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The Relationship Between Stress and Blood Sugar

Did you know there’s a link between stress and blood sugar? If you have diabetes, you must be aware of how eating specific foods affect sugar control. 

However, elevated sugar levels are caused by more than just meals. Stress is also a factor.

In truth, stress has a variety of negative effects on your health. It can cause digestive disturbances, headaches, mood swings, and increased sugar levels. For improved health, you have to learn to manage your stress levels.

What Is Stress?

Stress is how you react to any change. It can impact your body and health physically, psychologically, emotionally, mentally, and chemically. You may suffer from work-related, environmental, financial, or health stresses at different times. Sometimes you may have more than one stressor. 

Death, divorce, illness, or the loss of a job are the most stressful events. Basically, any type of loss or change can be stressful. 

Different kinds of stress are: 

  • Acute stress – this occurs for a short period. If you face a dangerous situation or an event where you feel powerless, you may experience a flight or fight response. Humans experience this from time immemorial as it was part of a survival mechanism when they faced danger from the wild and from others. This kind of stress usually resolves when the threat has passed. 
  • Chronic stress – when a stressful situation continues over a long period, you can suffer from chronic stress. This can happen if you are in an unhappy relationship, you are not satisfied with your job, or you have a health condition that may or may not be resolved for any other reason. Occasionally acute stress can turn chronic if you cannot deal with the stressor and get on top of it. 
  • Traumatic stress – a traumatic event can cause this kind of stress. If you face danger to your life during the war, accident, or natural disaster, you can feel highly stressed, and this may take time to resolve. Some people suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that impacts their life in many ways. This needs professional help.

When you experience any type of stress in your life, it has an influence on your health.

Is All Stress Bad?

While stress has a negative connotation, it is not always harmful. If you had no stressors in your life, you would not be able to get lots of things done. For instance, if you do not have deadlines, you may keep procrastinating. Stress that has positive effects is known as eustress. 

You may feel stressed, but in a good way, if you are starting a new job, relationship, house, or state. You will feel excited and look forward to new situations and being able to cope with them. This kind of stress improves your physical and mental well-being.

Similarly, you put your body under stress when you exercise or start a new fitness routine. Every time you lift weights, you are stressing your muscles, bones, and even your skin. This helps keep you fit and tones your body.

The Connection Between Stress And Blood Sugar 

When you are confronted with a stressful situation, your body produces hormones to help you cope.

The three main stress hormones are:

  • Adrenaline – also known as the flight or fight hormone and is released by the adrenal glands. It allows you to feel focused, gives you more energy and strength to deal with a situation. Once the incident is over, you may feel your heartbeat has increased, and you are sweating more than usual. You may also feel exhilarated at coming out of the situation or feeling nervous about what you just faced.
  • Norepinephrine – this chemical is released by the adrenal glands and the brain. It works similarly to adrenaline but is a backup hormone. It can work alongside adrenaline or instead of it if your body does not release sufficient adrenaline. 
  • Cortisol – this is actually the stress hormone. It is released slower than adrenaline and norepinephrine. When a lot of cortisol floods the system during acute stress or a constant stream is released during chronic stress, it increases blood sugar levels in the body. 

Since the body’s response to stress necessitates more energy from you, it releases more sugar into the system. This is how stress and blood sugar are connected.

What Is Diabetes Distress

Do you know what diabetes distress is? This is yet another form of stress that is experienced by people who have diabetes. This kind of stress is an example of the direct connection between stress and blood sugar. 

A diabetes diagnosis can completely change your life. Suddenly you have to be aware of what you eat, how much you exercise, how much medicine or insulin you need to take. You must have a great deal of knowledge and information on how to tackle your diabetes, more so when there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. 

This self-management can also lead to stress, which is referred to as diabetes distress. Daily testing, daily changes, not being able to eat the foods you want, restricting or eliminating alcohol, sweets, sodas, and eating only low glycemic index foods to manage your diabetes can also cause stress.

Diabetes stress can lead to poor sugar management and elevated blood sugar levels. Apart from stress releasing more sugar into your body, poor management aggravates the sugar levels, and this tells you how stress and blood sugar are connected. It can cause exhaustion and even lead to risk-taking behavior that can increase sugar levels further, becoming a vicious cycle.

How Can You Overcome Stress

When you have diabetes, it is even more important to manage your stress. It is vital to manage your diabetes better and not let it permeate all parts of your life. 

Here are some things you can do to overcome stress (or make it work for you):

  • Exercise – even brief periods of walking can help relax you and enable you to deal better with stress. If you can exercise in a gym or join an exercise class, you are away from whatever troubles you, and you can just focus on your physical fitness. This decreases stress levels in your body and reduces blood sugar levels in more ways than one.
  • Meditation – any kind of meditation can help. Whether it is spiritual meditation, cognitive therapy, or even mindfulness while exercising (yoga, tai-chi), controlled breathing. All these have a positive effect of reducing stress. 
  • Journaling – keeping a gratitude journal or writing your thoughts down in a diary will prove to be a stress-buster. If you write down all that you are grateful for daily or any positive things that happened to you every day, you will calm your brain down and release positivity. This will decrease stress and improve blood sugar control. 
  • Hobby – develop a hobby that takes your focus away from you and what is distressing in your situation. You can also simply relax, read a book, listen to music, or take some quiet time and de-stress.

When you understand how stress and blood sugar are linked, it is up to you to manage your stress and sugar levels.

Key Takeaways

  • Stress is part of modern life – you must learn to manage your stress levels and not permit it to negatively affect your health.
  • For people with diabetes, stress can be dangerous – stress and blood sugar have a strong cause-and-effect connection. 
  • Stress hormones cause the body to release more sugar for quick energy, and this increases sugar levels in the body. 
  • Stress has several positives associated with it since it improves focus and concentration, but constant or chronic stress can be debilitating. Managing diabetes can by itself become a stressor for some people. 
  • Once you manage stress, you can stay on top of your sugar levels – you really don’t need any extra work to manage your diabetes and high blood sugar levels, so keeping stress at bay using any form of relaxation is essential for people with diabetes.

It’s true that sticking to your new habits and remaining consistent is never easy, especially if you are stressed most of the time. So, it’s definitely worth trying to find the best tools to help you deal with your condition on a daily basis. There are quite a few app options out there to help you out: mySugr, OneTouch Reveal, or Klinio.

Klinio is designed for people with diabetes who struggle to manage diabetes. This app includes a bunch of features, including an entirely personalized meal plan, a beginner workout program, and a tracking interface for various health metrics.

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