Diabetes and Stress – Here are the Facts.



Diabetes and Stress Management

When your body faces something which makes it feel as if it were under attack from something, you feel stress.The causes of stress may be physical and come in the form of illness or injury. The causes may also be mental, such as problems faced by you in marriage, finances, job, or health.

When stress happens, there is a readiness to take action. This readiness for action is known as the fight-or-flight response. For such a response, many types of hormones are released into the body. This results in much energy which has been stored up, such as sugar and fat, becoming available to the body cells. The cells can then be ready to assist the body move away from danger.

For diabetics, the fight-or-flight reaction is not able to perform well because insulin cannot have the additional energy absorbed into the cells and the sugar in the bloodstream increased.

How Does Stress Affects Diabetes

A lot of things which cause stress are threats which last for some time. For instance, a person takes a long time to recover from the stress of surgery. Stress hormones which are suitable only for short-term stress have to remain for a many weeks or months and this results in long-term high levels of blood sugar.

Most long-term causes of stress come from mental problems. Sometimes, the mind can react to something harmless as though it was really a threat. Similar to physical stress, mental stress may be for just a short while, like taking a test or being in an afternoon traffic jam. Working under a demanding superior or caring for a naughty child can be considered long-term mental stress. When it comes to mental stress, there is no point in having stress hormones sent out by the body since there is nothing to fight or flee from as the “enemy” comes from your mind.

Stress can change levels of blood sugar in diabetics in the following two ways:

  • Stressed diabetics usually do not look after themselves well. They possibly drink too much alcohol or forget about exercising. They may neglect to test their blood to know their levels of blood sugar or their meal plans.
  • Stress hormones can also directly change the levels of blood sugar.

Studies have been done on stress and its effects on levels of blood sugar in people and animals.Physical and mental stress on diabetic mice showed an increase in sugar levels. The effects on type 1 diabetics are inconclusive. Although many diabetics’ sugar levels increase when stressed mentally, others’ sugar levels reduce. In type 2 diabetics, mental stress usually causes an increase in levels of blood sugar. Higher levels of blood sugar results when faced with physical stress like illness or injury, for both types of diabetics.

It is not difficult to know how your sugar control can be affected by mental stress. Using a scale of 1 to 10, rate the level of your mental stress. Record the rating. Then, test your blood to know the level of your blood sugar. Write your sugar level beside the stress rating. Do this whenever you feel mental stress. After about two weeks, look for a pattern in your record. A graph using the information from your record can assist you to see the pattern. Find out if high levels of sugar usually happen with high levels of stress, low levels of sugar with low levels of stress. If this is the case, then, stress does affect your control of sugar.


Tips on managing stress for people with diabetes – Video Guide

Reducing Mental Stress

Making changes

There are way you can remove some of life’s stresses. For instance, if traffic jams frustrates you, there is always another route to your destination. If something causes you to be upset, avoid that something. And if your boss makes things difficult for you, talk to him about the problem, get a transfer or look for another job if necessary. For the above problems, stress is just an indication that there is a need for change.

Activities can also help to reduce stress:

  • Join a team involved in some kind of sports or begin some kind of exercise.
  • Learn to dance or be a dancing club member.
  • Have a totally new hobby or  learn some kind of craft.
  • Volunteer to do something for a charity or hospital.

Coping Style

Coping style is a way of overcoming whatever affects a person’s reaction to stress. It involves the way a person can deal with the problem of stress. For instance, there are people try to get out of a stressful situation by changing the situation. With an attitude of problem solving, they ask themselves what they can do about the problem.

There are those who just accept the situation and, by doing so, remove the stress. By telling themselves that the situation is not so difficult or stressful, they accept the problem and stress is no more.

The above are two useful ways of coping with stress. People who apply them to their stressful situations have less increase of blood sugar when reacting to  their mental stress in life.

Learning to Relax

Having control over stress by using relaxation seem to work for some diabetics, although it works better for type 2 diabetics than type 1 diabetics and this difference is expected. Insulin is prevented from being released when the body of someone with type 2 diabetes is stressed. So, removing stress is useful for type 2 diabetics. Since type 1 diabetics do not have insulin released by their bodies, reduction of stress is not helpful. Certain type 2 diabetics are very sensitive to certain stress hormones. Relaxing will remove stress and the release of the hormones.

Below are some of the ways you can relax:

  • Be positive : Every time a negative thought enters your mind, consciously think of something positive which can bring you happiness and pride.You can also learn a saying, poem, or prayer to use as replacement for any negative thought.
  • Exercise : Moving your body using a variety of movements can relax it. Three types of movements can be used to achieve relaxation and they are shaking body parts, stretching and circling. For a more enjoyable session, use music.
  • Progressive relaxation therapy : For this technique, you tense your muscles, and then, have them relaxed. This technique is taught in a clinic or by using an audio tape.
  • Breathing exercises : Either lie down or sit comfortably. Have your legs and hands uncrossed.First, breathe in deeply. Next, send out all the air. Breathing in and out again, consciously relax your muscles as you breathe out. Carry on breathing and relaxing, each time for at least 5 minutes. Do this breathing exercise once or twice each day.

Whichever method you pick to help you relax, practice it well. It may take some time; weeks or months perhaps. Similar to learning a new sport, it takes some time to practice and be good at being relaxed.

Dealing with Diabetes-Related Stress

Having diabetes is one of some causes of stress which will always remain, regardless of what you do. However, there are ways to lessen the stress faced when living with diabetes. There are support groups to assist you. Knowing other diabetics makes you a part of a group, not alone.You also learn from the others how to cope with certain problems Having friends who face the same problems can make stresses brought by diabetes more bearable.

Having to deal with issues concerning diabetes care can be of assistance too. Think about the parts which are really stressful. Is taking medicine one of them? Perhaps, it is eating right for a diabetic, exercising, or blood sugar monitoring.

There are times when stress is so serious, you may feel you no longer can take it. If help is needed, there is always someone from your health care team who can give you a referral. Psychotherapy or counseling may be helpful. Discussing your problem with a therapist may be the right move. You may then be able to cope with new ways or learn how to change your own attitude towards the problem.


  • There is physical as well as mental stress.
  • Stress can take you away from focusing on proper diabetes care or bring undesirable effects on your blood sugar levels.
  • Being able to relax and having a healthier lifestyle can lessen mental stress.
*** Posted By Natasha A.Nada ***