The theme this month is “unplug”, though I’m going to suggest the opposite, at least where your health is concerned! However—temporarily unplugging from information about your health could be very healthy. Consulting “Dr. Google” can be confusing and even dangerous: too much info, especially when conflicting, can push you towards burnout.
Sometimes health issues can be overwhelming. If you have a chronic disease (or care for someone who does), you know that day-to-day management can sometimes be too much. Taking many medications, following a special diet, going to unending doctor or therapy appointments can be exhausting. Occasionally you might want to unplug from the management of your health.
Burnout has been described as a chronic affective state comprised of symptoms of emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cognitive weariness. Burnout can also happen to people managing chronic diseases. For example, in a study of 237 people with Type 2 Diabetes, one barrier to medication adherence was “feeling burned out with taking diabetes medication.” I’ve seen this situation many times with people who have diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease. It can lead to detrimental health effects that may be difficult to reverse.
If you or someone you know feel like “unplugging” from managing their health, these tips may help:
- Talk to someone. Whether it’s an objective friend or even chatting on a Facebook group, venting your frustrations can help. Here is an active Facebook group for chronic illness. There are many support groups for a variety of issues; choose one that is positive and doesn’t offer medical advice.
- Coping with chronic disease can bring on anxiety and even depression. If you think you could use a professional counselor, ask your health care provider to give you a referral, or think about getting some online coaching thru licensed therapists. (https://www.betterhelp.com/get-started/, https://try.talkspace.com/)
- Write it down. I’m a big fan of pro/con lists. Write down all the things with your health that you are burned out about, and possible solutions as well as the side effects of taking a “medication vacation” or other discontinuation of health management. Your list could look something like this:
|Problem||Possible Solution||What happens if you “unplug”|
|Too many medications||Talk to your HCP about cutting back. Sometimes when you have multiple meds from multiple MDs, there can be some meds for the same symptoms.||Your disease could get worse over time.
You can have sudden side effects that require hospitalization (like from skipping BP or diabetes meds.)
|Medication side effects||Medication side effects are common and differ between people. It’s vital that you talk to your HCP ASAP about an alternative med. Sometimes just changing the timing or how you take them can make a difference. Don’t suffer or stop taking the meds!||Possible downward spiral of health or a domino effect causing other health issues.|
|Confusion about meds||Ask your pharmacist or your HCP to review your meds, what they are for and when you should take them. Write the info on the bottles.||Confusion about meds (especially if the dose is changed midway through a prescription) can be dangerous.|
|Medical Appointment Fatigue||Ask if all the appointments are necessary or if they could be virtual visits instead for simple issues.||Skipping an appointment could mean not getting refills or not discussing concerns with your HCP. Many offices have months long waiting periods, so if you reschedule, it could be a long wait!|