Wouldn’t it be so nice if, for once, the holiday season was truly (and exclusively) about good tidings and joy? Wouldn’t it be absolutely delightful if there were no credit card payments chasing us around, political clashes with our relatives to avoid like the bubonic plague, snotty co-workers sneezing all over us, and oh, our dear friend, type 1 diabetes to deal with?
As much as we want this time of year to be perfect, and for our t1d to stay on the back burner, it can be hard to tap into the deeper meaning of the holidays. You can blast the Dean Martin, rock around a Christmas tree in nothing but your Chris Kringles, and binge watch reruns of Love Actually 4,000 times and still struggle to feel any happy feels.
If you’re reading this while furiously nodding your head, I’m going to take a guess that you’re experiencing a veryyyyy real thing that hit me right in the kisser last winter: diabetes burnout, the holiday edition.
Without taking this post too far towards a grim place, we’ll just say that last winter was not my finest work as a human. It was one of the greyest, darkest seasons I’ve ever gone through with my diabetes. I was not myself. I couldn’t muster up 1% of genuine gratitude for anything, I was scared, I was a ball of anxiety, and I just… I didn’t want to do diabetes anymore. The hardest part about how I was feeling, was that I felt like David after the dentist. Every morning I woke up and asked myself, “Is this gonna be forever?”
But it’s not. Burnout is not forever if you don’t want it to be, and you have to keep telling yourself that. Pain can be temporary if you give yourself the tools and time to properly heal.
What I was unable to see last year, was that I was in life-overdrive during a time when I needed to be very strategically about where I was applying my energy. I was throwing myself into work and extracurriculars at 4,000 mph in order to hide some pretty intense anxiety I had developed after a traumatizing low in September. And instead of freeing up some mental bandwidth to deal with it, I did more. As a result, by Christmas morning I was feeling exceptionally shitty.
But I got out if it. Eventually. And now I’m able to reflect on where I was wasting energy instead of healing, and where I was making matters worse instead of simplifying. I love the holidays and always want to be able to maximize my mood, energy levels, blood sugars, and over all ability to feel joy. But when you’re numbed to nothing with diabetes burnout, all of those wishes are a genuine challenge accomplish.
So, when trying to prevent holiday diabetes burnout this year, here are a few of the lessons I learned the hard way. Hopefully, they’ll get to you just in time to help you make a conscious effort to keep your mind, body, spirit, and diabetes in a happy healthy place before your blood sugar is as high as Buddy the Elf’s and you’re as grumpy as the Grinch.
1. Spend less money on gifts. Lol, Libby. Ok, miss money spending QUEEN. But let me tell you, last year I over did it, and got myself into a sloppy place credit card wise. Because I wasn’t capable of feeling real feelings last year, I just…spent a bunch of money buying gifts to overcompensate. It was really stupid, but in the moment felt like my only option to tell people I loved them without feeling like I loved much of anything. When you’re in a bad place it’s very common to be impulsive financially, but in the long run it just makes you feel worse. If you’re in a burned out headspace right now and kicking off your shopping – take a deep breath before you buy your mom a $400 bottle of lotion off of Goop. Make a list. Figure out how much money you have and what you realistically should be spending on the people in your life. Be honest with yourself. Thoughtful, beautiful, even handmade gifts are the real way to showing someone you really care.
3. Ease up on your vanity routine. In my industry, the last few weeks of the year can feel like an Olympic sport they’re so hardcore. My team has a tendency to pull whacko hours to just to make sure that by the time that final bell rings on December 22, we’re knifes down like a damn Chopped Champion. Not to mention, there are holiday parties, cookies, candy, snacks, booze, and distractions in every direction. Needless to say, it can take a lot out of a gal who also have type 1 diabetes. One of the ways that I’ve started to manage these insanely busy times of year, is to cut back on my own vanity routine. Not because I want to really sell the fact that I’m stressed out by walking around looking like a bag of hot garbage, but to genuinely preserve some energy and save a shit load of time in the morning. I love sleeping, so if I can pull an extra 20 minutes in bed and ditch my winged eye liner for the day – then hell yeah! On the days I know I don’t have to look intelligent and professional in face-to-face client meetings, I now have a tendency to scale back my vanity routine by about 30-40%. Now, when I do have to dress up, I’ll feel like a total glam babe!
5. Lay off the booze when you don’t have plans. I know this sounds ridiculous to have to even type it out loud (is that a thing people say, “type out loud?”), but one thing I’m working on this year is really toning back the random weeknight drinking. Sure, I’ll have a glass of wine with you just about whenever you ask me to, but if I’m just sitting at home watching SharkTank reruns, I’m going to try to have a tea instead of a Cab. The way I feel the morning after just one night with no hooch in my blood is pretty nuts because I sleep better, and I’m not dehydrating myself while I’m asleep. Also, your skin will thank you!
7. Soak up some alone time. I used to hate being alone. But now, because I know it’s a fleeting opportunity, I reeeevel in it. You can do so much when you’re by yourself, judgement free. Dance in your room, sing in the shower, get a manicure, clean our your closet, get a massage, go for a bike ride, tackle a blog post you’ve been meaning to finish for 3 weeks (l….o….l….), watch embarrassing garbage TV, cook, do a craft. Or better yet, correct a high or low blood sugar all on your own with your own source of courage. One way I gain confidence and steam with my diabetes is by really focusing on independent problem solving. It feels good to know that you’re your own best resource.
10. Give yourself and others some grace. I am not a religious person, but I truly believe in the power of forgiveness and grace. We live in one of the toughest versions of our own society like…ever in all of history. Every move we make is judged. The voices we hear yelling at us to get our lives together, be better, be more motivated, hustle always, sleep more, save more money, lower our a1c, have more followers, make more money….are deafening. And about 90% of the time they’re coming from an inner monologue. But have you ever considered that it’s okay to give yourself a f*cking break, girlfriend? Ok, so you didn’t dive into adding matcha and collagen to your diet this year, or get the same 6-pack Robin has from riding Peloton. You didn’t get double promoted to VP at age 28, or lower your a1c enough to be healthier than a non-diabetic. But the fact that you even TRIED is incredible! The fact that you’re even forward thinking enough to push yourself that far is ASTOUNDING. Look, I used to be super mean to myself. Lots of negative talk. Lots of doubting and degrading. And you know what, after a while, I started to believe the nasty stuff I was tell myself and it drained me. I didn’t believe I was capable of a lot of things because of words only I said to myself. It’s not cool, and it’s a giant waste of time to throw shade at yourself. Start learning to give yourself some grace. Be nice to you. Give yourself a hug. Know that you’re enough and you’re doing enough. The holidays are going to be an amazingly love and light-filled season this year because you’re going to kick things off with giving yourself some gratitude and self-love, and from there on out, everything else will fall into place.
So, to recap, this holiday season we’re going to preserve and recharge, right?! We’re going to spend less money on gifts, deprioritize mindless eating, minimize our vanity routines, say no to plans, lay off the solo boozing, squeeze in some cardio, find moments to recharge by ourselves, and finally, give ourselves a little credit for constantly trying to do it all while accepting that it’s just not always going to be perfect.