16 April 2019Can Stress Impact Your Diabetes?

Diabetes is a demanding disease that can significantly impact a person's life. It can also affect family and caregivers who help manage it. Diabetes is a disease that requires daily self-management and frequent changes in a person's treatment plan. Let's face it, this can all be stressful and could also lead to depression. In fact, it is estimated that one in four people living with diabetes has depression.

When a person is first diagnosed with diabetes, there can be a fear of the unknown. Many go into denial as a defense mechanism. Initially, denial can help with coping, but if prolonged, it can prevent a person from adopting the proper self care. Many feelings can also occur, ranging from anger (why me?) to guilt (I did this to myself!). These are common feelings when dealing with diabetes. If a person does not deal with negative feelings and stress in a healthy way, it can prevent them from effectively managing their diabetes. These negative emotions can also play out in relationships with others, causing strain and confusion.

The daily demands of diabetes self care can create stress. Once diagnosed with diabetes, there is a lot to learn in the beginning. You might feel overwhelmed with all the new medical information. Hearing about the complications of poorly managed diabetes, such as blindness and kidney failure is frightening. Daily blood glucose checks by pricking your finger with a lancet are not easy. Going to medical appointments and classes, and completing routine medical and blood tests requires a lot of scheduling. Not to mention the changes in meal planning and the new medication schedule. There will also be increased medical costs. It is no wonder the daily demands of diabetes can be stressful.

Of course, stress is part of life for all of us. However, prolonged stress can cause wear and tear on the body and can negatively impact diabetes management. Stress can prevent a person from thinking clearly and cause negative feelings such as fear and anger that can interfere with self care. Not only that, stress hormones increase the release of blood glucose and can increase heart rate and blood pressure, causing a strain on the heart and blood vessels.

Signs and symptoms of on-going stress include fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. If you are having prolonged symptoms, seek guidance from a medical expert. You may also find some of these stress-reducing strategies helpful:

  • Identify yourself as a person who has diabetes, not as a diabetic. It is much healthier to see yourself as someone living with the condition, not allowing diabetes to define you.
  • Ask others for help, including family, friends, and your health care team. Sometimes, just talking about challenges can help.
  • Learn deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Exercise regularly to get your "happy hormones" stimulated.
  • Learn all you can about diabetes. Knowledge is power.
  • Organize your diabetes self care plan. Planning ahead with meals, medication schedule, and medical appointments can prevent unnecessary stress.
  • Use words such as "want', "will", and "can" instead of "should", "must" and "have to".
  • Spend time each day doing enjoyable things. Make a list of activities that make you happy.

Yes, diabetes is stressful. However, managing stress is important for quality of life, preventing depression and managing diabetes more effectively. This can make life smoother and happier for both you and those around you.

Brenda L Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN,CDE

Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Indialantic, Florida

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Diabetes/Health

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