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Guest Post and Giveaway: Overcoming Diabetes Overwhelmus.

Today, I am honored to have Susan Weiner and Paula Ford-Martin contributing a guest post to SUM, writing about diabetes burnout and their new book, Diabetes 365: Tips for Living Well.  I’m pretty biased, as I used to work for Paula at dLife (and with Susan), but their book and their message are a tremendous resource for newly diagnosed and veteran PWD alike. 

I’m also excited to host an opportunity for three folks to win a copy of the book.  To enter to win, please leave a comment with your best tip on dealing with “diabetes overwhelmus.”  (Be sure to include your email!)  The giveaway will be open until Thursday night at midnight EST, and winners will be announced on Friday morning. 

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Overcoming Diabetes Overwhelmus
Guest bloggers Susan Weiner and Paula Ford-Martin

The late, great Dr. Richard Rubin had a great knack for turning a quality phrase. “Diabetes overwhelmus” (a.k.a. diabetes burnout) was one of our favorites. Layman’s definition? When the continuous demands of diabetes, and the non-stop flow of diabetes-related information, simply become too much to deal with and you’re ready to throw up your hands and have a mad as hell moment.

The side effects of diabetes overwhelmus are a tendency to become less active in one’s own self-care. So diabetes management starts to slip, stress goes up (along with stress hormones and blood sugar), and then you’re caught in a vicious cycle of bad feelings – both physical and emotional. It’s a crappy place to be.

Now we want to take a moment to pause for a disclaimer here. We both work in diabetes, we support friends and family with diabetes, and we know a lot about the academics of the disease. But neither of us can say we have the intimate knowledge of knowing what it’s like to live with diabetes 24/7.

But stress, the broader idea of “life overwhelmus,” and the negative impact both have on the human body? We’ve got loads of personal experience there. The busier life gets, the harder you need to work to maintain your physical and emotional well-being. Yet most of us let life’s obligations push those things down in the priority list. And even though we’ve both worked in the health education field for many years, we admit we have let stress get the better of our health and well-being more than once in our lives. In fact, we wish there was a frequent flyer program for hospital visits and doctor’s appointments – we’d be Platinum Club Members.

A survey on stress in America found that almost half of the population has experienced a major stress in the prior twelve months, and health problems were cited as the most common source of stress. Thirty-six percent of people living with a chronic illness reported high stress levels in the prior month, with a whopping 60 percent of those in “poor health” reporting those same high stress levels. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone reading this blog post. Being “sick” makes you stressed, and stress makes you sick.

Susan has a patient, Tess (not her real name). Tess has type 2 diabetes, works full-time, takes care of a family, parents teenage children, and is the primary caregiver for her live-in mom, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, she found herself completely overwhelmed and bombarded on all fronts. Eventually she stopped taking care of herself. She ate food on the run, sometimes skipped her meals completely, didn’t refill her medications, and didn’t keep doctor appointments.

Tess felt terrible and had high blood sugars. But she went to visit Susan because she was ready to take one small step to get out of her diabetes rut. Susan listened to what Tess’s biggest stressors were and her desire to address them, and they started with one simple goal focused on an issue plaguing Tess – taking time each night to pack up snacks and plan the next day’s meals. Over time, they added more small goals based on Tess’s real life problems, and now she feels in control of her life and health again. She isn’t eating out of frustration or anxiety, and is starting to gain better control over her blood sugar.

It was this small step approach that inspired our latest project, Diabetes 365: Tips for Living Well (Demos Health, 2015). We wanted to help people like Tess come at diabetes from a less intense, more manageable angle. Our intent was not to offer a soup to nuts guide on treating your diabetes; instead each day of the year offers a new start and a focused tip, idea, or action you can take to improve your health and happiness. In other words, it’s not the OED of diabetes, it’s daily Cliff Notes. As our friend Jim Turner says, “Diabetes is complicated and overwhelming enough. I like simple, straightforward suggestions.”

“Bite sized” diabetes goals may be your way out of diabetes overwhelmus. Or, you may find relief in other ways – diabetes support groups, meditation, or reading a daily dose of inspiration here at SUM. But at the root of it all is not letting life get in the way of living, and finding a way to co-exist with all of those personal, professional, and diabetes challenges. In the words of our gracious host Kerri: “I need to remember that I can do this. I can conquer this. I can design this and devour this and delight in this.”

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Susan Weiner is owner of Susan Weiner Nutrition, PLLC, in New York. She is an award-winning author, registered dietitian-nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator. Susan is the 2015 AADE Diabetes Educator of the Year, the 2015 Diabetes Health Monitor LifeChanger award winner, and the 2014 Alumna of the Year for SUNY Oneonta. She is also the 2015–2016 editor for On the Cutting Edge, a peer-reviewed journal for the Diabetes Care and Education practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Susan advises several nonprofit groups devoted to diabetes advocacy; she is on the advisory board of Diabetes Sisters, and is an educational advisor for Marjorie’s Fund. She is also the diabetes medical advisor for and is on the medical advisory board for dLife.

Paula Ford-Martin is an award winning health writer, editor, and content producer. She is the author of more than a dozen consumer health and parenting books, and currently works as a freelance content strategist and consultant. Paula was part of the core team that created and launched dLife, a groundbreaking multimedia diabetes consumer resource. She served as the Chief Content Officer of dLife for eight years, and her work on CNBC’s dLifeTV—the first and longest running primetime diabetes television show—garnered her 26 Telly Awards. You can learn more about Paula and her work at


16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Rachel C #

    Whenever I get overwhelmed with ANYTHING I find that the best way to calm myself down is to workout. Lift some heavy weights, go on a bike ride, and just get my mind off of whatever is stressing me out. I imagine that can be hard for some people though, if working out is part of the “diabetes overwhelmus” that is stressing them out… but regardless, I love it. It’s a great way to dump that excess energy and worry that often plagues me. Email: healthyrachel3 at gmail dot com

    09/30/15; 12:04 pm
  2. Sara #

    When I get overwhelmed, focusing on my blessings helps to put things in perspective. I take a moment to focus on my blessings in my life and I always feel better!

    09/30/15; 3:30 pm
  3. Bonnie #

    Overwhelmed…I look around and count 5 blessing. It can be a good reality check and a notice that it could be worse.

    09/30/15; 3:44 pm
  4. Mark E #

    As a dad of a well controlled 16 year old, here are some ways I’m trying to bring a little less heat to his lifelong battle:
    .. A little less ‘what’s your number’ and a little more “what’s up”
    .. Don’t comment every time a strip or discarded pod is found around the house. Comment every 10th time.
    Finally.. Give up trying to get him to carry a man bag.. there is not one on the market that is acceptable. His stuff will be all over the house and never where you think it should be.
    Just remember.. college is only 2 more years away. yes, just 2 more years.
    He can’t wait…. I can.
    Love ya Z!

    09/30/15; 4:53 pm
  5. Sixty years of life with type 1 has taught me that feeling overwhelmed is often connected to lack of physical activity. If I’m pushing myself to complete a project I can easily spend too many hours siting in front of my computer. Getting outside and taking a walk, especially in the winter, helps clear my head so that I can prioritize what needs to be done next and the ways to do it.

    09/30/15; 8:45 pm
  6. So far, the best solution I’ve found is to get away from everything, including myself. I get my shoes on, grab my keys, and walk as fast as I can and hold a distracting conversation with myself about something that has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the Life = d-Life frustrations. I conjugate French verbs I haven’t thought about since high school. I discuss the necessary and ridiculous features of the dream house I’ll never own. Whatever it is, I force myself (by talking to myself aloud, if necessary) to get out of thinking about whatever is causing the overwhelm, and I walk until I’ve hit all the landmarks that circle around and get me home again. The faster heartbeat and that crazy, avoidant self-talk, are just what I need to reboot my system.

    09/30/15; 9:42 pm
  7. Jennifer Imes #

    I have found that the best thing to do to help deal with being overwhelmed with my diabetes is to remember that bad days, weeks, and months happen. It’s ok and it doesn’t make me a bad person because my sugars aren’t perfect or because my A1c didn’t improve this time. I sometimes even have to tell myself these things out loud! The more I remind myself that I am killing it no matter the number the better I feel overall!

    10/1/15; 12:11 am
  8. Hilary Smallwood #

    I’ve had T1D for 37 years and right now, with my 4 year old at school for the first time, my husband’s work schedule so busy, my work schedule so busy and my internal paranoia making me fear I’m not meeting expectations in any area, I am the definition of diabetes overwhelmus – having 3 super low lows this week and generally feeling out of control. Though my standards may be a bit skewed too high. Anyway, I just overcame this issue now while taking time to read this blog, to look around to find signs of other 37ish year old T1D working moms who feel like this. I remind myself that this momentary release of caring about my health was my decision and it is now my decision to bring it back to normal. When I feel overwhelmed it is not because my diabetes is out of control but rather, I’m overwhelmed that I let my diabetes get out of control. Then I take comfort that im not alone by reading this blog and other blogs. Then I think of those worse off than me and how I shouldn’t throw my blessings away because I can’t handle it anymore. Then I plan. I am planning tomorrow now – when I’ll check my sugars, what I’ll do when I check my sugars, what I will and won’t eat tomorrow. And in that planning I am gaining my control back. Step one- good night!

    10/1/15; 12:11 am
  9. Jim Josupait #

    Exercise is the key- any type of exercise helps. It’s been proven that exercise releases endorphins which chemically help with stress. Typically, when I am exercising, I am usually listening to music which is absolutely one of my favorite things to do:). The exercise + music combo is the best way that I can reset when I am feeling overwhelmed 🙂

    10/1/15; 8:00 am
  10. I get most overwhelmed when dealing with a sticky high. I have learned that going for a walk will clear my head and help lower my blood sugar. A two-fer!

    10/1/15; 8:02 am
  11. Be thankful you have something that CAN be controlled.

    I was recently diagnosed with MSA-C. Medications don’t always fix the symptoms, and it is worse living with a disease you can’t control.

    10/1/15; 9:07 am
  12. Dan #

    Hi Kerri,

    This is my suggestion to “diabetes overwelmus”. It is not mine. There are many people who suffer with challenges in their personal life. AA has a simple and succinct statement. Bless me with the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference. Just as we need to pursue happiness we also need to go looking for help and suggestions in our journey through life. HOw can we ‘find’ something if we do not go looking for it. AS always have a great day.


    10/1/15; 10:35 am
  13. I find that burnout happens when I look at the whole picture, rather than just one piece of the picture. I need to break it down and take diabetes care piece by piece and day by day and at some point, it stops becoming so overwhelming.

    10/1/15; 11:01 am
  14. Erin #

    Whenever I begin to feel “Diabetes overwhelmus” I remind myself that while it might be tempting to stop caring/trying, it is SO not worth the return of constant thirst (in addition to all of the other symptoms/complications)…there’s nothing worse then the relentless thirst of a high blood sugar! I just try and look at how far I have come, and everything I have to look forward to. When that doesn’t work, I try and see my diabetes educator- after getting to see or talk to her, I always feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

    10/1/15; 4:31 pm
  15. Minnesota Nice #

    Just remember that the numbers simply tell us what to do next – nothing more, nothing less.

    10/1/15; 7:48 pm

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