Blogging through Burnout: Part 2
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Where does burnout come from?
First let me tell you a story that has nothing to do with diabetes.
Many years ago, I was living in Dublin, Ireland. I was working for a small nutrition startup run by a kickass female entrepreneur. I wasn't getting paid a lot, but the work was rewarding, or so I told myself. Month after month, I saw my savings start to dwindle. Then one month, I realized I didn't have enough money to pay rent. Luckily, my parents were able to help out. But the point being-- I wasn't getting compensated for the work that I was putting in.
In the months following, I realized my passion for the job had dwindled just as my bank account had. What I once found rewarding and fun and exciting turned into another mundane task that I didn't have the energy for. My long walk to the office, once filled with uplifting music and inspiring podcasts and coveted "me time", had become a dreaded hour of me fighting my internal cues to find a better job.
So one day I was walking through Dublin city center and feeling this MAJOR work burnout. I had fantasies in my head of how I would quit and my boss would realize just how important my role was and how she wished she would have paid me more. I was passing time in a bookstore and found a book (I wish i remembered the name, but just can't!) coincidentally about the topic of burnout. Funny how that happens.
The page that I opened in the book said:
Burnout happens over time when you are putting in more effort into life than you are getting out.
Yup, go ahead and read that again.
For so long, I thought (and if you do a quick google search, you will see that a lot of other people think as well) that burnout happens when you are giving more than you have. This is technically true. But if you're living your life in a way that your actions are being reciprocated and you are getting back what you give, then it balances out quite nicely.
So let's apply this to diabetes in a narrow scope. Despite accurately carb counting, dosing, monitoring, injecting, eating, exercising, (the list goes on), we still get highs and lows. With the right knowledge and dedicated effort we can come pretty close, but we still don't know exactly how our bodies will react in any given situation.
You put in so much energy, but sometimes you don't get that same energy back. You end up chasing highs and lows and feeling like all you want to do is curl up on the couch and watch Netflix. You're tired of doing everything "right" and still getting the wrong answer. Then you throw your meter at the wall (just me?).
Can you see now how burnout may occur?
But returning to that original statement "Burnout happens over time when you are putting in more effort into life than you are getting out" you can see that it's not in fact a narrow scope. Hell, my blood sugars were great leading up to this burnout. But LIFE is interconnected and you can't look at life from a narrow scope.
We put energy into so many things everyday. Job, school, relationships, DIABETES, self-care, and just being a human. Cooking food, grocery shopping, taking a shower (lol). Yes, diabetes burnout happens to us because we are diabetic, but diabetes isn't always the cause, per se.
And in the context of the current world that we live in (ahem-- *COVID*), people in general are already more anxious, more on edge, and more, well, burned out. We aren't spending as much quality time with family and friends. We don't have vacations and going out to bars with friends to look forward to. We're probably putting a lot more into life than we are getting out.
So as I am currently experiencing this diabetes burnout, I'm doing my best to remember that this is not diabetes' fault. It's not my fault. It's not COVID's fault. It's just the way of the world telling me that my energy is probably not focused on areas that are reciprocating energy back to me.
How do you shift your energy to a place that will reciprocate back? It's not as simple as "do what makes you happy" because obviously we have to "do" diabetes and that doesn't always make me happy hehe. But I think that journaling is a great place to start. Below are a few journal prompts that I used yesterday to help myself understand with where my energy is going:
Describe, in detail, a perfect day that leaves you feeling blissed out (with no money or COVID constraints).
Describe, in detail, a perfect day that leaves you feeling blissed out (that is realistic during COVID).
List 3 people (or things) that you enjoy spending time with (or doing) and explain why.
Write out what an average day looks like for you now (Weekend or weekday, or both). Indicate which parts of your day cause any kind of anxiety or dread. Indicate which parts bring joy. Indicate which parts are neutral. Indicate which you have to do, and which you opt to do.
What thoughts and stories are on replay in your head currently? What do you spend the most time thinking about. Indicate which thoughts cause any kind of anxiety or dread. Indicate which thoughts bring joy. Indicate which thoughts are neutral.
For the tasks/thoughts that you mark anxiety/dread, explore them. Can you reframe them? Can you invigorate any of them to better align with your values?(Like if you dread cleaning the house, can you turn on loud music and use it as a time to let loose and shake your hips while cleaning?)
What are you choosing in your life versus what are you letting happen and why? (Obviously, we did not “choose” diabetes, but maybe you choose to wear a pump or choose to exercise or choose to eat healthy).
Now these journal prompts may not solve anything right off the bat, but they're great to use as a way to bring awareness to where your energy is going, and where it could be going.
As an example, I turned off my dexcom alerts last week because I felt like I just couldn't hear one more beep without exploding. After answering these prompts, I realized that I am choosing to turn of the dexcom alerts and therefore I am choosing to wake up with possibly a higher blood sugar and a not-great start to the day. Therefore, I also have the power to choose to wake up with a good blood sugar and a good start to the day. When I put it like that, it made me approach the situation with a totally new perspective.
*As always, if you are experiencing burnout (big OR small) PLEASE speak with a health professional! (an endo, a therapist, a diabetes educator). They are there to help!!