It’s normal to experience stress throughout your life at some or the other point. Simply put, stress is the resultant when something causes your body to behave as if it were under attack. Sources of stress can be physical, like injury or illness. They can be mental, like problems in your marriage, job, health, or finances. Also, if you don’t understand bodily changes by health problems, one can start to stress.
When an individual experiences stress, a fight-or-flight response kicks in, which is our body’s physical reaction to it, accompanied by hormone release of epinephrine (or adrenaline) and cortisol (or fat-layering hormone), which triggers liver to produce extra glucose that cells use to escape from problem.
Stress worsens your diabetes
For a diabetic, such a spike of glucose can be extremely harmful, as rise in glucose owing to stress and cortisol release isn’t managed well. This can lead to cardiovascular problems like stroke, higher cholesterol, and neuropathic diseases. Various studies indicate that diabetics are less able to bring their blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels back to normal after a stressful test, compared to an otherwise healthy adult.
Early signs of being under stress
To identify if you are stressed, check if you experience frequent headaches, muscle pain or tension, sleeping too much or too little, general feelings of illness and fatigue. You may also be experiencing behavioural changes like withdrawing from friends and family, eating too much or too little, acting out in anger, consuming alcohol in excess and using tobacco.
Impact on diabetes management
The fact is that a stressed person is also less likely to take care of them-self, having adverse consequences to diabetic condition owing to:
- Faltering in eating habits (not paying attention to the quality or quantity of food consumed)
- Frequency of checking blood glucose levels
- Increase of alcohol consumption or drug abuse
- Reduction in exercise levels needed
- Excessive and unchecked stress can lead to anxiety and possibly depression
Keeping stress in check
The step one of de-stressing is accepting that you are facing some issues, for which you need a solution. Once, an acceptance of the problem is there, it’s just a matter of time that you get the most fitting solution. As far as de-stressing is concerned, a few techniques are as mentioned:
- Eliminate cause of stress: One cannot completely de-stress in life, but you can reduce it by problem solving and brainstorming alternatives. For example, to avoid rush-hour traffic, try changing your time or adopt a new route. If a relationship is troubling you, see if you can make amends. If you find you cannot accomplish tasks at hand, find new ways to get organized, etc.
- Exercise: Along with additional benefit of lowering blood sugar levels, exercise helps to release endorphins in the body which alleviate pain and reduce negative effects of stress. It aids in diffused thinking, helping you to solve problems even when you don’t try consciously.
- Deep breathe: A slow and controlled breathing practice can help de-stress at any time. Yoga is a great way to combine deep breathing with meditative stretching for optimal stress relief.
- Recite Affirmations: Replacing negative sentiments with “I can fix this,” or “It can be solved,” can make a huge difference in how you deal with daily stressors.
- Communicate: At times, we all feel bottled up, which leads to stress. It’s always a good idea to talk out your feelings with your family or friends or healthcare provider. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, as often you can get great advice from those who have been there or can understand.
Dealing with diabetes-related stress
Diabetes management is a lifelong process. This can add stress to your daily life. There are ways to reduce the stresses of living with diabetes. Think about the aspects of life with diabetes that are the most stressful for you. It might be taking your medication, or checking your blood glucose levels regularly, or exercising, or eating as you should. Discuss with your healthcare provider to address your problems and explain the solutions.
Another way is to join support groups. Knowing other people in the same situation can help you become more involved. You can also learn other people’s hints for coping with problems. Making friends in a support group can lighten the burden of diabetes-related stresses.