October 2016
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Managing stress should be a part of every diabetes management plan

glucose meterWe can experience stress each and every day of our lives.  Stress can be emotional, like problems you might have with your marriage, job, or with thinking you don't have enough money.  Or stress can be physical, such as when you get sick and have an illness.  Diabetes can also bring physical and emotional stress on your life.  Stresses aren’t just something that can give you a headache and make you feel like taking a vacation.  It can also cause your blood glucose levels to go up or down. Stay close to your glucose meter if you are a serious diabetic!


Once you're stressed, your body reacts by pumping stress hormones into your blood.  These hormones will make your body release stored glucose and stored fat so your body can have extra energy.  This extra energy can help your body face things or run away from the situation (remember, your body is trying to protect itself).  The extra glucose and fat can only be used if there's enough insulin in your body.   If you were in a jungle running away from a lion that was chasing you, this process would be extremely beneficial.  But if you're sitting at work or at home stressed out, there's no place for you to use this extra glucose that your body is supplying.

Stress hormones may also play a role in the body not being able to use the insulin it has.  This can lead to high blood glucose and ketones in the blood.


What happens to your body when you're under stress? That depends on the type of stress you're facing.  Physical stress causes the blood glucose to rise in people with diabetes.  Mental stress causes some diabetic's glucose levels to go up and others to go down. To see which type of person you are, you might try doing a test.

First, rate your level of stress before testing.  Is your stress level low, medium or high?  Write that down and then test your blood glucose level.   Do this for a week or two and then see if there are any trends you notice when your stress level is high.  If you notice a trend then you know you need to do something to help you cope better with the stress in your life. Coping with stress might need to become a basic task you need to do for your diabetes management plan.


Before you can figure out how to handle stress you need to figure out where the stress in your life is coming from. What causes stress for you might not cause stress for someone else so you need to make your own list.  Here's a list that might help get you started.

Situations That Can Cause Stress

  • Job
  • Sickness
  • Financial Problems
  • Children
  • Traffic Jams
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Car Trouble
  • Moving



One thing you need to remember is that you can't "control" stress.  Stress can happen anytime, at any place, and in any situation.  Concentrate more on how you react to the stress in your life.  You might need to teach yourself to be calm when something would _usually_ get you upset.  You may need to learn to smile, even though you feel like arguing with someone.  It's difficult, so practice doing this as much as you can.

Learn to recognize the symptoms of stress.  Stress related ymptoms might be different for each person.  When you get stressed do you feel tired, upset, tense, or angry?  Some people may have an upset stomach or a headache.  Once you notice these symptoms appearing try to move as quickly as you can to deal with the stress.  Don't put it off until 'tomorrow'.  Do something about how you're reacting to the stress today.

Your mental attitude is also important. You may "feel" tired and cranky, but that feeling doesn't necessarily have to make you do things that will upset you more.  It's important for you to always remember that this stress isn't good for your diabetes, and that you need to do something to deal with the stress as soon as possible.


Here are some ways you can try to reduce the stress in your life:

1.  Deal with today only.  You can't change yesterday.  And tomorrow isn't here yet.  Try to learn from past  mistakes and apply any lessons learned to today's problems.

2.  Listen to some music you like (take a music break)

3.  Exercise  (exert physical energy)

4.  Go lie down and get some rest

5.  Talk about the stress with others

6.  Write it down.  (start a journal, write about how you feel and what made you feel that way)

7.  Try something new in your life

8.  Stay active (don't give yourself time to fume)

9.  Learn to say "No} to people (at times it's necessary)

10.  Learn to laugh (sometimes a situation is more humorous than you first thought)

11. Think about things in the bigger picture (is my health worth arguing about a #1.00 dry cleaning bill?, etc...)

12. Try not to react immediately...think it over...get a good night's sleep before you say something to people.


Dealing with stress in a better way can help your diabetes management plan be more successful, so give it a try.


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