WHAT CAN I DO?

How to stress less – It affects your blood glucose

Did you know that stress can impact your blood glucose levels? It’s true. Read more to find out why this happens and how you can avoid it.

Stress and blood glucose

Stress may be physical, for example, illness, injury or surgery. Or it may be mental/emotional, such as the stress caused by challenging life events – a breakup, financial difficulty or the loss of a loved one.1

Both physical and emotional stress can impact blood glucose levels.1

During stressful situations, the body releases several hormones, including adrenaline, glucagon and cortisol – these can all affect blood glucose levels.1 Generally, when stressed, our blood glucose levels rise. For a person with diabetes, this can mean more difficulty controlling their blood glucose during times of stress.1

Stress also can affect your blood glucose levels indirectly by causing you to forget about your regular diabetes care routine. When you’re stressed out, you might:

  • Exercise more or less.
  • Eat more or less.
  • Eat less healthy foods.
  • Not test your blood glucose level as often.
  • Forget or delay a dose of medication.

Is stress affecting your blood glucose levels?

Follow these steps every day for a week or two to find out if your blood glucose levels are being affected by emotional stress:

  1. Rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 indicates the lowest stress level and 10 the highest; record your stress level in your log book.
  2. Test your glucose using your home monitor and enter the result.
  3. After a week or two, study your results to see if there is a pattern or relationship between your stress level and your blood glucose levels.

Top tips to reduce emotional stress

Physical stress, such as illness, is often unavoidable. But there is a lot we can do to keep everyday mental or emotional stress to a minimum. Here are some suggestions:

Practise regular meditation or other relaxation techniques.
Teach yourself to relax when under stress using deep-breathing exercises or other techniques you learn in a stress-management class.
Evaluate your schedule and determine if you can make changes to reduce stress. Perhaps you are trying to do too much?
Ask for help when you need it. Your family and friends will be glad to lend a hand.
Try to include at least one pleasant activity into each day – something that you find enjoyable and relaxing.
Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet.

You can learn more about stress and effective ways to manage it online. If you notice that stress is having a strong impact on your blood glucose levels, speak to your healthcare professional.

Information about diabetes

After a diagnosis, your healthcare team will likely provide you with lots of information about diabetes, any medications you may need, and other strategies to help manage your diabetes.
So much information can be overwhelming, but your healthcare team will likely provide you with resources you can take home and look at in your own time. Other reliable sources for information about diabetes are the Diabetes Australia website and the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) website.

If you have any questions or concerns, ask your healthcare team – remember, they are there to help.

Reference

  1. Diabetes Teaching Centre at the University of California, San Francisco. Blood sugar & stress. Available at: https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/understanding-type-2-diabetes/how-the-body-processes-sugar/blood-sugar-stress. Accessed 28 October 2018.