Stress and Diabetes (cont.)
"In diabetes, because of either an absolute lack of insulin, such as type 1 diabetes, or a relative lack of insulin, such as type 2, there isn't enough insulin to cope with these hormones, so blood sugar levels rise," says Richard Surwit, PhD, vice chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center and author of The Mind Body Diabetes Revolution.
Anything upsetting like going through a breakup or being laid off is certainly emotionally draining. Being down with the flu or suffering from a urinary tract infection places physical stress on the body. It's generally these longer-term stressors that tax your system and have much more effect on blood sugar levels.
The problem may be compounded because under these pressures, you may lose your appetite and skimp on eating, or reach for not-so healthy quick fixes like candy or chips. Some people actually "stress eat" (overeat during stressful periods). Others skip their daily workout because they're too strained or run down to keep it up, which can create a vicious cycle since exercise is an excellent way to lower blood sugar.
"The most important thing is to learn what it feels like when stress hormones are elevated," Sledge tells WebMD. For some diabetic people, prolonged illness or distress will keep their blood sugar levels up for lengthy periods of time. Often insulin will be needed or adjusted during this period, so recognizing periods of stress is crucial for people with diabetes.
Since stress has virtually become a way of life, you may not even notice you're frazzled. A lot of people will identify stressors such as an illness in the family (something large) but may not recognize the stress of the holidays or a hectic time at work (something smaller or shorter in duration). Being in tune to your stress level and how you feel when the going gets tense is important. One good gauge is writing down your stress level in a journal each time you check your blood sugar. Many glucose meters have the capability to enter personal notes and data when you perform checks, or jot it down in a stress journal. "Once you begin recording stress levels, most people with diabetes figure out pretty quickly what makes their blood sugar go up," says Surwit.
Learn to De-stress
"Stress plays a more direct role in the control of blood sugar than it does in any other disease," Surwit tells WebMD. People with diabetes should stay conscious of eating well and exercising regularly. It's a good idea to check blood glucose levels more frequently when you're ill or under stress and to drink plenty of fluids as so as not to get dehydrated.