Reduce Stress to Manage Diabetes

Life is stressful at times for everyone. And, if you are one of the millions of people living with diabetes, stress often equals more problems.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that interferes with the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels at normal levels. It’s been long thought that a person’s weight or diet were the only factors in whether or not they developed Type 2 diabetes. Research has also cited other factors including genetics, activity and stress levels and/or insulin resistance. When the body is under stress, which can be emotional or physical, the natural response is for the cortisol levels to increase. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can increase insulin resistance. This affects the body’s ability to move glucose out of the blood vessel and into the cell to be used as fuel or energy. Stress often causes a person to have an elevated blood pressure, muscles and blood vessels constrict, and breathing becomes shallow. All these factors can make a person with diabetes have less control over the management of their diabetes, putting him or her at higher risk for complications associated with diabetes. This includes an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction and neuropathy.

Over time, stress also increases the rate of depression and anxiety. Depression is often a factor resulting from the day-to-day struggle of dealing with a chronic disease that can cause debilitating complications, cost several thousands of dollars and shorten a person’s life.

Fortunately, there are many options to help someone with diabetes manage stress. Some may choose to use an app to manage stress. The following are a few more possibilities.

  • Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, burn calories and decrease insulin resistance. It’s a win-win! There are so many forms of exercise, such as cardio, strength-training and even yoga. Treat yourself to a class to learn something different.
  • Find a hobby, go to the movies, read a good book, get a massage, spend time with a friend, get a pet.
  • Focus on deep breathing. This promotes increased blood flow and relaxation.
  • Practice meditation or biofeedback techniques.
  • Set reasonable goals with rewards
  • Journal, join a support group, or see a therapist. Psychological therapy can help a person deal with anxiety and depression that often result from diabetes. People with diabetes have voiced that they feel judged about their weight or diet, and even their lab values and are usually compared to others with diabetes. It’s best to remember that no two cases of diabetes are exactly the same. Something that works for one person may not work for another. People should never feel ashamed by their situation.
  • See a certified diabetic educator (CDE) and a licensed dietitian to help gain knowledge and receive support from specially trained healthcare professionals at diagnosis and routinely thereafter for best results.

Diabetes is difficult, and the professionals at Altru’s Diabetes Center can help you gain control over, stay up to date on treatment options and to go from being a diabetic person to a person living with diabetes.

Jana Sherry, RN, Diabetes Nurse Educator has been working with Altru Health System for 24 years and has been at the Altru Diabetes Center since 2011. She is a Certified Diabetic Educator (CDE) in both North Dakota and Minnesota. She is excited to witness how diabetes care changes due to technological advances within the next few years. Jana lives out in the country with her husband and has three children and two grandsons with another one on the way. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, reading, baking and jewelry making.

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