Stress: How It Affects Diabetes

The fight-or-flight response is your body’s reaction to stress or threat. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which can lead to increased blood sugar levels if the body cannot process it efficiently. Chronic stress from long-term problems with blood glucose can also be debilitating, making it harder to manage your diabetes.

How can different types of stress affect your diabetes?

Depending on the individual, stress can have different effects. The severity of your stress will also dictate how your body reacts physically. For example, when people with type 2 diabetes are under psychological duress, they typically see an uptick in their blood sugar readings. People with type 1 diabetes may fluctuate more dramatically and experience either a rise or drop in blood glucose levels. Likewise, if you’re experiencing physical hardship like illness or injury, your blood sugar is likely to increase regardless of whether you have type 1 or 2 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Symptoms of stress are not always easy to notice, however it is crucial to be aware of them. Stress takes a toll on your mental and emotional well-being as well as physical health. By recognizing the symptoms, you can learn how to manage stress more effectively.

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • headaches
  • muscle pain or tension
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • general feelings of illness
  • fatigue

Stress may also cause you to feel:

  • unmotivated
  • irritable
  • depressed
  • restless
  • anxious

How can you determine if mental stress is affecting your glucose levels?

Determining what causes your stress can be difficult, but keeping track of extra information such as the date and an activity you were doing when stressed may help. For example, do you find yourself always stressed on Monday mornings? If so, making a plan for Mondays which includes steps to lower your stress levels can help keep your glucose in check.

To see if this is happening to you, record both your stress and glucose levels. After rating your stress, check your glucose level and continue doing this for a few weeks. A pattern will likely emerge. If you notice that your glucose is consistently high, it’s probably because mental stress is negatively impacting your blood sugar.