle [so they don’t] feel like a continued burden,” Devje says.

Get inspired

Trying new techniques to manage your diabetes can be a helpful way to feel re-inspired and alleviate burnout.

“Breathe new life into your old ways of managing the condition,” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist. She suggests trying new diabetes-friendly recipes if your go-to meals have you stuck in a rut.

Other ideas include switching up your exercise routine by walking different routes, signing up for online or in-person fitness classes, or rediscovering your favorite childhood sport.

Join a support group

Another way to address diabetes burnout is by finding ways to connect with other people with the condition. Building relationships with those who “truly get you” gives you the opportunity to share your hardships and successes, says Ashley Ellis, PharmD, a diabetes educator and the clinical director at Compwell.

Consider tapping into a diabetes support group, either in person or virtually, to exchange tips and tools for managing diabetes and fighting burnout.

Take a diabetes vacation

A vacation from the office can often help cure work-related burnout. Likewise, a short, safe vacation from the things you do to control diabetes may also help you feel less burnt out, Ross says.

Ross suggests talking with your healthcare team about how to safely take a few days off to help restore your energy. That might mean resting instead of going through your normal exercise routine, or checking your blood glucose levels slightly less often for 1 to 2 days.

If you know someone with diabetes who seems to have the symptoms of diabetes burnout, you may be able to help them find some relief. Here are ways to show your support,

Bring up your concerns

Genuinely connect with your loved one by stating your concern and desire to support them. Romanoff suggests saying, “It looks like things have been challenging for you recently. What’s been on your mind, and what can I do to help?”

Empathize with their emotions

Give your loved one space to express their frustration and sadness, Ellis says. You can also “show empathy by recognizing the immense effort and energy required to manage a complicated condition,” Devje adds.

Have fun together

Enjoy active adventures together with the intention of having fun, rather than talking about and dealing with diabetes.

Helping them take a break from thinking about the condition can remind them that diabetes doesn’t have to prevent them from enjoying their life.

Celebrate their wins

Diabetes burnout can make it difficult to acknowledge all the hard work that goes into controlling the condition.

Ross recommends praising your loved one for the things they’re doing well, such as following diet recommendations or getting exercise. This can provide them a much-needed confidence boost.

Once you recover from diabetes burnout, find ways to keep it at bay. Here are some tips on preventing diabetes burnout.

Set small, doable goals

When prioritizing your health, making achievable goals can help set you up for success. That might mean moving your body for 10 minutes after every meal or taking a brisk walk during your lunch break, Ellis says.

Small wins can help build your confidence, so you can achieve even bigger goals over the long term.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress can trigger or exacerbate burnout, so it’s important to develop ways to cope. Here are some ways to reduce stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Exercise.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Talk with loved ones.
  • Connect with a mental health professional.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Take a break from things that cause you stress.

Honor cultural values around food

For many people, food goes beyond a source of nourishment by preserving family traditions, special memories, culture, and identity, Devje says.

Being told to revamp your diet to manage diabetes and remove culturally significant foods can reduce the joy of eating and create a negative, fearful relationship around food, she says.

If your diabetes management plan includes making changes to your diet, consider connecting with a dietitian or other healthcare professional about ways to continue incorporating culturally relevant foods into your meals.

Try new tech

Technology can make it easier and even more fun to build healthy habits. Try apps for cooking, exercise, meditation, or other self-care practices to add excitement into your daily life.

Diabetes burnout is a common experience that can leave you feeling frustrated, exhausted, and unmotivated to stick to your treatment plan.

However, there are ways to recover from diabetes burnout and prevent it from coming back. You may find relief by joining a diabetes support group, trying new recipes and types of physical activity, or taking a brief, safe break from your routine.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of diabetes burnout that are making it difficult for you to manage the condition, talk with a healthcare professional about ways to cope.

Read this article in Spanish.