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Stress and Diabetes: The Complications You Might Be Facing

Your body reacts to stress or threat by releasing adrenaline and cortisol through the fight-or-flight response. If your body cannot process these hormones efficiently, it can lead to increased blood sugar levels. Managing diabetes becomes even harder when you experience chronic stress from long term problems with blood glucose levels.

How can different types of stress affect your diabetes?

Depending on the person, different side effects can be triggered by stress. Furthermore, the physical symptoms will also reflect the intensity of your stress. For example, when people who have type 2 diabetes experience psychological trauma, their blood sugar readings usually go up.

People with type 1 diabetes may have more sudden changes in blood sugar levels, experiencing either a rise or drop. If you’re going through tough times like illness or injury, your blood sugar is likely to increase no matter what type of diabetes you have.

What are the symptoms of stress?

The symptoms of stress are often subtle, but it is important to be aware of them. Stress can have a serious impact on your mental and emotional health as well as your physical wellbeing. By paying attention to the signs, you will be better able to manage stress effectively.

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • headaches
  • muscle pain or tension
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • general feelings of illness
  • fatigue

Stress may also cause you to feel:

  • unmotivated
  • irritable
  • depressed
  • restless
  • anxious

How can you determine if mental stress is affecting your glucose levels?

If you document when you feel stressed and what activities were happening then, it might help you understand what influences your stress. For example, do Mondays always give you anxiety? If so, create a Monday action plan that includes procedures to reduce your stress levels which may improve your blood sugar level control.

If you’re curious about how mental stress affects your blood sugar, track both your stress and glucose levels simultaneously for a few weeks. After rating your level of stress on a scale from 1-10, check your current glucose reading. Continue doing this until you have enough data points to form a pattern–it will likely become clear if there’s any correlation between the two numbers. If you notice that most of your glucose readings register as high while under periods of high amounts of stress, it’s probable that the latter is negatively influencing the former.