Stress - the “Double Whammy”
I have several patients right now who are each dealing with (or trying to deal with) significant life stresses in addition to diabetes, which, as we all know, includes a healthy dose of stress itself. I’m worried about them, and I worry about you too because stress is a “double whammy” where diabetes is concerned.
Stress and diabetes management
First, stress makes it difficult to concentrate on diabetes management behaviors. Stress can blunt your motivation and clutter your mind at best, but often the cause of stress becomes your main priority. One of my patients told me straight up, ”I have to get this resolved before I can deal with my diabetes.” But, managing diabetes effectively demands that we make our own health a high priority issue. There is a meaningful conflict of priorities caused by stress, and even that conflict becomes stressful.
Physical effects of stress
Second, stress is simply bad for our health. The physical effects of stress, hormones that accompany a state of stress, raise blood glucose, raise blood pressure, and change our metabolism. Stress, in other words, makes diabetes harder to control, and also increases our risk for heart disease.
Sleep and exercise
There are two behaviors that can both reduce stress and improve diabetes management – getting regular exercise and adequate sleep. Now, this sounds simple, but we all know how the everyday demands of life make it hard to schedule regular exercise and an early bedtime. Stress – especially depressive stress-causing circumstances – make it that much harder.
If you’re unable to cope, please see a mental health professional. But, if you can force yourself to exercise and get enough rest you can give a double whammy back – you will reduce the stress you feel and improve your health to boot.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your diabetes?