Energy Burnout

A couple weeks ago, I attended a 2 day course all about energy management. Energy management is a term that I had heard thrown around occasionally, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant besides well, managing your energy. Basically the idea is that energy is our most critical resource we have as human beings, but most of us fail to manage it effectively. Think about it, we manage our time, but few of us think about how we can skillfully invest our energy each day. Many of us find our productivity slipping at 3 pm, or we come home from work or school exhausted or irritable, or perhaps we are too drained to do the things we need to do when we finally have the time. These are all examples of ineffective energy management. Ask yourself, are the people who matter most to you in your life getting your best energy?

When you manage your energy, you find that you are able to fully engage, that you are giving your full and best energy right here, right now. The course talked about 4 distinct, but connected dimensions of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. I learned techniques for managing and expanding the energy that I have. This includes both moving and eating for energy. While the premise of the eating for energy, eating light and often, makes sense for people without diabetes, I had some issues with this component. The moving for energy meant that at least every 2 hours, you get out of your chair and stretch and move your body. This could be going for a short walk or even doing small stretches at your desk. Finally, we spent some time in the course on self-awareness, coming up with our “missions” in life. This mission is an overarching statement of purpose that can help you make decisions and navigate through your life. It’s the greatest driver of engagement and helps you decide how to best invest your energy.

After the course, I started thinking about where in my own life I have the biggest problems with energy management. Yes there are times when I could be more engaged at work, or with family and friends, but the blaring and obvious answer is in my diabetes management. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. We even have a term for when we run out of energy taking care of our diabetes, diabetes burnout. Managing a chronic condition takes tremendous amount of energy in all 4 dimensions, but especially physical, emotional and mental. It requires constant vigilance and attention. You’re always preparing and planning. Your body is continuously being subjected to glucose tests, insulin administration, and going through high and low blood sugars. You worry, you get frustrated, you get annoyed, and sometimes you just burn out.

But burn out with a chronic condition is dangerous! We aren’t talking about being too tired to get a work out in one day or not being as productive in the afternoon or as engaged with your partner. No, energy management with a chronic disease is vital! When someone isn’t managing their energy effectively, it effects how they take care of their disease which can have immediate, dangerous, and damaging consequences. I know that when I’ve gone through phases of burn out, I am less careful about carb counting and low and high blood sugars can become more frequent and extreme. This can lead to both short and long term consequences for my health.

So what are the strategies that someone can use so that the amount of energy that is necessary to care for a chronic disease does not lead to burn out? I don’t know. I have some thoughts, but it’s something I still struggle with myself. But the thing that I think may be most helpful is having your life “mission”. I know, you’re probably thinking how some statement is going to help with your health. But for me, poking my finger to check my glucose level is not about the number. It’s not even about my A1c. For me, it’s about being healthy so that I can get married, travel the world, have a family, be there to watch my children grow up and have the joy of becoming a grandparent. I want to live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. That’s my mission, that’s what drives me to do the little things each day: making sure I have enough test strips, counting my carbs, testing my blood sugar, remembering my fruit snacks, bolusing on time. That’s what I remind myself when I start to lose energy, when I see my self-care slipping. Maybe this will help you, maybe it won’t. But when it comes to your life, why do you want to take care of your diabetes? What is your mission?  Who/what matters most to you? What makes your life really worth living?

Energy is our most critical resource as human beings. How are you managing yours?

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