Is there anything I can do to counteract the negative effect of stress on my blood sugars?

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Is there anything I can do to counteract the negative effect of stress on my blood sugars?

Dear Dr. Bev,

I have so much stress in my life!  With this economy, my husband and I find it hard to make ends meet financially. I'm so worried about losing my job and worry about how we'll pay our bills. My husband and I fight all the time about the kids. Whenever I check my blood sugar, it's always high.  I heard that stress can affect blood sugars.  Is that true? Is there anything I can do to bring down my blood sugars?

Thank you,



Dear M.A.,

Yes, stress can definitely have a negative effect  on your blood sugars. First of all, stress can affect blood sugar control because the body produces its own "stress hormones" which produce extra sugar. Your body releases stress hormones in response to a perceived dangerous situation. It also releases stress hormones when the "danger" isn't serious, like a nagging worry.  Sometimes, when you're under stress, you may not take care of yourself as carefully as you should. In that case, sometimes you may react to stress by overeating, drinking extra alcohol, or zoning out in front of the television. Stress can then alter your blood sugar management and therefore alter your blood sugar levels.

Stress is our own internal response to the situation of the moment. Because much of the stress comes from within, we can often control it. But it takes work. Although many people with diabetes may have similar feelings, they choose different ways of responding to them.

I've listed some strategies to help you cope with your stress:

1- Stress is part of life. Think about what you have control over and what you don't, and try not to focus your attention on things that you can't control.

2- Identify what you're saying to yourself to make events in your life seem more stressful. Whenever possible, try to "reframe" your thinking to view things in a positive light.

3- Communicate your feelings to people who add to your stress.  Be assertive. Talk to a friend or seek professional counseling to address your feelings.

4- Relax without guilt. Make time for leisure. Minimize stress by listening to music, reading a book, or taking a bubble bath.  Learn to use some form of relaxation, such a deep breathing or yoga. Spend time each day doing something you enjoy.

5- Exercise! Take a walk or do 30 minutes of exercise.  It will help lessen your stress level and help to control your blood sugar.

6- Be good to yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat healthful foods. Limit or eliminate alcohol.

7- Look at life in a positive and fun way. Approach life with a sense of humor - LAUGH! When you laugh at difficult things you may see another way to solve the problem.

Good luck dealing with your stress in a positive way so you can better control your diabetes self-management and blood sugar levels!

Take care, Dr. Bev