September 29, 2023

Is There a Link Between Diabetes and Stress?

Are you interested in improving your diabetes management strategy by taking steps to deal with the physical and mental side effects of stress? If so, keep reading for a comprehensive overview of the link between diabetes and stress.


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Home / Living with Diabetes / Is There a Link Between Diabetes and Stress?

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that living with this disease can be stressful. When you try to juggle diabetes management with the demands of everyday life, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually miss a planned insulin injection or blood glucose check. These situations can make diabetes management even trickier than usual, adding to your existing stress—and increasing your risk of burnout. In any given 18-month period, between 33 and 50 percent of people with diabetes will face diabetes distress as a result of these factors.

Even if this were the only way stress could affect your ability to manage diabetes, it would still be worth taking seriously. But that’s not the case, since your stress level can directly impact your blood glucose levels. Are you interested in improving your diabetes management strategy by taking steps to deal with the physical and mental side effects of stress? If so, keep reading for a comprehensive overview of the link between diabetes and stress.

How Does Stress Affect Diabetes?

To understand how stress can make it harder to manage diabetes, you’ll need to know a bit about how stress works. When you feel threatened or experience stress for any other reason, you react with the “fight-or-flight response.” In this state, your respiratory rate goes up and your body releases cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.

However, these hormones can have an impact on your blood glucose levels. If you have type 2 diabetes, you’ll likely find yourself dealing with higher-than-average blood glucose while under mental stress. People with type 1 diabetes can also experience increased blood sugar due to stress, but stressful situations may cause their blood glucose to decrease instead. (Physical stressors, such as injuries or illness, can also result in blood sugar spikes in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes.)

Along with all of this, some researchers believe high amounts of stress hormones could prevent the pancreas cells responsible for insulin production from doing their jobs. Though stress can’t cause diabetes on its own, this research suggests it could be a contributing factor.

Symptoms of Stress

The symptoms of stress can range from obvious to nearly undetectable—and as a result, it’s not always easy to tell when you’re facing this condition. If you think you might be dealing with stress, keep an eye out for physical symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Oversleeping or under sleeping
  • Muscle tension/pain
  • Headaches
  • An overall sense of malaise

Of course, stress can also have an impact on your mental well-being with symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • A lack of motivation

Finally, stress can lead to behavioral changes, including:

  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive drinking
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Lashing out in anger
  • Withdrawing from loved ones

How to Reduce Stress

The symptoms listed above can seriously impact your quality of life and make diabetes management even more difficult than usual. That means learning about healthy ways to deal with stress is in your best interest. To cut down on your everyday stress level, you should:

Avoid Stressors When Possible

Obviously, one of the best ways to deal with stress is to cut it out at the source. If you know what factors cause stress in your life, do what you can to steer clear of them.

As part of this, it’s a good idea to keep track of times when you experience stress and write down what you were doing then. This process can help you spot patterns related to stress and potentially help you identify unknown stressors.

Get Active

It’s no secret that exercise can have a positive impact on your ability to manage diabetes, but physical activity can also reduce stress. To maximize the emotional benefits of exercise, find a workout routine you enjoy—whether that means challenging yourself with weightlifting, getting out in the natural world by taking a hike, or unwinding with yoga.

Learn to Relax

While you’re already rethinking your exercise regimen, it’s wise to read up on a few relaxation techniques. For example, deep breathing is a simple (but highly effective) way to relax. Simply inhale through your nose as deeply and slowly as you can, wait a few moments, and exhale through your mouth. Repeating this process as needed will calm you down before you know it.

women sitting

Cut Down on Caffeine

Caffeine can increase your production of cortisol while making it harder for you to absorb adenosine (a hormone associated with relaxation). Thus, if you have trouble managing stress, a cup of coffee might not be the best way to deal with this situation.

Get the Support You Need

Spending time with the people you care about can go a long way toward helping you cope with stress. If you need assistance dealing with stressors specific to diabetes management, consider joining a diabetes support group.

Learn More About Diabetes Tips and Management

As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power”—and the more you know about diabetes management, the less diabetes-related stress you’ll have to deal with. That’s one of the biggest reasons why US MED maintains a blog full of diabetes information, from valuable diet and exercise tips to updates on industry-leading diabetes products.

This isn’t the only way US MED can help you deal with the link between diabetes and stress, either. We’re the nation’s most trusted supplier of diabetes supplies, and we offer continuous glucose monitoring systems, insulin pumps, testing supplies, and much more. No matter what products you order from us, you’ll benefit from our A+ Better Business Bureau rating and 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. To get started, explore our lineup of products today!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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