Stress, Cortisol, Glucose, Oh My! How to Manage It All

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is, without a doubt, a challenge in and of itself. Toss in the added stress of daily life, and you find yourself on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and physical reactions.

Stress, cortisol, and glucose levels can affect your diabetes management. However, with the right tools and techniques, you can successfully manage both your diabetes and your stress.

In this article, we will examine how stress can activate your cortisol and increase your glucose levels and how you can use self-care, medicine, and therapy to help manage it.1

Stress, cortisol, and glucose

Stress, cortisol, and glucose – what do these terms even mean? Simply put, stress is your body's reaction to a perceived physical or emotional threat.2

Cortisol is a hormone that your body produces in response to stress. It's also known as the "stress hormone" because it helps you respond to that perceived threat.3

Glucose is the sugar that your body uses as fuel. When your glucose levels are too high, it can cause damage to your body, especially if left untreated.4

When you're stressed, your body produces more cortisol than it needs. This excess cortisol causes your liver to release more glucose into your bloodstream.5

If you're already managing type 2 diabetes, this can be problematic because it means that your glucose levels could spike. High glucose levels can cause damage to your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and heart, among other things. The good news is that you can manage your cortisol and glucose levels with a few simple techniques.4

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Self-care, medication, and therapy for stress management

Self-care ideas

Self-care is an essential tool in managing your stress and diabetes. Techniques like exercising are a great way to reduce stress and lower your glucose levels. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking or cycling) 5 days a week. Check your glucose levels before and after your workout to make any necessary adjustments to your medication or food intake.4

Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can also help lower your stress levels. Getting enough sleep is also crucial in managing cortisol and glucose levels.


Medication can also play a significant role in managing your glucose levels. If you're already on medication for your diabetes, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage during times of stress.4

If your stress levels are high, your cortisol levels will also be increased, which can cause your glucose levels to spike. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help manage your stress levels or recommend supplements.4


Therapy is another great tool for managing stress and diabetes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify negative thought patterns and learn coping mechanisms to reduce stress.6

Talking to a therapist can also be a source of emotional support during times of stress. Support groups for people with type 2 diabetes can also provide a sense of community and understanding.

Valuable resources in your diabetes toolkit

It's also important to know your triggers for stress and take proactive steps to manage them. This could mean taking a break from social media or news sources, scheduling downtime for self-care, or seeking support from friends and family. Controlling your stress levels will not only benefit your diabetes management but will also improve your overall quality of life.

Managing your stress levels as a person living with type 2 diabetes is crucial in maintaining both your physical and emotional well-being. Stress can activate your cortisol and increase your glucose levels, leading to serious health complications.4

However, you can successfully manage your stress, cortisol, and glucose levels with the right tools and techniques. Self-care, medication, and therapy are all valuable resources in your diabetes management toolkit. By being proactive in balancing your stress levels, you can live a healthy and fulfilling life with type 2 diabetes.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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