April is Stress Awareness Month, and this past year has been one for the books. The pandemic has had major effects on all our lives with many of us facing challenges that can be overly stressful and overwhelming especially if you have a health condition such as diabetes.
This year many people feel stressed because they have increased demands at work with a lack of childcare. Some people have lost loved ones to COVID and many are grieving the loss of family events, social outings, etc. We hope that life will gradually go back to “normal”, but it may take some time. Many people are anxious about going back to work, getting vaccinated, or starting to be social again.
It is important to learn how to handle stress, remain positive and finding healthy ways to cope. Stress can cause many health issues and make diabetes management difficult.
Stress and Blood Sugar
Stress impacts blood sugars in many ways. When individuals are stressed their blood sugar may rise due to an increase in adrenaline. For others, their blood sugars drop with stress. Check your blood sugar often if you are overwhelmed and learn new coping strategies on how to deal with stress.
Take Care of Yourself
When people are stressed, they may not have as much motivation or energy to focus on their diabetes management. Make sure you do not forget to take your insulin or medication.
Set up a system so you do not forget to check your blood sugar regularly. Try asking a friend or family member for help. For example, can someone remind you to take your insulin at a certain time?
Stress can cause overeating which can raise blood sugars. People may also become depressed or uninterested leading to eating less which can lower blood sugars.
Try making small changes that are realistic and achievable. For example, if you want to start exercising to cope with your stress then come up with a realistic goal like taking a walk at lunchtime for 15 minutes vs trying to start running every day for an hour. Or if you are trying to eat healthily then maybe you want to focus on one part of the day vs trying to eat healthier at every meal.
Take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
If you are feeling anxious or depressed and want to discuss strategies to deal with the stressors that are impacting your diabetes control, then it may be helpful to talk to someone from our behavioral health dept at Joslin.