Worn out from dealing with your disease? Never-ending appointments, medication refills, insurance paperwork, and diet and exercise worries can take a toll. Living with a chronic disease can be exhausting, even without the fatigue that comes with being ill.
Chronically ill people often feel burdened and burned out from coping with pain and illness while also managing their treatment and daily work-life demands, says Mary Anderson, a specialist in health psychology at Commonwealth Psychology Associates in Boston.
And when patients feel burned out, they’re less likely to take care of themselves, says Mayo Clinic rheumatologist and researcher John Davis III, MD. It takes only a few weeks of neglecting their care to heighten their risk of further joint damage and disability, as well as conditions like heart disease or osteoporosis, Dr. Davis says.
“There are things we do every day that matter for long-term outcomes and ideally get patients into remission,” he says. “Burnout can throw off that treatment protocol. If people don’t go to the doctor and don’t take the tests, we can’t see what’s going on, we can’t catch the risks. The damage can be significant.”
Try these tips to manage burnout:
Take care of the basics. Sleep, eat well and stick with physical activity to keep up your physical and emotional strength. But don’t get down on yourself if you miss a workout or eat a little ice cream; a small break from your routine may lighten the burden.
Streamline your regimen. Use a pillbox for medications. Create electronic accounts to pay bills. Set up mail-order prescription service. Try to spend less time managing the disease and more time doing what makes you feel good.
Be efficient. Manage your environment and time to ease stress. For example, schedule back-to-back appointments to avoid multiple trips; limit chores to your comfort level; ask for help when needed; delegate tasks to others.
Keep self-talk positive. Discouraging self-talk intensifies burnout. Keep inner voices encouraging and compassionate, just as you would with a friend.
Plan some pleasure. Get out in the garden. Watch funny videos. Whatever you enjoy, schedule it into your day to boost your mood and buffer against burnout.
Polly Campbell for the Arthritis Foundation