Type 1 Thursday – Stress & Blood Sugar?
What does STRESS have to do with your diabetes management?
Have you noticed that your blood sugar reacts in an unexpected way, either up or down, when you’re stressed? We can distinguish between physical and emotional stress, and, sadly, we are way more emotionally/mentally stressed today than ever.
Today, I talk about why this happens and what causes it, along with stress prevention and coping mechanisms. You can read a written version below if you can’t watch the video.
Have you noticed that stress impacts your blood sugars? How? Leave a comment!
Stress and the impact the stress has on your blood sugar management is sometimes overwhelming, because it can make things a little bit more interesting than intended to be.
Here, I’m going to cover what happens in your body when it experiences stress, and how we can alleviate it and what we can do to cope with the stress that we do face, perhaps even on a daily basis.
What happens to blood sugar, or rather, why does it happen that blood sugar gets impacted by stress? It is our beautiful stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline and epinephrine, that are impacting your blood sugar. They tell the liver that your body needs more energy to cope with this stress. That’s why your blood sugar will react either way, in the vast majority of cases, your blood sugar will rise when you are under stress. But there are also instances, which I’ve experienced myself where, during stress, your blood sugar unexpectedly does drop, which is unexpected, and you have to roll with the punches. An example of this, that maybe most people with diabetes can relate to, is Dawn Phenomenon. This is when our stress hormones tell our liver that “hey, it’s time to wake up. Let’s get some sugar in the blood from your storage system and get this party going.”
There are two main forms of stress. One is physical stress, for example, if you had an injury, or if you exercising super hard, or you’ve gone through surgery or some sort of physical trauma, and infection, then definitely your body is under stress. That’s also why we can see when we are getting sick or that when we are sick, that the blood sugar’s can rise, because it is a stress for the body, and stress hormones are released and the little sugar party is going on in your body.
It can of course also, and it may be more usual for us in today’s society, that it’s emotional stress. This can be things like, being overwhelmed or you’re just too busy, you have too much to do, too much on your plate, anxiety, your phone going off all the time, the train is late… Essentially, it’s what becomes more of a psychological stress. But that can also have an impact on your blood sugar, which is why I bring it up. The fact that we experience so many things as stressful has been left throughout our evolution. When we had to be afraid of wild animals in nature, so that we had that quick release of energy, so that we could run far, far away from that mountain lion/bear, and get into safety. That’s why our body reacts with the sugar rush when we get stressed. The problem is today though, that some things that shouldn’t be stressful are interpreted by our bodies as stressful. It can be nutrition, for example, too much sugar can be a stress for the body. It can be, as I said, the train is late, or your phone’s going off every second. There’s so many things that stresses us today that didn’t use to stress us. This also means that we can see more volatility on our blood sugars because of that.
What can you do to mitigate stress? Find patterns. Is there certain situation every time that you do it, that causes you to stress and have a blood sugar spike, for example? Is there something that you do in your daily life that you don’t feel well doing? Is there something that goes against even your own values? Could that be stressing you? Find a pattern, so that you know how to react! When you have the prediction, you can also prevent it. It’s really important to pay attention to this (and with everything else) to see the patterns in it, so that you can just simply prevent it. Bear in mind that this is very individual. What stresses me for, example, may not stress you, you lucky person! And what stresses you, may not stress me at all. It’s very individual and we have to see on an individual level how we are impacted by stress.
What are some coping mechanisms for stress? Cut down on the nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, all of the stimulants that we may use under the impression of that it will help us with stress. It will probably stress our bodies even more. Recognising that we are tired and doing something about it, taking a break. Physical movement also really helps stress. Make relaxation a priority, if you don’t make space for it, it won’t happen. You know that with a lot of other things in your life perhaps, but making space for it and making time for it does matter. So make sure you schedule in relaxation. Make sure you also have a sound sleeping schedule, so that you make sure that you sleep enough during the night.
Accept things that you cannot change. This is really hard, but it’s really worth it. It does remove a lot of stress. Improve your time management, maybe that’s where you’re lacking a few tools? And my personal favourite jump on the No-train. Say no to things that do not light you up, that you are not excited about and that you know that you won’t be enjoying.
When we are in the stress situation, how can we alleviate it? This goes hand in hand with the coping mechanisms mentioned above, but how can we alleviate it as well as we can? Movement. do move daily. How about actually scheduling a holiday? That could be something great right? Listening to your favourite music for example, that could be an amazing stress reliever. Take up a hobby that takes your mind away from the from the stress. How about meditating? Meditation can really calm you down, along with breathing exercises. Breathing deeply can really distress you quickly! Or how about taking up yoga, stretching your body and feeling and really being in tune with your body also helps stress.
Relaxation cannot coexist with stress
Do remember that relaxation cannot coexist with stress. If you’re relaxed, you cannot be stressed at the same time.
I would love to hear if you’ve noticed that your blood sugar has been impacted by stress? What happened? How can you change it until next time? I can’t wait to chat with you further in the comments below.
Ps. Are you looking for a stressless retreat to soak up the last of the summer sun, learn from international health experts, spend time with likeminded people, all in a place too gorgeous to miss? Join me at the amazing The Low Carb Universe 2019 in Mallorca, Spain in November!