How to Avoid Diabetes Burnout

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 06, 2020

There’s no doubt -- there are big health rewards from managing your diabetes every day. But sometimes the effort -- counting carbs, checking blood sugar, exercise, taking meds, going to doctor appointments -- can seem like too much. From time to time, you might feel worn out and frustrated, especially if you aren’t getting the results you want. That can lead to diabetes burnout -- when you get so tired of dealing with your condition that you give up for a while, sometimes a long while.

The feeling is understandable. But skipping diabetes care will only hurt you later. How do you keep taking good care of yourself without getting overwhelmed?

Are You Burned Out?

It helps to recognize the early signs that you’re fed up with managing your disease. Often, they’re the things you’re not doing, such as:

  • Not taking your meds as prescribed
  • Not checking blood sugar as often or at all
  • Not exercising as usual
  • Not sticking to your meal plan

Sometimes an event or situation can trigger burnout. You may not be able to avoid all triggers, but it’s important to know when something may affect your diabetes care, such as:

  • Stress in your family or on the job that makes your condition seem less important
  • A new diabetes-related health problem that may make you ask, “What’s the use?”
  • Stress from the money and time you give to the disease
  • Feeling worn out from years of looking after your health

Save Yourself From Burnout

Don’t wait until you can’t take it anymore. These tips can help you bounce back more easily from the edge of burnout.

Don’t try to do diabetes perfectly. It’s impossible to be “on” all the time in managing diabetes. There are going to be good days and bad ones. Plus, there’s a lot you can’t predict, like getting different blood sugar numbers after you eat one of your go-to meals or do your usual workout. Everyone with diabetes can relate -- even diabetes educators don’t always have perfect numbers.

Accept your feelings. Frustration, worry, and discouragement are a part of life, even more so for people with a health condition like diabetes. Think about what’s behind your feelings and making it tough to manage your condition. Is it stress? Not enough time? A lack of support? That can help you see where to start making changes, like asking for help at home or inviting a friend to walk with you.

Take small steps. Do just one thing a day that helps you take care of yourself. Break bigger goals, like lowering your A1c, into smaller goals, like drinking more water and fewer sweet drinks.

Connect with others. Support groups that meet in person and online can help you talk with people who know exactly what you’re going through. Check out the American Diabetes Association’s discussion boards, or search social media for groups of people like you.

Take a break. Diabetes doesn’t take a vacation, but you can for a little while. Maybe that means a night off from your meal plan, or checking your blood sugar less often for a few days. Before you do, ask your doctor to help you plan for it and be safe. Also, let someone close to you know what you’re doing in case there’s a problem.

Disconnect. Diabetes tools can be overwhelming. Your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) always seems to be reminding you to do something or check something. Some people disconnect their insulin pump and give themselves shots for a day or so. Some do the same with their CGM and use the finger-stick meter. It takes some planning to switch over to manual, but, let’s face it, diabetes has probably made you a planning expert by now.

Check in. Your health care team has been with you through some of the biggest challenges of managing diabetes. They can remind you of your successes and check in to see if your goals are realistic. If things aren’t working, your team is the first stop to evaluate your plan and help you make any changes needed.

There will always be ups and downs with diabetes, but recognizing and preparing for them will help you steer clear of burnout.

Show Sources

SOURCES: “Avoid Diabetes Burnout.” “Does the stress of managing diabetes make you want to throw up your hands and quit? Here’s how to get back on track when living with diabetes.” “5 Ways to Avoid Diabetes Burnout.” “My Diabetes Confession.” “What to Do When You Have Diabetes Burnout.”

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