Have you considered how stress affects your blood sugar?
Simply dealing with the day to day management of diabetes is stressful and can become an obstacle to preventing a roller coaster of harmful reactions.
The first thing that happens when you’re stressed is that your nerve cells flood your body with adrenaline and cortisol…Your body reacts like it’s “fight or flight” time, even under mild stress.
- The problem for diabetics is that your body may not have the ability to process this sudden rush of glucose.
Relentless stress, whether it comes from a diabetic condition or other problems will eventually cause mental and physical distress, making your diabetes management even more difficult.
The Vicious Cycle
In addition, you may find it more difficult to manage your blood sugars during stressful times because hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine go straight into your bloodstream.
- The glucose builds up in the bloodstream and your body may not be able to turn it into energy with all the interference, causing your blood sugar (glucose levels) to rise.
Two Kinds Of Stress:
➡ Mental stress may affect those with Type 2 Diabetes, by raising your glucose levels, which, of course, may cause you even more stress…and the cycle begins.
➡ Type 1 diabetics can experience either an increase or a decrease in blood glucose levels during times of mental stress.
➡ Physical stress such as an illness or injury may also increase blood sugar with both type 1 or 2 diabetes.
- Keep track of dates when you were especially stressed, to help you detect patterns while learning to work around them with your diet and exercises routines.
When you become aware of those “stress triggers” that increased your blood sugar you can take the necessary steps to reduce them.
- For example, if you become mentally stressed when you have an important deadline to meet, you may need to set more short-term goals so you can reach the deadline without bringing stress into the mix.
- You can further define your stress triggers by rating the stress level from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest stress level.
- Write the number down and then check your glucose levels.
It won’t take long for you to see a pattern of the types of stress that elevate your blood sugar.
It’s much easier to fight the enemy when you can see it coming…
- It’s to give you the energy you’ll need in the fight-or-flight response at the point you need it the most.
But most of us don’t have to flee from a challenge anymore. People without diabetes usually have systems that keep the blood sugar from rising.
- Unfortunately, the system doesn’t work properly when you have diabetes, thus the levels spiraling out of control.
Unless you can control the levels with diet, exercise, and medications, you may experience some other health complications.
Chronic Stress Can Cause Bodily Harm to a Diabetic
Chronic stress can lay the groundwork for certain diseases and types of illnesses, even for non-diabetics. WithType 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, however, stress can and will cause much more damage.
- Diabetics simply don’t have enough insulin to cope with the rise in blood sugar that chronic stress causes.
Chronic stress to a diabetic is like a chisel and a hammer continuously pounding on a rock holding up a statue. Sooner or later, that rock will wear down and the statue will fall.
- Your body will do the same unless you find a way to control the stress.
Chronic stress can lead to some serious medical problems in diabetics. They include:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Kidney problems
- Nerve problems
When chronic stress affects the nerves, foot numbness may occur.
- The fallout from this is that you’re much more prone to injuries and infections that are difficult to heal.
Stress may also cause you to binge eat or not eat enough, both of which are harmful to diabetics.
- Chronic stress caused by emotional issues such as a divorce or loss of a job can cause a jumble of negative reactions in your body that can affect your diabetes negatively.
Physical stress from illnesses such as the flu, chronic pain or headaches can also be a problem, but it’s the longer-lasting stressors that have more of an effect on diabetes.
People living with chronic stress often stop exercising. This is the worst thing you can do because exercise stimulates increased levels of endorphins, which are building blocks to feeling positive, optimistic, healthy and enjoying life.
Stress is physically and emotionally draining.
Of course, this creates more problems and compounds old ones. And the vicious cycle of blood sugar highs and lows begins or continues.
- You may go through periods when you don’t realize you’re stressed, but it can silently wreak havoc on your emotional and mental state of mind.
By learning to recognize the symptoms of stress, especially by monitoring your blood sugar levels, you’ll be better prepared to manage them and their causes successfully.
Other symptoms of stress may include:
- Persistent headaches
- Muscle pain
- Too much or too little sleep
- Feeling as if you’re coming down with an illness.
- Reacting in negative ways such as withdrawing from social activities, becoming irritable and angry
- Eating and drinking (alcohol) too much
And, all of these symptoms can, in turn, cause you to feel anxious and unmotivated.
And round and round you go.
If you’re a diabetic, it’s especially imperative that you take steps to reduce your stress levels before it causes more severe medical complications.
Everyone will have stress periodically, but it’s the long-lasting stress that causes a problem for diabetics.
Monitoring Stress and Blood Sugar Levels Is Important for Diabetics
Self-monitoring is an important tool for preventing or managing complications related to chronic stress.
- If you have symptoms of stress, you should monitor your blood sugar levels very closely to see how the stress is affecting you.
Try to find a solution to the stress you’re experiencing and then test it again until you find a solution that works.
Keep trying: Chronic or long-term stress may call for an adjustment to your medications. Your physician and/or diabetic educator can be your first line of defense.
- The stressed-out diabetic must go the extra mile to relieve the symptoms of stress and find solutions to lessen the effects on their blood sugar.
You may not be able to keep stress out of your life, but you can change the way you handle it.
Receiving a diagnosis of diabetes changes many things about how you live your life. You may need to make some lifestyle changes to cope with the diabetic condition. If you’ve lived a stressful life and now have to cope with diabetes, it’s important that you make changes immediately.
Some drastic changes may be the only answer to reducing or eliminating the stress in your life.
- You may need to change jobs, end a toxic relationship or even move to a new environment to get relief.
Taking a long, hard look at yourself and how you’re living your life is a good way to start understanding what’s causing stress in your life and how you can reduce or eliminate the problems.
- Remind yourself that you’re dealing with a disease that is psychologically and physically challenging and can interfere with your current lifestyle.
First, you must adjust to the disease and begin to follow the treatment plan.
- This may cause stress in the form of depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
Situations that began as normal stress may turn in to chronic stress. Chronic stress is like putting your body on high alert. If it continues for a long stretch of time, complications will develop.
- Some strategies that have been proven to work include exercise, keeping a routine and getting adequate sleep.
- If you aren’t already exercising, it’s time to begin. Vary cardio exercises or strength training with relaxation exercises for a complete fix.
Developing a routine can also fight chronic stress. Routines are predictable and can lessen the stress you feel on a daily basis.
- Routines also help manage diabetes by giving you clear-cut times during which you test your blood glucose levels or take medications.
It’s also helpful to eat at specific times so your body gets used to the rise and fall of glucose levels. When you know the process you can manage it better.
When your blood glucose levels suffer from the stress in your life, it’s time to make serious changes.
- Seek social support or therapy from a professional if you can’t manage your stress levels on your own.
A few stress management solutions you might consider are listed at the bottom of the page.
And, as always, if you need any help getting started, or finding what will work for you personally, feel free to drop me a note using the Get In Touch link at the top of the page. Your communications come straight to me, are not public and there is never a fee.
How To Help Yourself: