Is Stress Spiking Your Blood Sugar?

Post Reviewed By Expert

This post was reviewed by our Director of Clinical Excellence and Oversight.

Everyone has some stress. It’s a part of life. But if you’re one of the more than 34 million Americans living with diabetes, you’ll need to be aware of how stress affects your blood sugar status. Today on the blog we address the connection between diabetes and stress, including a condition known as diabetes distress. Read on to learn about the link between mental health and diabetes as well as ways to keep your blood sugar in range despite emotional challenges.
Is Stress Spiking Your Blood Sugar?

Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backwards

In basic terms, stress is how your body and mind react to difficult situations. Stress can affect your physical, mental, and emotional health. You can often tell it’s starting to sneak up on you when your shoulders get tense, or you notice your jaw is clenched. Everyone experiences stress in some form or another, often about health, family, money, work, or relationships. 

Having diabetes can be a source of stress in itself. You may stress about your blood sugar levels being too high or too low, worry about related conditions such as problems with your feet or your cardiovascular health, or be concerned about how your condition will affect your job. When you are feeling stressed out, your body reacts by releasing stress hormones likes cortisol or adrenaline. These hormones can make it difficult for insulin to allow glucose to leave the bloodstream and enter into the body’s skeletal tissues and cells, resulting in high blood glucose levels.

If you’re feeling stressed about things unrelated to diabetes, such as job loss, traffic, or excessive demands on your time, this could also affect your diabetes. Stress makes it more difficult to pay as much attention as you should to your diabetes care regimen. Monitoring blood sugar, counting carbs, and minding your medications may fall to the wayside as your body and mind fight to regain control of your situation.

stressed person

Both mental stress, and stress that results from an illness or accident, can cause your blood sugar to rise and fall unpredictably.

Signs of Stress

Stress of all kinds can cause your blood sugar to rise and fall unpredictably. Individuals with type 2 diabetes under stress typically see an increase in blood sugar, while those with type 1 may see their levels go up or down.

It’s even possible that stress will show itself in other ways. For example, some signs of stress mimic those of depression. Among the symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Acting out
  • Using tobacco
  • Drinking too much
  • Feeling unwell
  • Feeling tired, unmotivated, anxious, restless, or depressed
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Other signs of stress and anxiety are a racing heartbeat, rapid breathing, or an upset stomach.

stressed out woman

Stress Can Take a Toll

While stress and depression are not the same condition, some of the ways to relieve them are quite similar. These include making sure to take your meds as prescribed, follow the recommended diabetic diet, having someone you can talk to, and staying physically active. Be sure to limit alcohol and caffeine and get enough sleep. Some people find relief in meditation. You can even use simple breathing techniques to slow your heartbeat down during a stressful period.

When you are living with diabetes, it’s important to recognize that anxiety can sometimes feel like low blood sugar, which makes it hard to know how to treat it. The best way to know is to check your blood glucose level.

Man with depression symptoms

People feeling depressed and unable to manage their diabetes well face a higher risk for diabetic complications like heart disease and nerve damage.

Diabetes Distress: Do I Have It?

In recent years, doctors have identified a condition known as diabetes distress. It is defined by the Society of Behavioral Medicine as “an emotional response to the burdens of living with diabetes and the self-care necessary to manage diabetes.”

About 45 percent of people with diabetes are affected, though that varies depending on the type (type 1 or type 2) and on the treatment, i.e. insulin, or non-insulin dependent. Someone with diabetes distress might make comments like, “No matter what I do, my A1C gets worse.” Or they may express frustration with the need to constantly manage food, medication, and blood sugar. Other contributing factors include the cost of care, and fear about developing diabetes-related complications.

nurse checking a woman with diabetes distress
If you or someone you care about is distressed about diabetes, here are some ways to gain the upper hand:
talk to your doctor

Talk with your healthcare provider about your feelings. You may benefit from some therapy or conversation with a mental health specialist.

ask a pharmacist about cost saving help

Ask your care team or pharmacist about help with the costs of diabetes medicine and supplies.

be upfront with family and friends

Be up front with family and friends. Sometimes just talking about what you’re going through with someone you trust can help, even though they can’t solve your problems.

get support

Get the support of other people with diabetes through on-line or in-person self-help groups.

dont get overwhelmed

Don’t get overwhelmed. Make a list of all the diabetes-related tasks you have and check them off one by one.

take it easy

Take it easy on yourself. Recognize that you’re not going to reach goals like losing weight and getting more exercise overnight.

visiting wtih friends

Set aside time for things you enjoy—like a hobby, visiting with friends, or playing with the grandchildren.

Life is stressful, there seems no way to escape that fact. Especially if you have diabetes, take an inventory of your sources of stress and do all you can to avoid the encounters and situations that make it worse.

One more way to reduce stress is to order your insurance-covered diabetes supplies from Home Care Delivered. We’ve earned a 98% rating for customer service because we get your order right, and we get it to you quickly, helping to keep your stress to a minimum. Medicare? Medicaid? Private insurance? We take them, and we even do the paperwork for you. To get started enter your phone number below and we’ll give you a call.

HCD Rep ready to help
We look forward to reducing your stress by helping you get the diabetes medical supplies you need—including continuous glucose monitors (CGM), testing strips, lancets, and insulin pumps—delivered right to your door.

Get Insurance-Covered CGM & Diabetes Supplies

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Disclaimer:

Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from the sources indicated. Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only. HCD cannot be held responsible for the continued accuracy of or for any errors or omissions in the information. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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