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How to Cope When Diabetes and Stress Become a Vicious Cycle

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The relationship between stress and diabetes is well known to most all people with diabetes and can be a major barrier in diabetes control. Though there are generally two types of stress, mental and physical, both types invoke a similar physiologic response. We call this “fight-or-flight.” In this response, stress stimulates the release of various hormones: cortisol and epinephrine, and the release of glucose from the liver, muscle and fat cells.

It makes sense, right?

We would need all of these things if we were in a physically stressful situation, like running away from a serial killer… (sorry, too many true crime podcasts). But when it comes to everyday mental stressors such as work, traffic or our diabetes, this physiologic response only makes life harder! In fact, I’ve found stress with diabetes to be a vicious cycle; stress leads to high blood glucose levels leads to more stress leads to higher blood glucose levels. I hope I’m not the only one!

Because of this, good coping mechanisms are a must. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress, but here are some tips from me.

Find someone to make you laugh.

Go for a walk.

Try meditation.

Learn to say no. Limit what you will do for others. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes, especially when your blood glucose levels are at risk!

Ask for help. You don’t need to do everything yourself.

Take one day at a time.

Talk with someone about your stress.

Don’t put yourself down because you haven’t gotten something done.

Don’t put yourself down because your blood glucose is high.

Don’t put yourself down at all.

Lastly, if you’re on an insulin pump, the “temp basal” feature is an option. This feature allows for an increase or decrease in your basal rate by a percentage (instead of changing the basal entirely). Make sure to discuss this with your clinician first.

Originally published: November 24, 2019
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