Stress and Diabetes

I sometimes feel irritable – is this the same thing as stress?

Short-term irritability may be normal for you, but if you’re irritable most of the time, you are probably suffering from stress. Being constantly annoyed or irritated, feeling pressured, and finding it difficult to make day-to-day decisions about your life and your diabetes are all signs of stress. Try to find out what is causing your stress in order to find ways to deal with it.

What signs of stress should I look out for?

Stress affects people in different ways. You may have physical symptoms such as tension headaches, migraines, digestive problems, or insomnia. Your appetite may increase or decrease, and you may have cravings for caffeine, alcohol, or sugary snacks.

Can stress cause diabetes?

The hormones you produce when you are stressed or sick, or after a shock, can make your insulin less effective and cause your blood glucose to rise. If your pancreas has already been struggling to produce enough insulin, stress may be the factor that tips the balance and raises your blood glucose, leading to your diabetes being diagnosed. But stress only exposes underlying diabetes –it doesn’t cause it.

How will stress affect my diabetes?

Stress hormones tend to cause your blood glucose level to rise. If stress is regularly causing high blood glucose – even if this is short-term – you may need an increase in your medication. If you are unsure of what to do, ask your health professional.

How can I beat stress?

Relaxation can provide a longer-term solution to stress than more instant solutions, such as smoking, drinking coffee or alcohol, or eating comfort foods. If you find it difficult to take any time out to reduce your stress, talk to someone close to you and ask for help and support.

Can physical activity reduce stress?

Yes, being active raises your levels of endorphins and serotonin, two brain chemicals that influence your mood and sense of well-being. If you can fit physical activity into your life on a regular basis, you will feel better in general. Being active helps your body work more efficiently and raises your self-esteem.

How can relaxation help me be less stressed?

Unlike quick-fixes, such as alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, or sugar comfort food, relaxation is a solution to stress that will help you cope better in the long-term. Taking time to relax can help you put things into perspective. Deep breathing, stretching, a walk in the fresh air, or listening to your favorite music can all help reduce your level of stress.

When I’m stressed I find it difficult to look after my diabetes. What can I do?

Stress can reduce your ability to cope with daily tasks, including looking after your diabetes. You may also feel you want to overeat or eat less healthily when you are stressed. Try to set yourself small realistic goals during these times, for example, eating two or three portions of fruit and vegetables a day or limiting the number of cookies you eat. Feeling that you can still meet one or two small goals will help you stay motivated.

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