There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed. Balancing the food you eat with exercise and medicine (if prescribed) will help you control your weight and can keep your blood glucose in the healthy range. In addition, it is important that someone living with diabetes focuses on their mental health and wellness.
In people with diabetes, stress can alter blood glucose levels in two ways:
- People under stress may not take good care of themselves. They may drink more alcohol or exercise less. They may forget, or not have time, to check their glucose levels or plan good meals.
- Stress hormones may also alter blood glucose levels directly.
It’s easy to find out whether mental stress affects your glucose control. Before checking your glucose levels, write down a number rating your mental stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. Then write down your glucose level next to it. After a week or two, look for a pattern. Drawing a graph may help you see trends better. Do high-stress levels often occur with high glucose levels, and low-stress levels with low glucose levels? If so, stress may affect your glucose control.
Making Changes & Coping Strategies. You may be able to get rid of some stresses of life. If traffic upsets you, for example, maybe you can find a new route to work or leave home early enough to miss the traffic jams. If your job drives you crazy, apply for a transfer if you can, or possibly discuss with your boss how to improve things. If you are at odds with a friend or relative, you can make the first move to patch things up. For such problems, stress may be a sign that something needs to change.
There are other ways to fight stress, such as:
- Start an exercise program or join a sports team
- Take dance lessons or join a dancing club
- Start a new hobby or learn a new craft
- Volunteer at a hospital or charity
- Replace bad thoughts with good ones
Join a support group. Knowing other people in the same situation helps you feel less alone. You can also learn other people’s hints for coping with problems. Making friends in a support group can lighten the burden of diabetes-related stresses.
Learning to relax. For some people with diabetes, controlling stress with relaxation therapy seems to help, though it is more likely to help people with type 2 diabetes than people with type 1 diabetes. There are many ways to help yourself relax, like breathing exercises. Sit or lie down and uncross your legs and arms. Take in a deep breath then push out as much air as you can. Breathe in and out again, this time relaxing your muscles on purpose while breathing out. Keep breathing and relaxing for 5 to 20 minutes at a time. Do the breathing exercises at least once a day.
Your Employee Assistance Program provides free and confidential assessment and counseling services. If you are interested in learning more about your benefits, call BHS at 800-245-1150 to speak to your dedicated Care Coordinator.