Diabetes: what is the impact of stress on blood sugar?
Published Nov 14, 2022 • By Candice Salomé
Diet, certain medical conditions and lack of exercise can affect blood sugar levels. But did you know that stress can also be a factor influencing blood sugar levels?
However, stress can be complicated to treat. In addition, each type of stress can have a different influence on blood glucose levels and its impact varies from patient to patient.
So how does stress affect blood sugar? What can be done about it?
We tell you everything in our article!
The interactions between stress and diabetes are complex. Stress can contribute to the development of diabetes, but living with diabetes can cause stress.
Why does stress affect blood glucose levels?
Sources of stress are common: a lot of pressure at work, an argument with a friend, bad news... Faced with these situations, the body needs to adapt. The body will then secrete various hormones, including adrenaline (during acute stress) and cortisol (in case of chronic stress), which can lead to a rise in blood sugar levels in some people.
For patients with diabetes, the body is unable to manage the influx of sugar into the bloodstream due to ineffective, insufficient or no insulin, resulting in high blood sugar.
For some patients, stress can become a disruptive element in the control of their diabetes by adopting detrimental behaviors to cope with it. Indeed, some will tend to snack more or, on the contrary, others will be unable to eat and will then skip meals... These coping strategies to stress will strongly disrupt the blood sugar balance.
Finally, some diabetic patients may neglect their medication or be less precise in their dosage, which will contribute to poor blood sugar control.
How do you know if stress is affecting your blood sugar?
Everyone has moments of anxiety or faces stressful situations. These events are bound to cause physiological reactions in everyone. But what causes you stress may have no effect on someone else.
It is important to observe the moments that cause you to feel stress and to analyze them. Ask yourself: what factors might be affecting your blood sugar?
It may be helpful to keep track of all the times your blood sugar has risen in response to emotional stress to determine possible causes.
So, here are 3 steps to follow to determine if stress is actually affecting your blood sugar:
- Try to rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 indicates very low stress when 10 means you are very stressed). In a logbook, record your stress level, the situation and your emotions at the time.
- Measure your blood sugar and record the result in your logbook
- Repeat this exercise for 1 or 2 weeks and then study your results. This will allow you to determine if there is a link between your blood sugar levels and your stress level.
How can I reduce my stress?
Being able to manage stress levels is important for patients with diabetes in order to better control the disease. There are a number of activities that can be done to reduce stress.
Regular physical activity
Physical activity triggers the production of endorphins and provides a feeling of well-being that acts directly on stress. In fact, sustained effort and the concentration required to practice a physical activity allow the evacuation of negative emotions that are sources of stress.
For example, endurance sports force you to manage your efforts over a long period of time and to concentrate on your breathing. They prepare the body to better resist stress. Practicing them in the open air is also beneficial because it helps to escape and to change the horizon.
The practice of mediation
Mindfulness meditation allows you to learn to concentrate and refocus on your inner self. It helps to clear one's head, releases psychological and physical tensions and helps to reduce stress significantly.
Follow a psychotherapy
Psychotherapy can be a good way to understand the reasons for your stress but also to learn how to better manage the emotions that result from it.
Set aside time for yourself
These special moments, whether with family or friends, through massages or cosmetic treatments, by doing an activity that gives you pleasure such as reading, crafts, creative arts... are all moments that will allow you to clear your mind and stop thinking about your concerns.
Most patients with diabetes are aware of the importance of regular physical activity, healthy eating and rest. But stress management is a crucial element that is often overlooked in diabetes management.
More research is needed to understand the different physiological mechanisms that explain the relationship between diabetes and stress.
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