In this day and age, stress seems hard to avoid. Work or study pressures, family and financial worries are common stresses that many of us face on a daily basis. Stress falls into two categories: emotional, such as a break-up, or physical, like battling the flu.
Studies have also shown that living with diabetes can in itself be a stress. An international study entitled the Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs (DAWN) study showed that the majority of diabetics found living with diabetes to be demanding and stressful. One third of respondents described their overall well-being as poor and about 56% as moderate. The study also indicated that about 50% of patients experienced severe anxiety about their weight, the future and hypoglycaemia.
While the wear and tear of these stresses can take its toll on even the healthiest of bodies, for a diabetic the health implications brought on by stress can be even more dire.
How stress affects diabetes
Your body’s natural response when under stress is a spike in blood glucose levels. Blood glucose is triggered by hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol, which are produced during a state of stress. But diabetics lack the physical coping mechanisms to deal with these fluctuations in blood glucose, meaning that stress can result in a struggle with stabilising already erratic blood glucose levels, resulting in other physical complications.
While most of us tend to neglect to take proper care of ourselves when we’re under stress, prone to eating unhealthy comfort foods and neglecting exercise due to the fatigue that is often linked to dealing with life pressures, these are coping mechanisms that doctors strongly advise against for diabetics. If that’s the case, then diabetics need to find other ways to cope with their stress.
How to manage stress
Diabetes needs constant monitoring and care, and this includes finding ways to manage stress that would not aggravate the condition.
- Identify your stress triggers. Once you know what’s stressing you out, you can decide whether to tackle it head on, or find a way to work around it.
- Make necessary adjustments. Diabetes.org advises that some stresses can be a sign that things need to change. Maybe it’s time to resolve that quarrel with your best friend, or to consider applying for a new job?
- Figure out your coping mechanism. Do you tackle a problem alone, or do you seek help? Do you take your challenges head-on, or do you pretend they’re not there? Identify what works best for you, and on that basis, put together a plan for how you will deal with stress.
- Make time to relax. Whether it’s through yoga, reading a book or catching up with a friend, taking time to relax can have a very positive effect on your stress levels. Furthermore, rather than turning to unhealthy foods as a reward for dealing with a tough situation, make your relaxation time the reward you give yourself for a job well done.
- Don’t let your good habits slip. It might feel like taking care of your health is too much during a stressful period, but it’s important that you maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure you are fighting fit and ready to deal with any challenges your circumstances may throw at you.