The Impact of Stress on Diabetes

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Diabetes and Stress

I was wondering – how stressed do you have to be for that stress to have an impact on blood glucose levels if you have diabetes?

My life is hectic. Like most parents I am a taxi-driver, chef, housemaid, personal shopper, interior designer, financial adviser and relationship counselor.

In addition to that I am a self-employed writer with multiple weekly deadlines and have been diagnosed with a chronic fatigue/pain condition along with type 2 diabetes, and as a result of all this I feel permanently stressed!

Anyone who has diabetes and tests their blood regularly using a finger-prick type test will occasionally get odd unexpected results. Then you get to play the fascinating game of “Why is my glucose too high/too low?” taking into account what you’ve eaten or not eaten, the weather, illness and of course – stress!

Stress and anxiety or physical stress caused by illness or injury can make your body pump out “fight or flight” hormones.

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These make your heartbeat and breathing speed up and send glucose stores racing into your blood to generate energy to be immediately available to your muscles. AND they make it more difficult for the pancreas to secrete the insulin your body needs to move glucose out of the blood.

I’ve read that if you think that stress might be affecting your blood glucose there is a relatively simple way of checking.

Set aside two weeks and every time you check your blood sugar levels pause and think about how stressed or anxious you feel. Use a scale of one to 10, with one being how you feel after a relaxed lie-in or chilling at the end of the day. Ten would be the worst day of your life when everything went wrong.

Make a note of your number, and if possible the root cause of your stress, and hopefully at the end of the two weeks you will be able to see A) if stress does affect your blood sugar levels and B) if there are stressful situations that can be avoided in future.

I’ve found out that ideally I need to avoid the school run chaos every day – something that’s unlikely to be possible. Instead, I try to keep calm and remind myself that if occasionally the girls go to school with messy ponytails or if the boys are wearing odd socks, the universe will not implode.

I also decided to prioritize making my own breakfast, as so often I would skip my own food to make sure everyone was ready and then would suffer a sugar low.

This would lead to me wolfing down the first thing I could find in my kitchen when I got home which more often than not was another cuppa with a handful of cookies – bringing on a sugar-rush and subsequent crash of course!

Solution? We get the children to prepare schoolbags and uniforms the night before, with the idea being that they can get ready in minutes in the morning. In practice of course that rarely actually happens.

I also get up a little earlier so I have time for a vital caffeine hit and a quick shower before the slow, sleepy-eyed children wind me up. I’ve even persuaded my husband to bring me said coffee in bed so I start each day calm but fully awake.

I’ve also discovered another good reason to keep my husband bringing me coffee in bed avoid stress that will help my blood glucose levels.

Apparently if you are worried, anxious or stressed you are much more likely to overeat or eat the “wrong” foods. Of course there are really no wrong foods, even for diabetics, but it’s wise to keep the phrase “everything in moderation” in mind at all times – especially when stress eating has you reaching for your third doughnut.

Stress also encourages fat to collect in the abdominal cells. As an apple-shaped diabetic I know carrying excess weight around the middle of your body is the worst from a health perspective. It’s not great for fashion either, as apart from maternity wear not many clothing ranges cater for waistless women.

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