Surviving Burnout

Making changes the key to making recovery.

Melissa Conrad StopplerBy Melissa Conrad Stoppler, M.D.


Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

September 2006 —Burnout arises when we're overworked, overtaxed emotionally, physically exhausted or unwell, and often unable to cope with everyday situations. Trying to achieve that perfect balance between family and work life is hard enough; throw in the demands of living with and managing a chronic medical condition, and it's not surprising that you may be at risk for burnout.

True emotional and physical burnout goes beyond having a bad day; burnout involves loss of energy and enthusiasm for work and daily activities over a period of time. When we become truly burned out, it's time to take stock and make changes.

If you feel burned out, first take inventory of the situation. Go someplace quiet; take pen and paper, and list all the things causing you to feel stressed, worried, or anxious. List all your obligations and anything you normally do that consumes time and energy. Try to identify those things most responsible for your present state, and ask yourself which areas are most in need of drastic change. Don't forget to take inventory of your strengths, skills, and resources, both internal and external, as well. Do you have good friends willing to lend a listening ear, family members who'll babysit, or anyone who can help you through this time? Think, too, about the inner strengths you have to fall back upon. What have you done in the past to solve similar, or other, problems?

Accept the fact that burnout is a time of self-evaluation and change. Just as you would treat a physical illness with rest and restriction of activities, cut back as much as you can on commitments and responsibilities for a time and allow yourself to "treat" this emotional and mental exhaustion. Decide on the areas that you can "let go" for a time, such as stringent housekeeping or entertaining, based upon your priorities. If you need to make critical decisions concerning job or personal life, you'll be much better prepared to make healthy, sound choices when you're rested and not deep in the throes of burnout.

While you're trying to recover from burnout, try to delegate tasks to others when possible. This need not be on a permanent basis. Simply clearing a couple days, a week, or whatever time frame you feel is appropriate will give you time and energy to take stock and make decisions for the future. Alternatively, if you find that an overcrowded schedule is one of the main factors causing your burnout, you may need to pass along or delegate some of your regular commitments on a permanent basis. Accept offers of help from friends and family, and don't forget to show your gratitude. If your financial situation allows, hire someone to do household tasks or errands - or whatever seems unbearable at the moment - to give you more time for yourself.

Be good to yourself. You need plenty of rest, good nutrition, exercise, and the support of friends and/or family. Do something for yourself that gives you joy or pleasure. Read a good book or take in a film you've wanted to see. Allow your loved ones to help too, although you may have to explicitly communicate to them exactly what kind of help you need. Give yourself permission to spend the necessary time and energy to take care of yourself.

Read more of Melissa's columns here.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 24, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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