Is type 1 diabetes getting you down? If so, that is understandable and even to be expected. How many other physical health conditions necessitate so closely monitoring every carb that goes into your body? Not to mention the constant blood sugar checks, insulin injections, endo visits, and the ridiculous comments from well-meaning friends. Whether you use pens, pumps, or syringes, managing type 1 diabetes is a full-time job. For children and teens with type 1 and for their parents, the challenges of managing the condition can be even more daunting.
For those who aren’t so intimately familiar with type 1 diabetes, educating yourself is key to supporting a loved one with the condition. Here’s a quick primer: In type 1 diabetes—a chronic condition also known as juvenile diabetes—the body’s own immune system mistakenly shuts down production of the hormone insulin in the pancreas, depriving cells of sugar and energy. This can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Although a number of factors can contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes, it is sometimes rooted in genetics or exposure to environmental factors such as viruses.
Only about 5% of people with diabetes have type 1. Nonetheless, it is a far more common struggle than many people realize. The American Diabetes Association estimates about 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, with around 40,000 being newly diagnosed each year. Many of them are under age 20, but anyone can develop type 1 diabetes.
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but with proper treatment and maintenance, it can be managed effectively. And as with most physical health conditions, part of any effective treatment plan is supporting and maintaining mental health. In that spirit, here are some tips to help with your diabetes burnout—or to share with someone you care about who may be experiencing it:
- Do things you enjoy: You are so much more than your diabetes. You have other interests, talents, and parts of your identity that make you whole. Nurture those things and allow them to distract you from the diabetes management. Create balance.
- Do not try to be “perfect”: High and low blood sugar levels are inevitable even if you do everything right, so aiming for perfection is a setup for disappointment. Control what you can control and let the rest go.
- Separate your self-worth from your diabetes: Do not judge yourself on your blood sugar numbers. The numbers are simply information so you know what you need to do next. If you are struggling, recognize you are NOT the problem. Diabetes is the problem, and you can partner with it to figure out best way forward.
If you are struggling, recognize you are NOT the problem. Diabetes is the problem, and you can partner with it to figure out best way forward.
- Utilize creative thinking: If you were an architect designing a home, your first blueprint would not likely be the final version. You would likely tweak your design until it was closer to your ideal home. Think of your plan for improving your diabetes management in this way. You are figuring out the best initial course of action and then modifying as you go, depending on what works for you. An architect would not feel like a failure if the first version was not the final product, so don’t beat yourself up, either.
- Honor your hard work: Do something nice for yourself; perhaps even throw yourself a dia-birthday, if you’re feeling it. You have been putting in daily effort toward improving your health and well-being. Encourage your friends and support network to join in celebrating that. They may have also been putting in energy toward your success.
- Set small, attainable goals: Thinking about bringing your A1C down? Instead of having that be your all-or-nothing goal, break it down to manageable, measurable parts. Set an intention for the day. Today, commit to checking your blood sugar three times, giving insulin, and giving yourself positive affirmations, regardless of what the meter reads. We need to think about both the mind and the body if we want sustainable change.
- Find meaning, no matter how small: Are there any positive ways diabetes has impacted your life? Did you meet a new friend? Have you treated your body to healthier food? Is your family spending more time together or eating better?
- Seek professional help: It is my belief even therapists need therapists. If you are wanting some extra help, short- or long-term, don’t be afraid to seek it.
American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Type 1 Diabetes. Retrieved from http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/
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