Stress: It does affect your diabetes control!
Stress is a subject that seems to be a part of routine conversations these days. How many of us when talking to family or friends start a conversation with: ”I am so stressed out with”? … well, you fill in the blank. We have heavy traffic, airport delays, meal planning, preparation, and cleanup, and for patients with diabetes, worries about blood sugar control. Oh yes, we also have work deadlines to meet.
From the time of the “cave man” days, our bodies have been equipped to deal with stress whether it’s an immediate stress such as an animal chasing you or an “imagined” stressor such as wondering how many unexpected holiday guests you will have. The first response to a stressor is known as the “fight or flight” response which causes the release of hormones that stimulate the release of cortisol and norepinephrine. This response helps the body cope with an immediate threat, increasing blood pressure and awareness which gives the body the ability to run or fight, whichever is appropriate for the situation.
The problem is that when faced with chronic worries or stressors, the body continues to release these hormones, which can cause defects in the immune system, higher than normal blood pressure, sleep disturbances, and even increase the aging process. (1) Stress , or cortisol, will also cause blood sugars to rise, as you may have already noticed. High blood sugars can lead to even more stress and feed a vicious cycle in a person with diabetes. Practicing ways to reduce your level of stress will help starve this beast.
It is important, therefore, to minimize stress where we can. I know, easier said than done right? There are ways however, to help derail the stress response so that we can stay healthier and keep blood sugars under control. One of the first steps is recognizing the triggers for stress for you. Each of us have “hot buttons” that seem to make us feel more stressed. For some it’s the mention of a certain relative, like the mother-in-law, or another person that makes us anxious. For others, the idea of meal preparation is overwhelming.
Once you recognize your own triggers, you can learn how to deal with them through mechanisms such as meditation, yoga, or talking to a trusted friend or partner. Finding creative solutions to solve problems before they occur may be a good strategy. For example, delegating meal preparation so you don’t take on all the responsibility. Sometimes being honest and not trying to be superwoman or superman is the best way to handle stress. Asking for help is by no means a weakness; indeed, it takes a strong person to say, “I need a hand”.
To help with stress you need to develop a “me first” mindset. It’s not that you can’t take care of anyone else; it’s just that you need to be healthy physically and mentally to take care of others. Take a long walk, go shopping if that’s what you enjoy; get a massage. By treating yourself you will in turn be better equipped to take care of everything else. Pets are great stress relievers, and it has been shown that people who own pets can live longer. (2)
To help alleviate stress-surround yourself with positive people; focus on things you can change and pamper yourself. Keep in mind that with all the technology available to us these days, sometimes you need to shut down. Don’t watch emails constantly and answer texts at your leisure. Sometimes you need to make “interruption free” time, even if it’s an hour or two. Read a book, try a new hobby, or watch a good movie.
Things that are stressors that may cause blood sugars to fluctuate:
- Chronic or Acute pain
- A sudden lifestyle change such as moving or a divorce
- Sudden illness such as the flu or bronchitis
- Strength Training (can cause a blood sugar surge at times-but this is only a temporary surge, and building strong muscles actually helps stabilize blood sugars)
- Taking exams
- Family turmoil
Remember that at TempraMed we are here to protect you and your insulin from damaging temperatures and to keep you safe.