The Impact of Stress if You Have Diabetes

The Impact of Stress if You Have Diabetes

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When you experience stress, your body produces stress hormones. adrenaline and cortisol are two that raise blood sugar. Linked with the body’s natural “fight or flight” response, they provide energy to escape dangerous situations. When levels of these hormones remain high for long periods of time, they can affect your health.

Weight gain, changes in menstrual cycles and libido, along with high blood pressure can all be triggered by high levels of stress hormones. If you have diabetes, they can affect you in another big way.

Stress hormones can cause excess sugar (blood glucose) to stay in the body until it is flushed out through urine. This excess sugar can damage the kidneys. Insulin or oral medications are needed to lower blood glucose levels.

Keep Stress in Check

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. There are lots of triggers. Work, school, issues at home, relationships, illness, money worries – the list is endless when it comes to things that can ratchet up our stress levels. Too much stress can take a serious toll on even the healthiest person. If you have diabetes, stress leaving site icon will make it more difficult to keep your blood sugar levels in check.

Knowing your blood sugar levels is vital to living well with diabetes.  Although a finger *** can be a literal pain, it’s better to know your glucose numbers than be left in the dark.

So, how do you learn to manage and reduce the stress in your life?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Know your triggers. Be aware of the situations, worries, even people who  bring stress into your life. Figure out proactive ways to minimize them or avoid them altogether.  
  • Recognize the symptoms of stress. Everyone reacts to stress differently. Pay attention to your body’s signals to fend off illness, anxiety and other physical effects of stress.
  • Find ways to relax and decompress each day. Count to 10 when you feel stress rear its ugly head. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Just move your body. Afterward, treat yourself to a massage.
  • Practice self-care. If you realize that work is getting to you, take a personal day. Don’t skimp on sleep. Resist the urge to keep everything bottled up inside. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your worries.
  • Consider changes to your insulin therapy or medications. Talk to your diabetes support team (doctors, nurses, diabetic educators) for helpful advice. They are there to help you stay healthy and live well with diabetes.

Stress may be a part of our everyday lives, but when we learn to manage it and understand its effects, we can take better care of ourselves.

Sources: Easing Diabetes Care Stress, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association, 2021; Diabetes and Stress, leaving site icon  American Diabetes Association, 2022Diabetes and Kidney Disease, leaving site icon National Kidney Foundation. 

Originally published 5/13/2017; Revised 2018, 2022

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