The Impact of Stress if You Have Diabetes

The Impact of Stress if You Have Diabetes

The Impact of Stress if You Have Diabetes

Traffic was a beast. You lost your phone. A few zeros seem to be missing from your bank balance. When you feel stressed, your body produces two hormones that raise your blood sugar — adrenaline and cortisol. Both are linked to the body’s natural “fight or flight” response, and give your body the energy it needs to flee danger. When their levels remain high for long periods of time, they can take a toll on your health.

Weight gain, changes in menstrual cycles and libido, and high blood pressure can all be triggered by high levels of stress hormones. If you have diabetes, they can affect you in another big way.

Stress hormones can trap excess sugar (blood glucose) in the body until it is flushed out through urine. This extra sugar can damage the kidneys. Insulin or oral medications are needed to lower blood glucose levels.

Keep Stress in Check

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. There are lots of triggers. Work, school, issues at home, relationships, illness, money worries — the list is endless when it comes to things that can ratchet up our stress levels. Too much stress can take a serious toll on even the healthiest person. If you have diabetes, stress leaving site icon will make it more difficult to keep your blood sugar levels in the sweet spot.

Knowing your blood sugar levels is vital to living well with diabetes.  Although monitoring it can be a literal pain, it’s better to know your glucose numbers than be left in the dark.

So, how can you manage and reduce the stress in your life?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Know your triggers. Be aware of the situations, worries, even people who  bring stress into your life. Find proactive ways to minimize them or avoid them altogether.  
  • Recognize the symptoms. Everyone reacts to stress differently. Pay attention to your body’s signals, then act. It will help you fend off illness, anxiety and other physical effects of stress.
  • Make time to relax and decompress each day. Count to 10 when you feel stress rear its ugly head. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Move your body. Listen to your favorite music.
  • Practice self-care. If work is getting to you, take a personal day. Don’t skimp on sleep. Resist the urge to keep everything bottled up inside. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your worries.
  • Consider changes to your insulin therapy or medications. Talk to your diabetes support team (doctors, nurses, educators) first for helpful advice. They are there to help you stay healthy and live well with diabetes.

Stress may be a part of our daily lives, but when we learn to manage it and understand its effects, we can take better care of ourselves.

Sources: Easing Diabetes Care Stress, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association; Stressed? 10 Ways to Protect Your Kidneys, Diabetes and Kidney Disease, leaving site icon National Kidney Foundation.

Originally published 5/13/2017; Revised 2018, 2022, 2024