Diabetes distress and diabetes burnout are two terms that are discussed frequently, but what exactly do they mean? Fisher, Hessler, Polonsky, & Mullan (2012) define diabetes-related distress as “the unique, often hidden, emotional burdens and worries that are part of the spectrum of patient experience when managing a severe, demanding chronic disease like diabetes.” This distress is typically understood as relating to 4 interconnected domains: (1) the emotional impact of living with a chronic health condition; (2) the stress associated with diabetes management; (3) the pressures associated with managing social relationships while living with diabetes; and (4) the stress associated with managing relationships with healthcare professionals treating your diabetes.
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There are a variety of reasons you might want to let some people in your life know about your diabetes. An obvious example might be that it can be helpful to have people in your life that can assist you in case your blood glucose levels are dangerously high or low, but even outside those emergency situations it can just be nice to know that you have other people in your life that are open and willing to support you through the everyday ups and downs of diabetes.
There is a dominant narrative that the period from your late teens to early twenties is simply about being carefree, trying new things, and finding your place in the world. This account is not entirely wrong, but it is quite often incomplete. Early adulthood might be filled with new and exciting experiences, but it is also an anxiety provoking time for a lot of people. Figuring out who you are as an individual, while also trying to fit in with your peer groups can be stressful; getting lost in the sudden lack of daily routine found in a lot of college and university timetables can be unsettling; while, uncertainty about your future education and career path can be overwhelming.
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Diabetes can present as an incredible burden on those who live with it. There is a lot of social stigma felt by people with diabetes and those who care for them, which can lead to feelings of difference, isolation, and personal failure. The daily regiment of management is demanding and can be overwhelming. And the ups and downs of blood glucose levels can be exhausting and traumatic. All of these factors combined often lead people with diabetes to judge themselves harshly.
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Those that live with diabetes, either themselves or have a loved one with the condition, know why worry can go hand in hand with having diabetes. Managing diabetes is something that seems to be on our minds all the time, even when not in the forefront of our thoughts. There are so many factors that can affect blood glucose levels that, even when you seem to have everything under control, levels can change quickly and drastically. And these ups and downs are not inconsequential—they interact with every area of our lives and sometimes in quite detrimental ways. This combination of unpredictability and the potential severity of consequences lays a ripe breeding ground for worries to grow.
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The term ‘self-care’ has become a somewhat of a buzzword these days. There are plenty of articles, memes, and graphics describing simple steps you can take for yourself to find a break from your hectic daily schedule—take a bubble bath, enjoy a piece of chocolate, create a daily gratitude journal. All of those things are nice, and potentially helpful, but they talk about self-care in terms that don’t take into account the reality of living with a chronic illness.
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Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing one’s awareness on the present moment without judgement. It can help you manage pain, lower stress, connect to those around you, and focus your mind—all of which can help you in managing your diabetes.
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