Managing diabetes can be stressful. Managing diabetes and stress can be overwhelming. As outside and diabetes-related stress mount, you might find yourself in a cycle that doesn’t seem to end. But there are ways you can take the pressure off and take control of your life. Read on for some suggestions.
How diabetes causes stress
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be scary, stressful and lonely. More so when considering a new routine: meticulously tracking what you eat, consistently checking blood sugar levels and perhaps facing it by yourself. As you get used to a new lifestyle, or find hurdles in living with diabetes, it’s important to consider your stress levels.
How stress impacts diabetes
Increased stress can cause the body to release hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) that raise blood sugar levels. As adrenaline and cortisol levels rise, muscle and fat become less sensitive to insulin, making it difficult for insulin to work as effectively, or even at all. When insulin can’t break down those cells properly you face the possibility of hyperglycemia. And while stress doesn’t necessarily cause diabetes, there is a link between stress and increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
How to balance stress and diabetes
Managing a diabetic lifestyle isn’t easy. But there are ways to ease that stress. How can you make aspects of food tracking, managing blood sugar and acquiring insulin more manageable? How can you manage your body’s health while maintaining good mental health?
- Be kind to yourself: Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes or have lived with it for several years, be kind to yourself. While there are things you can do to better manage your insulin and blood sugar levels, there remain aspects that you can’t control. Focus on what you can control and be forgiving with the rest.
- Talk to someone: Our physical well-being often impacts our mental well-being. As you navigate and battle those challenges, seek to speak with someone about how you’re doing. It can be a trusted friend, therapist or loved one.
- Establish a pattern of daily living: One of the trickiest parts of maintaining a diabetic lifestyle is diet. But by planning meals ahead of time, you can avoid the stress of deciding what to eat in the moment. Plan ahead each week for medication pick-ups, doctor’s appointments and time to relax.
- Plan ahead: Know that you’ll be attending a party where dessert will be present? Plan ahead and consider bringing an alternative treat for yourself. But it can be hard to do that for every circumstance. Prioritize your health and decide beforehand what you’ll do or won’t do.
- How to make it easier: Modern inventions like insulin pumps and wearable blood sugar monitors can make some of the hardest aspects of diabetic living, easier. You might also consider apps like MyFitnessPal that can break down food so you know exactly how much sugar or carbs go into what you’re eating. If you need methods for lower-cost insulin, you might want to outsource or seek out patient assistance programs.
While life will never be void of stress, there are ways you can manage, if not decrease, the amount of stress you face. According to the CDC, “Once you know how stress affects your blood sugar level, fight back. Learn relaxation techniques, prioritize your tasks and set limits. Whenever possible, avoid common stressors. Exercise can often help relieve stress and lower your blood sugar level.”
Living with diabetes can bring a myriad of challenges, but also personal growth. Diabetes can nurture discipline and healthy living. While it’s not always easy, there are ways to balance stress and live life more fully. Click here for more information on El Camino’s services.
This article first appeared in the February 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.