What Are The Effects Of Stress On The Body
Have you ever been in an intense situation and noticed your heart rate accelerated, your breath quickened, and your muscles tightened? That response is called fight-or-flight and takes action when various hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol, are released. Fight-or-flight is a valuable response every now and then but can be harmful to your body if experienced every day. The influx of hormones can suppress your immune system and make you susceptible to disease.
Studies support the connection between emotional stress, depression, and diabetes. Chronic emotional stress has been established as a risk factor for depression, and depression is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Another study has shown that high cortisol levels might prevent insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from working correctly. Insulin is a vital hormone that regulates your blood sugar and is a critical player in developing type 2 diabetes.
Why Reducing Stress Can Help You Prevent Diabetes
Want a Lower A1c and Body Weight Guaranteed?
Apply for Personalized Coaching and get guaranteed results or your money back
In the past few decades, weve become increasingly aware of the fact that emotional stress can have a very potent physical effect.
Combined with the most stressful year in a century thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, economic downturn, travel restrictions, and more complications all on top of the usual stressors of life, its perfectly natural to take stock of your overall stress level and how its affecting you.
In this article, well explore one particular area of concern stresss relationship with diabetes and discuss how now and after the COVID pandemic, you can take a few key steps to prevent stress from affecting your physical and mental health.
Eliminate Whats Stressing You Out
While this seems obvious, it should be your first plan of action. You might not be able to completely avoid the stress, but you could reduce it by brainstorming alternatives and problem solving. If you want to avoid rush-hour traffic, try leaving at a different time or adopt a new route. If a relationship is troubling you, see if you can make amends. If you find you cannot accomplish tasks at hand, find new ways to get organized.
Also Check: How To Cope With Caregiver Stress
What Is The Fight
The fight-freeze or flight response is an evolutionary coping mechanism enabling us to deal with threats and stressful situations.
When confronted by a threat, hormones are released that help us get ready to either fight the threat or fuel a quick escape. There is an increase in glucose for energy, increased blood pressure to take fresh oxygen to working muscles, and the release of adrenalin for heightened vigilance and alertness.
The freeze factor has been introduced in recent years as theories have been put forward as to why people sometimes freeze in a hopeless, shocking situation. It is possible that this rabbit in headlights reaction is similar to playing dead, which could have helped our ancestors avoid attacks in the wild.
Modern humans have fewer physical threats, but when faced with psychological pressures such as getting stuck in traffic, the brain and body still behaves in the same manner as when faced with a physical threat .
However, in people with diabetes this instinctive response does not work as well. Insulin is needed to get stored energy into the bodys cells. But in people who have diabetes, this process is hampered as insulin is either not produced or not used effectively , resulting in the build-up of excess glucose in the bloodstream.
Can Stress Raise Your Blood Sugar
Cortisol is insulin resistant, meaning it prevents the hormone from being produced. Insulin is the primary ingredient for getting rid of excess sugars and keeping your blood sugar levels under control. Without the proper insulin release, more glucose stays in your bloodstream, leaving the levels imbalanced. High blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes when left untreated.
Stress can also indirectly cause type 2 diabetes when people overeat. During extreme stress, people may consume more unhealthy food or just more food in general. It is common for people, during very stressful periods, to avoid exercising and taking their medications, leading to high glucose levels and unhealthy habits.
Read Also: Can Stress Cause Dry Mouth
Stress Why And How You Should Reduce It
Editors Note: This is part of our Mental Health series. Type 1 isnt just about counting carbs, checking BGLs and administering insulin. The disease takes an emotional and psychological toll as well. Check out other clinical information and personal stories about Mental Health.
Everybody experiences stress throughout his or her life. You could lose a job, home or loved one. You could suddenly lose your health. Certainly at some juncture, youll be stuck in traffic or step in gum or endure any number of unwanted situations. But if encountering stress is all a part of the human experience, what does it mean for someone with Type 1?
Essentially, when the body senses a threat perceived or actual it has a physical reaction by releasing the stress hormones of epinephrine and cortisol . These hormones trigger the liver to produce extra energy called glucose that your cells can then use to fight the threat or flee the scene .
Sudden increases of glucose can pose a dangerous scenario for a T1D. Without insulin, the extra glucose energy piles up in the blood, unable to reach the cells for which its intended. This state is known as hyperglycemia and can occur when youve simply eaten more than you planned or exercised less than you intended. What makes stress so dangerous though is that more often than not, it goes undetected. On top of that, long-term exposure to stress can cause long-term high blood glucose levels.
Helping Patients With Diabetes Manage Stress
Health care professionals can support patient health by sharing tools and strategies to reduce stress.
In a previous post, Krystal M. Lewis, PhD, talked about the importance of managing stress for health care professionals. Here she focuses on how health care professionals can support their patients with diabetes in managing stress to avoid complications.
Q: What kind of stress do people with diabetes face?
A: People with diabetes face similar stressors as other people without diabetes, but due to their medical status they face additional challenges. Sources of stress can be both routine and nonroutine personal experiences as well as systemic issues of inequality, such as having to deal with racism within the healthcare system, inadequate health resources, or lack of access to basic food and shelter.
People who have diabetes might also experience diabetes-related stress. This is a response to living with diabetes, which is a life-threatening illness that often requires chronic and intensive self-management and awareness in regard to such things as medications and eating. Also, among people who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, depression is more common, which is associated with poorer health outcomes.
Q: What are the specific risks of stress for people who have diabetes?
Q: How can health care professionals help their patients with diabetes manage stress?
Resources to Share with Patients:
You May Like: How To Deal With Stress And Anxiety Naturally
The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can manifest differently in one person from the next. For some, positive or negative stress may produce immediate tears, for example. In others, it may cause them to be silent and speechless. And others may become easily angry and irritable.
Depending on the severity of the stress level, your symptoms can vary. Here are some examples of stress symptoms:
Mild to moderate stress
- panic attacks
Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. Stress is linked to 6 of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Before we move on to how stress can affect your blood sugar and what you can do to reduce stress, lets take a closer look at the hormones involved in a stress reaction.
Why Does Stress Worsen Diabetes
Stress causes a physical reaction within your body, commonly referred to as fight-or-flight. While this is beneficial in short-term situations, stress increases your hormone levels and causes multiple neurons to fire. This in turn, tells your body to release adrenaline and cortisol so you can react. These hormones enter your bloodstream and in turn, cause an increase in respiratory rate.
The reason for this reaction is evolutionary. The increased hormones and blood flow allows for faster response rates so you can fight the situation or flee. Again, this is beneficial in acute circumstances, such as when you encounter a predator or are faced with a threat. However, when this occurs continually due to non-immediate dangers, it strains your body.
Specifically, the physical reaction from stress leads to an increased rate of glucose in the blood streama byproduct of neural firing. If you dont convert the glucose into energy, such as what would be needed to fight or flee, it builds up and can become problematic. Unfortunately, stress also leads to a drop in natural insulin levels. For those living with diabetes, this can make management difficult and potentially dangerous.
Don’t Miss: Where Do You Get Stress Acne
Success Is Never An Accident Especially When It Comes To Your Health
Type 2 is very manageable, but it doesnt manage itself.
Try to imagine your best possible life with diabetes. Maybe it involves dancing at your child’s wedding, running a marathon, or simply enjoying the foods you love while staying in control of your blood sugar. To make it happen, you need a step-by-step plan.
This could take the form of a meal plan for the week ahead, monthly exercise goals, or a list of questions you want to ask your doctor. Keep your plans tangible and incremental to help you stay motivated. While planning around your diabetes might feel restrictive at first, a realistic plan can also help you feel in control of your situation.
I have realized now, that if you manage it correctly, you don’t exactly turn back the clock, but you can have a happy life.
Creating Time For Both Work And Family Responsibilities
It is important to make sure you’re dedicating time in your schedule for both work and family. Most people remember to schedule work time, especially since going to work involves leaving home for most people. However, it’s easy to forget to schedule family time. People often report they feel disappointed they seem to run out of time’ and don’t have time to spend with their children and spouse as much as they’d like.
If you struggle to balance your time, consider outsourcing some of your work tasks or hiring a babysitter to free up some extra time. Additionally, try to make a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. This will help you use your time more efficiently.
It can be challenging to stick to a schedule 100% of the time, but it is important to try. When you are able to manage your time effectively, it can lead to greater productivity and success. In addition, effective time management can help reduce stress by ensuring that you are using your time wisely.
You May Like: How Can I Avoid Stress
Different Strokes: Both Methods Of Diabetes Self
Individuals in both study groups were able to achieve a reduction in distress that was noticeable, Dr. Fisher tells EndocrineWeb. There were no significant differences seen in the amount of stress reduction that occurred between the individuals in either group.³ However, the researchers did find that one program helped more than the other, depending on the person.
For instance, the KnowIt approach was a better choice for people who came in with less than ideal information about diabetes management the individuals who needed a good primer on the basics of type 1 diabetes responded best to this program, says Dr. Fischer, whereas the OnTrack approach appeared most effective for those individuals who arrived with a very high level of stress and a reasonable level of knowledge about managing their diabetes but who needed to gain control over the emotional side of their life.
These are the people who tend to blame themselves when their diabetes is not managed well, he says. For anyone who is facing anxiety, stress, or depression, “basically what we do is to label, identify, and discuss what the group members are experiencing emotionally around their diabetes. By presenting a variety of scenarios,” Dr. Fisher says, ” it gives each person the room to work out their own struggles.
T1-REDEEM Simultaneously Lessened Stress AND Improved Blood Glucose
When To Go To The Er
High blood sugar can be very concerning because your body can start burning fat for energy instead of blood glucose.
This can cause conditions such as DKA and hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome . These conditions are medical emergencies and can be fatal if left untreated.
DKA is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes. Its rare in people with type 2 diabetes, but can occur.
Symptoms that can indicate you should go to the emergency room include:
- ketones in your urine, as diagnosed using a urine dipstick test
- stomach pain
High blood sugar levels can cause a fluid imbalance in the body and can cause the blood to become acidic in a manner that doesnt support life.
Medical treatments for these conditions include administering intravenous insulin on a continuous basis and IV fluids to correct dehydration.
High blood sugar can become a medical emergency. Go to the ER if you suspect DKA or HHS.
Read Also: What To Do If Your Job Is Too Stressful
How Do I Know Whether Stress Is Affecting My Glycemic Control
A simple way to do this is to rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10 every time you test your blood sugar levels. Make a note of this number and next to it write down your glucose reading.
By doing this consistently for a few weeks, a pattern should emerge that allows you to see whether high levels of stress coincide with high glucose levels, or vice versa.
Concerned That Stress Is Affecting Your Well
As we saw with GDM, the combination of stress and diabetes can be a negative feedback loop. When your physical and behavioral response to stress helps cause diabetes, which causes more stress, its easy to feel helpless.
Fortunately, it just takes one small shift in gears to make a big change. This is because many of the same habits that can help provide long-term relief from stress also help reduce insulin resistance and increase your overall health.
Exercise is one excellent example. A low-fat, plant-based, whole food diet thats high in whole carbohydrates is another. Losing weight through dietary plans like intermittent fasting is a third.
This is without even adding tactics like getting enough sleep, finding time to relax, spending more time outdoors, and many other strategies that have been proven to help control and reduce stress.
If youre currently struggling with stress and diabetes, you might be able to learn from the Mastering Diabetes Method, which is proven to reverse insulin resistance and improve your physical health in the long term.
With this method and the guidance and support of our coaches, if youd like it, you can work on the physical side of stress, and ensure that your body and brain are as healthy as they can be.
You May Like: Does Stress Cause Colitis Flare Ups
Why Stress Is So Bad For Your Heart
Simply having diabetes hurts your heart. More than 68% of people ages 65 and older with the condition die from heart disease.
The findings from the new study suggest that being stressed long-term or depressed is tied to higher levels of C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation in the arteries.
Behavior plays a role, too. “It’s a catch-22,” says Eliot LeBow, LCSW, a psychotherapist and certified diabetes educator. “Attention, concentration, and motivation are all essential to diabetes self-management, but when you’re depressed you lack these things and are less likely to take care of yourself.”
For Those With Diabetes There Are Two Equally Effective Approaches That Can Help Ease The Anxiety That Often Arises Choose The Method That Works Best For You: Be It Emotion
With Lawrence Fisher, PhD, and Kimberly Driscoll, PhD
As is common with chronic diseases, managing diabetes, in particular, type 1 diabetes, can be very stressful, with up to half of those with diabetes reporting that they are feeling stressed and mentally exhausted.¹
If you’ve experienced these emotional lows, you don’t need a definition you know that having diabetes mellitus can be overwhelming as you try to cope with the day-in, day-out adjustments needed to control your diabetes.²
Learning emotional strategies to reduce anxiety, and tips to manage their diabetes better leads to less stress and better health. Photo: 123rf
And yesIt’s a lot to handlechecking your blood sugar, remembering to take your medications, or making sure your glucose device is working properly. Then, theres the added challenge of getting in some physical activity, and, of course, making the right food choices. Is it bedtime yet?!
In the end, each of these tasks is manageable but all together, diabetes care is more than just worry it can be intertwined with depression, anxiety, and stress, at any one time, says Lawrence Fisher, PhD, professor emeritus at the Diabetes Center at the University of California in San Francisco .
Recommended Reading: Does Stress Affect Erectile Dysfunction
Schedule Apps / Daily Planner Apps
There are many apps that can help you create and track your schedule. Some popular options include:
- Google Calendar
If you find it challenging to stick to a schedule, consider using an app to help you track your time. This will allow you to see how you’re spending your time and make adjustments.