When it comes to stress, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that stress is unavoidable, especially in today’s fast-paced society. Whether it’s something small like taking a test or a larger event, such as getting a divorce, stress affects everybody. When you have diabetes, you may find this tension is affecting your blood glucose levels. The good news is that stress is manageable, often with small lifestyle changes. Read on for helpful tips on how to control your sugars under high stress and steps you can take to stop sweating the small stuff.
How does stress affect diabetes?
When you’re in a stressful situation, your body releases hormones that prepare you to either face the stressor or run away. (Think fight or flight response.) Your body can’t fight or flee when sugars are too low. As a result, stress hormones can cause your blood glucose to rise.
Stress can also plays an important role in diabetes management. People who under a time-crunch may skip their regular trips to the gym and stop monitoring their blood sugar levels. When stress levels get too high, some people may try to cope with unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and binge eating.
A little stress every now and then is normal, even healthy. But those who are constantly worried or on-edge may suffer from prolonged high blood sugar. According to WebMD, blood sugar levels that are too high for too long can lead several complications. These include blindness, kidney problems, cardiovascular complications, and nerve damage.
How to cope with stress
“Coping” is the term used to describe ways people learn to deal with stress. One healthy way to cope with stress is by working to improve the stressful situation. For example, if traffic jams during your morning commute make your blood boil, try leaving for work a few minutes early. Or, try taking a new route that has fewer stoplights and less crowded streets.
Adjusting your attitude is another healthy way you can learn to cope with everyday stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who think positive thoughts live longer and have stronger immune systems. They are also less at-risk for developing conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure. The next time the highway is at a dead stop on your way to work, take a deep breath, smile, and think happy thoughts. The traffic will move again soon, your car wasn’t involved in an accident, and now you have more time to listen to the radio.
Finally, making an effort to keep up healthy habits can keep stress levels at bay and your blood sugar levels closer to a healthy range. Swamped with homework? Instead of skipping your entire workout, go for a short, 15-minute walk. If you’re craving sweet and salty snacks, reach for nuts and a piece of fruit instead of chips and ice cream. A good night’s sleep can also help reduce stress by improving your mood and lowering your blood sugar. After the recommended 7-8 hours of shut-eye, you may also find that you see your problems in a new light.
Photo courtesy of Becky Wetherington on Flickr