If you live with diabetes, it can sometimes feel like taking care of yourself is a full-time job. You may know that things like your diet and medications are an important part of diabetes management, but it's also essential to pay attention to how much stress you have in your life.

Stress can increase blood sugar and keep it higher for longer. When you are stressed, your body produces hormones that cause the body to release glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. Stress can also affect you emotionally and make it harder to make healthy food choices or find the motivation to exercise.

Luckily, there are ways you can manage stress and anxiety to reduce the impact on your overall health. Let's dive into the details.

Stress increases your blood sugar

First, it's helpful to understand that not all stress is bad. A little bit of stress can actually be beneficial for productivity or help you quickly respond to a problem. Stress is a physical, emotional, or behavioral response to a demand or challenge.

Different people have different ways of responding to stress or reasons for feeling stressed out. When stress becomes chronic or unmanageable, it can be harmful to your health.

When you experience stress, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause blood sugar levels to spike as a natural response, giving the body quick energy to deal with a stressful situation (known as fight or flight).

But if you live with diabetes, this normal stress response can be problematic and make it difficult to keep blood sugar stable if it happens too often.

Studies show that people with diabetes who experience chronic stress can have higher blood sugar levels than those who don't. Stress can also make it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels in the long term.

Living with diabetes can make you feel more stressed

It's completely normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed about your health if you live with diabetes. You may worry about your blood sugar levels, what you're eating, paying for medication, or finding time for your medical appointments.

It's no surprise that people living with diabetes have an increased risk of mental health concerns, especially something called diabetes distress. Diabetes distress is a type of stress specific to the ongoing worry or frustration experienced by people living with diabetes. It is so common that it's estimated that almost 50 percent of people with diabetes experience diabetes distress within any 18-month period.

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What are some signs you're stressed?

Here are some signs that may indicate you're under a lot of stress:

  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Not eating or overeating
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs to cope
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • Muscles are tense, and you have headaches, neck pain, or stomachaches
  • Sweating more than usual, or your heart is racing
  • Crying more often than usual

Plus, you may notice that your blood sugar is higher than usual, or it's harder to meet your targets even though your medication, diet, or other factors haven't changed. This could mean that stress is causing your blood sugar to spike.

Lifestyle habits can help with stress management and diabetes

  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating nutritious foods can help your mood and support stable blood sugars. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein in your diet. These foods can help you reach blood sugar targets and provide the nutrients your body needs to feel good.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve mental health. Moving your body can release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, boosting your mood and giving you more energy.

Physical activity can also help manage blood sugar levels by making your cells more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

  • Get enough sleep: A good night's sleep is essential for managing stress. You're more likely to feel anxious and stressed when you're tired. Lack of sleep also can make it more challenging to meet blood sugar targets.

Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to teach your body when it's time to wind down (and turn off those screens if possible).

  • Take breaks during the day: Taking some time for yourself can help you relax and rejuvenate, especially if you are constantly taking care of others all day long. Walk outside, take a few deep breaths, or take a break to read your favorite book. When we take care of ourselves, we're better able to manage stress and anxiety.
  • Try mindfulness or meditation: Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Meditation is a form of mindfulness that involves focusing on a single point, such as your breath. It can help you learn to control your thoughts and be more present in the moment. If you are new to meditation, you can find guided meditations online.

  • Talk to someone: Talking to a friend, family member, or therapist can help you manage stress and anxiety. Sometimes it's helpful to talk to someone who understands what you're going through or can help you develop a plan to manage your stress.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Online support can also be a great resource. You can find mental health providers specifically trained to support people with diabetes here.

Make stress management part of your diabetes care plan

Stress is a part of life, but it doesn't have to control yours. The problem is that if you already feel overly stressed, it can feel hard to know how to get started with stress management. 9am.health can help with that.

9am.health offers seamless, at-home diabetes care that includes labs, medications, appointments with specialists, and more, all on your schedule. We know that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to stress management techniques and diabetes care.

Learn more about how we can help by visiting our website here.

Let 9am.health help reduce your stress

Diabetes care can be really overwhelming. You have to juggle appointments, labs, and medications and then try to fit in time for your own self-care.

Sometimes, managing diabetes feels like a full-time job, and it can quickly feel like diabetes is managing you.

9am.health gives you access to a care team to create a personalized care plan with you in mind. Our goal is to reduce the time you spend managing appointments, driving to labs, and refilling medications so you can focus on what's important—your health.