People such as me, who live with diabetes, are checking their glucose several times a day. Of course, before Covid-19 we were doing that as a normal routine. Glucose management is expected for someone who lives with diabetes.
We’re also stressed, just like everyone else. Although people with diabetes are no more susceptible to Covid-19 than the general population, they are at risk for more severe progression, morbidity and mortality from the virus.
This additional stress for a diabetic, can make glucose rise. Imagine the last 35 days, that you’re diabetic, following healthy choices but because of stress, your glycemic numbers appear to be off. It’s the perfect storm for diabetes ‘burnout’ – when you’re following the rules of living healthy, but your numbers are saying something else. If this happens over time, your thoughts may take you to abandoning all healthy choices around you as good discipline doesn’t seem to be paying off – or that’s what you think. This is diabetes burn out. It’s real and dangerous, even on a good day.
Riding into the Danger Zone
What are things that could mean you are in the danger zone, approaching burnout? Well, for starters, when you stop checking your blood sugars.
Sheltering-in-place challenges almost anyone’s lifestyle but it particularly makes a diabetic’s daily regimen difficult. Across America we are cozying up and binge watching our favorite Netflix series. Throw in some crunchy snacks, preferably sweet-n-salty and six episodes later we call it a day.
For some people, they could get away with this behavior for a few days. For a diabetic, low physical activity leads to unstable blood glucose levels. This brings us to the third culprit, frustration.
We tell ourselves that we won’t repeat our ‘lounging around’ behavior the next day. We may even lie to family or friends about our bloods sugars or how we’re doing during Covid-19. These are not symptoms of ‘bad’ or non-compliant behavior, they are symptoms that signal that what you’re doing isn’t working to keep your health at its peak. It’s time for a few new strategies.
Best defense is a good offense
If you have diabetes, your best defense is a good (healthy) offense. We all know tight control of blood sugar, nutrition rich foods, adequate hydration and consistent exercise are the foundation of a good diabetes care plan. However, social distancing puts a barrier to gyms and grocery stores. What if you have been trying diligently to adjust and adapt, but your blood sugars are still not where you want them?
Burnout occurs when you are trying hard but getting nowhere. Sometimes you just get to a point and are “done with it!” A valid frustration, but to succumb to burnout has dire consequences.
What is a person to do?
Give yourself a break
No matter what your level of stress from COVID19, coping well or struggling and on the edge of burnout, these two words can be helpful: permission and curiosity.
First give yourself permission to not have all the answers and to not be perfect. The world is a bit upside down right now and everything has changed. Giving yourself permission is empowering and diminishes feelings of loss. Give yourself permission to do today as best you can. No one can ask for more.
Curiosity is one of the most powerful tools you possess. It never judges and often opens doors. Use curiosity to consider your current situation from a distance. If you were an outsider looking in, what would you notice? What patterns might be taking shape?
If you become curious about your blood sugar, you might want to check it a few more times to see what’s going on inside you. And be curious about the number on the meter. It is just a piece of data, not a judgement of your character or efforts. What can it tell you?
In these times of COVID19 quarantine, permission and curiosity can go a long way to reduce stress and worry, avoid burnout and promote a better diabetes life.
Below are two tools to assist you in your journey of living better with diabetes.
For a webinar on Coping with the Chaos of Corona Replay, visit: https://betterdiabeteslife.com/webinars/coping-with-the-chaos-of-corona-replay/
Final note, if you’re not diabetic, you almost certainly know someone who is. Call your friends and see how they are doing. The more we know about diabetes, the more we can be safe and safeguard others.
Patricia Daiker is a registered nurse, and a board certified nurse coach specializing in Diabetes Burnout. She is the author of the online eCourse “Better Diabetes Life“. An RN for 35 years, she practiced bedside at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas for 15 years, primarily in the Emergency Department as a Certified Emergency Nurse. Patricia also has over 17 years as an executive in Healthcare IT and is Board Certified in Informatics Nursing. She currently is the CEO and founder of Dragonfly Lights, a company whose mission is to deliver support and services to people with diabetes and other chronic illnesses who experience the psychosocial burden, we know as “burnout”. She is a Type 1 Diabetic, JDRF TypeOneNation Speaker, and author of Dragonfly Lights – Learning about your Perfect Purpose.