Practically every person with a diabetes diagnosis occasionally feels stressed out due to their condition. Diabetes management can be demanding enough on its own, and balancing this process with your day-to-day life makes things even more difficult. As if that wasn’t enough, stress can have an impact on your blood glucose levels.
The good news is that you don’t have to let stress run your life. Here, you’ll find valuable advice on stress management for diabetes patients, including methods of tracking your stress levels and common-sense steps you can take to reduce stress.
How Is Diabetes Linked to Stress?
If you want to fully understand how to handle stress with type 2 diabetes, knowing the effects stress can have on the human body is crucial. When you encounter a stressor, you’ll enter a state known as the “fight-or-flight response.” In this state, your respiratory rate will increase and adrenaline and cortisol will be released into your bloodstream. These hormones can directly affect your blood glucose.
When people with type 2 diabetes deal with stressful situations, they typically experience increased blood sugar levels. That can also be the case for people with type 1 diabetes—but not always. Sometimes, stress can cause blood glucose to decrease among people with this form of diabetes. (While this overview primarily focuses on mental stress, physical stressors like illness and injury can cause blood sugar to increase in diabetes patients, as well.)
Believe it or not, the link between stress and diabetes may be a two-way street—some research suggests that heightened levels of stress hormones may make it more difficult for pancreas cells to produce insulin. So while stress isn’t capable of causing diabetes by itself, it could certainly contribute to the development of this disease.
Tracking Your Stress Levels
Stress consists of two primary components: stressors and the stress response. By tracking these triggers and responses, you can get a better picture of the stressors that affect you and how your body reacts to these stressors. Here are a few ways people can measure their stress levels:
Heart Rate Variability
It’s no secret that stress can cause your heart to beat faster, but heart rate variability (HRV) analysis goes one step beyond measuring that. This tracking technique looks at changes in the amount of time between one heartbeat and the next in response to stressors.
Your autonomic nervous system controls your sympathetic nervous system (which causes the fight-or-flight response) and your parasympathetic nervous system (which is active while you’re relaxing). This system is also responsible for your HRV, so when you’re experiencing the fight-or-flight response, your HRV will decrease. Healthcare professionals can measure your HRV with an electrocardiogram.
According to a study from 2020, brainwaves may be another good way to measure your stress response. The process of measuring brainwaves is known as “electroencephalography”—mental health professionals using this technique can look at a patient’s brainwaves and train their brain by providing positive feedback when treatment goals are met.
As you know, adrenaline and cortisol play vital roles in your body’s stress response. Thus, it stands to reason that people dealing with chronic stress will have higher-than-average levels of these hormones. Lab tests and home testing kits can help you assess your cortisol levels.
The Perceived Stress Scale
Each of the stress-tracking techniques listed above focuses on measuring physical responses. That’s not the case for the Perceived Stress Scale, however: as its name suggests, this questionnaire is meant to assess a user’s personal perception of their stress levels. Using the Perceived Stress Scale is as simple as downloading a PDF.
Another way to track your stress at home is by using stress trackers—a category that includes dedicated devices and fitness trackers such as smartwatches. But due to a lack of research, it’s hard to say exactly how accurate these devices are. Stress trackers also rely on a single variable to monitor your stress levels, so they can’t give you an in-depth look at how you respond to stressors.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress has many different symptoms, some of which are easier to spot than others. A few prominent physical symptoms associated with stress include:
- Muscle pain and tension
- Over or, undersleeping
As you might expect, the symptoms of stress aren’t exclusively physical in nature. You might also notice mental symptoms like:
- Decreased motivation
Along with these symptoms, stress can cause behavioral changes such as:
- Eating too much or too little
- Binge drinking
- Lashing out
- Tobacco usage
- Withdrawing from people you care about
Get Physical Activity
Exercise doesn’t just make it easier to manage diabetes—it can also help you reduce stress. Whether you prefer to push yourself with intense workouts, take brisk walks, or calm down with yoga, finding the right exercise routine for your life can provide physical and emotional benefits.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Along with exercise, relaxation techniques can help you improve your approach to stress management. Deep breathing is perhaps the simplest, most effective step people can take to relax. Just breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose, wait a moment or two, and breathe out through your mouth.
When you’re having a hard time keeping stress under control, a cup of coffee probably won’t help. Consuming caffeine won’t just cause your cortisol production to increase—it can also make it more difficult for you to absorb adenosine, a hormone linked to relaxation.
Don’t Do It Alone
Diabetes management can feel isolating, so it’s wise to make spending time with your loved ones a high priority. Of course, if you need help dealing with diabetes-centric stressors, joining a support group might be in your best interest.
Lower Stress With ADS
Stress management for diabetes can’t do away with every potential source of stress in your life. What it can do is give you the tools you need to handle diabetes-related stressors—such as ordering diabetes supplies. If you don’t order these products from the right company, you could end up waiting weeks for your shipment or have trouble getting the items you need.
The easiest way to eliminate this stressor from your life is buying diabetes supplies from ADS! We carry everything from continuous glucose monitoring systems to insulin pumps and diabetes testing supplies, and every order comes with quick turnaround times and unbeatable customer service. Order the diabetes supplies you’re looking for today!