Burnout is now an official diagnosis. The World Health Organization added it to the International Classification of Diseases. There are three components of burnout: feeling depleted of energy or feeling exhausted, cynicism or mentally distancing yourself, and a lack of accomplishment. The definition focuses mainly on the work environment, but it can also apply to chronic illness.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines chronic illnesses as medical conditions that last longer than a year, require ongoing medical care, and interfere with personal, professional, or social functioning in some way. They report six in ten adults have a chronic illness. Also, four in ten adults have more than one chronic illness.
It’s easy to understand why dealing with one or more illnesses for longer than a year without improvement can lead to burnout.
Symptoms of Chronic Illness Burnout
According to studies, burnout leads to physical and psychological symptoms. Examples include depression, aches and pains in the body, digestive problems, lack of motivation and engagement, and exhaustion. It’s important to note that exhaustion from chronic illness burnout is more than feeling tired. It feels like you cannot do anything other than sitting or lying down because you do not have the energy to exert yourself.
Burnout symptoms also include low self-image, anxiety, loss of control, and frustration or anger about your illness.
You may be surprised by some of the illnesses associated with burnout.
Common Chronic Illnesses
Some of the most common illnesses associated with burnout include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthmas, psychological disorders, COPD, and Lyme disease.
These chronic illnesses lead to burnout because they force a complete change in lifestyle and make everything harder. You must learn to cope with symptoms of an illness, attend doctor appointments, and learn everything you can regarding the illness.
For example, those with Lyme disease must often educate themselves. At the same time, they must continue working, maintain relationships with friends and family, and control symptoms.
It can feel like you are supposed to be super-human minus the strength and power. The good news is that there are ways to manage chronic illness burnout for conditions like Lyme disease. Below are nine tips.
Tips for Managing Chronic Illness Burnout
1. Seek Help from a Specialist
If you have Lyme disease, seek treatment from a Lyme literate specialist. If your main symptom is anxiety, seek treatment from a mental health specialist. The best-case scenario is for all your specialists to work as a team in treating your chronic illness burnout.
Staying connected to professionals who can treat mental and physical symptoms is crucial. Together, they can create a plan of action, applying their skills to help you heal.
2. Seek Advanced Treatments
One sure way to eliminate chronic illness burnout is to eliminate your chronic illness. While eliminating it is impossible in some circumstances, there are still things you can do to reduce symptoms. For example, there are advanced treatments like therapeutic apheresis, biofilm eradication, IV antibiotic infusions, and more with Lyme disease. Find out who is providing advanced therapies in the area of your chronic illness.
3. Make Yourself a Priority
This may be the hardest tip to manage chronic illness because, like many, you spend most of your time caring for others. You put everyone else’s needs before your own. As you can tell, this is not making your chronic illness burnout any better.
You cannot give your best to others until you take care of yourself. By focusing on your needs, you become stronger mentally and physically, allowing you to give back to others.
One of the main goals of self-care is to reduce stress. Participate in stress-management activities like deep breathing, massage, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture.
4. Build a Support System
Who you hang out with influences your ability to manage chronic illness burnout. You need positive support in all areas of your life, including personal, professional, and social. Supportive people can listen with empathy, help you seek treatment, and encourage you to succeed despite having a chronic illness.
Don’t be afraid to tell your support system exactly what you need from them. They may not know a lot about your illness and certainly can’t read your mind. A good support person will welcome feedback on how they can better help you.
5. Positive Lifestyle Habits
What you eat influences how you feel. Some foods give energy, and some drain you. Carbohydrates and high sugar foods may give you a boost temporarily, but then you crash mentally and physically, which makes your chronic illness symptoms worse.
Substitute some of the high sugar foods for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Exercise boosts endorphins in the brain, which are known as the body’s natural pain relievers. Even when you don’t feel like exercising, make yourself, even if you can only move around for ten minutes.
Other lifestyle habits that help lessen burnout include getting good sleep by establishing sleep hygiene, staying hydrated, and not pushing yourself past your physical or emotional limits.
6. Positive Self-talk
It’s easy to talk negatively when you feel ill. But doing so makes you feel worse. You must avoid blaming yourself, feeling guilty, and discouraging yourself. Instead, give yourself compliments and self-affirmations throughout each day because what you believe and perceive influences how you feel.
The more opportunities you find to focus on and appreciate your strengths, you may feel less burned out.
7. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries to manage chronic illness burnout could fall under self-care. Boundaries help you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Every relationship will have different boundaries. Coworkers require boundaries that should not be set with family or friends and vice versa.
Boundaries should be appropriate for the relationship. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Evaluate the relationships you have created and if the dynamics need to change to better your health, then make the changes.
You can manage chronic illness burnout. If you need help getting started, give us a call. We are here for you!
Reviewed by Dr. Omar Morales, MD