Diabetes

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Stress and Diabetes

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Blood sugar control and stress are linked — here’s what you can do about it

 

By Laura Magnifico

 

You may recognize stress as a major contributor to certain health issues, such as headaches, tummy troubles, problems sleeping, and even weight gain. But you may have missed another potential victim of stress: your blood sugar. 

 

The Effects of Stress on Your Blood Sugar

When your brain perceives what seems to be a threatening event, it releases powerful hormones that cause your heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose all to rise — priming the body for the “flight-or-fight” response. However, when stress becomes chronic, such as when you're having financial problems or going through a divorce, your body is repeatedly bombarded by the release of these hormones, and that can adversely affect your diabetes management. 

Often that happens because when you're under stress, your routine of healthy habits may suffer: you might forget to take medication, drink more alcohol than usual, or neglect your good eating and exercise habits. While this type of behavior is bad for anyone (especially if the "I'm stressed" routine becomes the new normal), when you have diabetes, it can put your health on the line. 

That’s why managing stress is critical to good diabetes care. While there are many things you can do to relieve stress quickly, it’s also important to make stress relief a regular part of your lifestyle. Here are some easy ways to make your life a little easier, happier and calmer.

 

Tips for Stress Relief

  • Chat with family and friends. Laughter (and friendship!) is the best medicine. Take some time to chat with people that make you laugh.
  • Ditch bad habits. Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase blood pressure. If you smoke, make it a goal to quit now. If you drink, stick to one drink a day for women, two for men.
  • Get enough sleep. Aim to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. You’ll wake up refreshed, clear-headed and ready to take on the day.
  • Get organized. A messy house or workstation can cause stress levels to rise just by looking at it. Make a to-do list to help you focus and tackle big tasks one small step at a time so you’re not overwhelmed.

If everyday stress management techniques like these don’t help you lighten your load, talk to your healthcare team about diabetes distress, which is characterized by a feeling of significant burden associated with your diabetes management, and may require help from a therapist or psychologist.  

 

Published on May 6, 2016. Updated on April 28, 2016.

 

Laura A. Magnifico is a freelance writer living in Stamford, CT. Additional reporting by Brittany Doohan.

 

 

monkeybusinessimages/iStock/ThinkStock
Reviewed by Shira R. Goldenholz, MD, MPH on May 3, 2016.
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