Personally I feel that stress is one of the most important topics to touch on in regards to diabetes and good blood sugar control. Regardless of your major, minor, extracurriculars, or campus living situation, being a student is quite stressful. Academics alone can be extremely stressful, now add on roommate drama, pressure of being on a sports team or in clubs (or both), remembering to call your mom once in a while and do your laundry before you only have one clean pair of pants left, oh and then of course our little friend diabetes. I hope no one expects us to handle all of this gracefully! That right there is one of the keys I have personally found to help me manage stress, to not think about how others are expecting you to handle everything, because for me it only added stress. I loved being involved on campus since I was a freshmen. I applied to everything I could, then when I got the chance, I applied to be leader of the clubs and activities I loved. I got involved in my major and a few other clubs, got a couple of jobs on campus, and lived with seven other girls who were also extremely busy. Sounds like a great college experience right? And it was! I loved every minute of it. But that is not to say that it was not stressful in the least bit. There seemed to be a never ending to-do list, filled with great things, but always full nonetheless. I, like most other students, was stressed a lot of the time, but of course I didn’t want anyone to know that it was in fact stressful to handle all of these things. I couldn’t possibly have a breakdown and let people know that I wasn’t perfect, no way. Until I did. Stress is one thing, but stress with diabetes is a whole other field. It is unforgiving and relentless and will drive your stress levels up even more, along with your blood sugar. It took some crazy high blood sugars during some very stressful weeks to make me realize that I don’t need to pretend that I’m handling everything perfectly, because no one does. I needed to take care of my health first. When I get stressed, my blood sugar rises almost immediately, which of course makes me more stressed, so I start crying, which makes my blood sugar rise even more. Not exactly a great cycle I was putting myself through. I needed a new plan of attack for stressful and emotional situations, and the one I found was actually pretty simple. Breathe. Close my eyes for 2 minutes and just practice deep breathing. All those times I made myself crazy by panicking and stressing, and all I had to do was take a few minutes and focus on my breathing. I found that this really helped reduce a spike in blood sugar and made me generally more pleasant to be around when I had a lot to do.
It’s important to keep in mind that stress might not just come from a to-do list. Emotional stress can also manifest and create spikes in blood sugar, just like physical stress. I found that with emotional stress, the best way for me to handle it was to do exactly that; handle it. Don’t let it fester in your mind and body, thinking you can just push it out of the way, because it’s still very much there. What helped me was to just deal with whatever emotional problem I was having right at that time as much as I could, instead of spending weeks thinking it would disappear on its own.
Lastly, I believe that what has really helped me find my own ways of dealing with stress is knowing that everyone handles it differently. Taking 10 deep breaths may not help you the way it helps me. Whether you need a punching bag or yoga class to relieve some stress, the most important thing is that you do make time to relieve it, because your blood sugar knows that you are stressed, and it will respond to that. As a diabetic, it is my goal to live my healthiest and best life by doing whatever I can in my power to keep my blood sugars on track while also enjoying life, and managing stress and emotional wellness is a key aspect in that journey.