Diabetes and Stress

Stress has been proven to instigate changes in blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, this can be problematic. Emotional stress (anxiety, anger, excitement, fear, tension) and physiological stress (injury, infection, illness, pain) cause the body to secrete stress hormones into the blood stream. For those without diabetes, the stress-induced blood sugar rise is followed by an increase in insulin secretion, so this rise in blood sugar is usually temporary. For those with diabetes, however, stress can cause a prolonged increase in blood sugar levels and can be significant.

What is stress? Simply put, stress is a state of emotional strain or tension that occurs when we feel that we can’t cope with pressure. Over time, both physical and mental stress can wear us down mentally and can lead to depression or other health issues. We live in a very stressful society filled with pressures of everyday things such as; work pressure, relationships, parenting, health problems, finances, losses. Symptoms of stress are sometimes subtle and you may not notice them. It’s important to recognize the symptoms to take steps in managing them. If you’re stressed, you may experience headaches, fatigue, sleeping too much or too little, tension or muscle pain. You may feel irritable, anxious, depressed and unmotivated. It’s common for people who are stressed to act out in anger, eat too much or too little or withdraw from friends/coworkers/family. As you can see, finding yourself in an unwanted stressful state, is not good for your health or relationships.

So, what can you do to combat stress? There are a number of ways you can alleviate the feeling of stress. One of the most important is to identify your stress triggers. Sometimes it’s impossible to remove life stresses but understanding what stresses you out will help in solving the underlying problems. Next, develop a regular exercise routine. No matter what your fitness level may be, the key is to simply move your body every day. Identifying the type of exercise that you would most enjoy, is key. Research studies show that physical activity can increase insulin sensitivity and help to lower blood glucose levels. Another tool to counteract stress is mediation and stillness. Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety and stress. “People with anxiety and stress have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains.  Learning mindfulness techniques and practicing them can be helpful with gaining that power back. Two additional ways to tackle what life brings you is nourishing your body with the right foods and getting restful sleep. Both are essential in staying healthy and strong. When choosing foods to reduce stress, include high-fiber, antioxidant-rich foods. Chronic stress can weaken our ability to fight diseases. By upping our intake of fruits and vegetables, we can boost our immune system. Some examples include; acorn squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and citrus fruits. Foods to avoid would be high-fat foods, caffeine and sugar. These items tend to make us feel tired and can contribute to sleep problems. Restful, quality sleep is key in helping approach stressful situations more calmly. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual and stick to a sleep schedule can help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. Evaluate your room, mattress and pillows to establish peaceful conditions needed for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool and free of noise and light. Make sure your mattress is comfortable, supportive and free of any allergens that may affect you. Finally, gratitude is a powerful tool that you can use to expand your happiness, cope with stress, and improve your overall health. Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude, experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t. Starting a gratitude practice is simple yet very effective. One idea is to keep a gratitude journal and add to it daily. Writing down things and people you are grateful for has been shown to reduce stress. Reducing stress can be as easy as avoiding negative media and movies. Instead, watch inspiring videos and use the information in your daily practice of giving back.

Stress management is all about taking charge of your life, thoughts, emotions, health and how you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life seems, you can regain control!