Diabetes and stress

Stressed with diabetes?

Stress is an inevitable part of life and can either be mental or physical. Stress can come from a variety of sources, such as injury or illness, family, work, health or financial concerns. Our bodies react to stress in a variety of ways. Stress tells our body to take action, by producing hormones at high levels. These hormones lead to the body making energy, in the form of glucose and fat available for use in the blood. This can be a problem for people with diabetes as sometimes their bodies cannot produce the insulin necessary to allow the extra energy into the cells.

If stress is short term this is not a huge problem. Unfortunately long term stress can lead to blood sugar levels being elevated for extended periods of time. Stress can alter blood glucose levels in many ways. Often people under stress have difficulty managing their blood sugar levels, sometimes forgetting to check their glucose levels or plan good meals. Stress affects everyone differently. If you are diabetic it is important to discover how stress affects your glucose control. For several weeks keep track of your blood sugar, when you write your blood sugar down, write down your stress level on a scale of one to 10. Look for a pattern between your stress level and your glucose level. Some people find stress raises their blood sugar while others find that it lowers their blood sugar. Being aware of how stress affects your blood sugar will allow you to adjust your meal plans and medications accordingly.

When it comes to stress, prevention is obviously the best medicine. Obviously you cannot completely eliminate all stress in your life but you can become a better self-manager of stress. Make changes in your life to reduce the stressors in your life. Other ways to battle stress include beginning a physical activity program, hobby or volunteering. Also consider how you react to stressors. Learn how to relax through breathing techniques, progressive relaxation, exercise and positive thoughts.

Having any chronic disease will add stress to your life. Reducing the stress of living with diabetes is possible. Support groups help you feel like you are not facing these challenges alone and also may give you ideas on how to deal with your challenges.

Michigan State University Extension has a variety of educational options to help you deal with the stressor of diabetes, including our Personal Action Toward Health and Dining with Diabetes classes.

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