It’s a little-known fact that stress can instigate changes in blood sugar levels. And for people with diabetes, this can be extremely problematic. Sugar levels and stress are often closely intertwined; the impact of stress on the body’s blood sugar levels can affect diabetes control, and the difficulties of being diagnosed with diabetes and living with the condition can adversely affect your mental health in return. By learning how to deal with sugar level stress and focusing on self-care strategies, you can improve your daily life living with diabetes and take care of your mental wellbeing. With that in mind, here are five self-care strategies and actionable tips for dealing with your sugar level stress: Related: Everything You Need To Know About Managing Diabetes In Later Life
1. Don’t ignore your feelings
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed — whether it’s because of your diabetes or anything else — it’s all too easy to push these feelings down and ignore them, rather than confronting them. Although you may feel better doing this for a bit, this is not a strategy that is going to help you in the long run. You’re only going to carry on feeling more stressed, which will exacerbate your blood sugar problems — which, in turn, will cause you to feel even more overwhelmed by your condition. Learning how to recognize the mental and emotional symptoms of stress is the first step towards identifying stress and managing it, If you are stressed, you might feel:
- Easily upset
- “Out of character”
Similarly, there are physical signs of stress that you can recognize in your own body. If you’re stressed, you may experience:
- Tension, aches, and pains in your muscles
- Problems sleeping (such as insomnia or oversleeping)
- Generally feeling ill and run down
These are just some of the signs and symptoms of stress you may feel if you’re struggling. Recognizing and these signs and accepting that you’re stressed will help you to deal with sugar level stress much more than ignoring the problem. From here, you can actually do something about it and manage both your stress and your diabetes.
2. Look after your physical needs
We all know that physical health and mental health are closely linked — both impacting each other. When you’re diabetic and suffering from stress, this is exacerbated further. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the levels of stress hormones in your body go up, which can also directly affect glucose levels — causing problems with your diabetes. Taking care of your body’s physical needs is one simple self-care strategy that can help you deal with sugar level stress. This involves four main things:
- Getting enough sleep
- Maintaining a balanced diet that suits your needs
- Taking the medication you need to manage your diabetes
- Building exercise into your routine (more on this later)
Of course, when we’re stressed or preoccupied, self-care is one of the first things we let slip. But if you’re trying to deal with sugar level stress, then you need to look after your body too. For example, the Sleep Foundation’s advice is that practicing good sleep hygiene can hugely help you to deal with stress. Aim for around eight hours of sleep each night, limit napping during the day, and establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Similarly, maintaining healthy eating habits as a diabetic is super important. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, cutting down on added sugar, drinking alcohol sensibly and choosing healthier sources of carbohydrates like brown rice, whole oats and pulses can help you manage diabetes. Recent research found on global diabetes community Diabetes.co.uk also shows that some meal replacement shakes such as Naked Nutrition shakes can help with controlling glucose levels because they’re low in sugar and high in protein. Of course, there are different types of diabetes and no two people with diabetes are the same, so it’s always best to get dietary recommendations from your healthcare team based on your specific needs.
3. Talk to people
It is so important to talk to people about what you are going through. Not talking about your diabetes or sugar level stress will not make either problem go away. Talking, on the other hand, will help you to feel more supported, relive some of the stress, and can help you come up with more manageable ways to deal with sugar level stress. Talk with your family and friends about how you are feeling about having diabetes — and be honest. If you don’t feel comfortable talking openly about it with everyone, then pick a family member, close friend or colleague that you feel like you can trust and confide in. Your loved ones will be able to help you navigate the rocky terrain of living with diabetes, including everything that comes with it — such as sugar level stress. They can support you in living a healthy lifestyle to reduce your stress, as well as deal with the practicalities of managing diabetes such as monitoring your blood sugar levels or taking medication. Just knowing you have people who have got your back and are watching out for you will make a big difference to your stress. If you feel like you need more support, then there are professionals who can listen and help you to find solutions. Your doctor or healthcare team will be able to give you guidance. They may also recommend a counselor or a diabetes support group where you can meet others going through the same things as you.
4. Tap into the power of exercise
Regular exercise can work wonders for your physical health and your mental health. As a diabetic, being more physically active helps to manage your diabetes because it increases the amount of glucose used by your muscles and helps your body use insulin more efficiently. It also reduces your risk of cardiovascular problems. As for that sugar level stress, exercise is a fantastic outlet. Hard exercise like that grueling spin class, kick-boxing or running are perfect for blowing off steam when everything feels a bit much. Many people with diabetes are also turning to yoga to improve their quality of life and control their condition. Yoga is a great practice that can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your levels of stress by promoting relaxation and a sense of peace. Just doing 15 minutes of gentle yoga when you get up in the morning or before you go to bed at night can help you to feel calmer and control sugar level stress.
5. Take time to do the things you enjoy
Sometimes, it can feel like you’re going at a million miles an hour. Work deadlines, family responsibilities, and social obligations, as well as trying to stay on top of a condition like diabetes — it can all be extremely overwhelming (which, of course, only makes you feel worse). Practice self-care by pacing yourself and taking some time out to do the things you really enjoy. Learn to say “no” to social obligations if you’re not feeling up to it. If it’s not something you want or need to do, be honest with your friend or family and tell them that you’re struggling a bit at the moment. And then take that evening or that weekend for yourself and do something just for you. This could be getting outside for a hike in nature, or it could be sitting on your sofa with a good book and a glass of wine. Or maybe it’s something that makes you feel more mindful, like swimming or meditation. Perhaps it’s a fun hobby like crafting or it’s spending time with some close friends. It’s up to you — just do what makes you happy. Dealing with sugar level stress isn’t easy. However, using the self-care strategies above can help you to improve your wellbeing and help you to manage your diabetes.