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The Stress Monster.

August 20, 2008

Bernard’s comment to my last post made me think about how much stress impacts our life with diabetes. Stress is one of those mysterious variables that doesn’t have a precise scientific calculation to how it’s going to affect blood sugar, like food and insulin do. But stress does affect our blood sugar in a variety of ways. Stress can increase certain hormones that makes our body less receptive to insulin. Stress can also lead us to do certain activities that have an impact, like overeating.

I haven’t seen a direct correlation between stress and my blood sugars as far as my hormones go, though when I was younger my mother was convinced my blood sugar went high right before I was about to fly. Flying has never been a stressful event for me, but stress is closely related to any kind of excitement or adrenaline spike which is why my blood sugars tend to go up after I exercise. My mother thought that my excitement for an impending flight, and perhaps the stress of packing although I didn’t have that much to do with it, affected my blood sugars negatively.

However, stress has definitely caused me to overeat in certain situations. In the middle of a chaotic workday, it’s not uncommon for me to escape the office for a few minutes to go down to Starbucks and pick up a frappuccino or snack. I always get the Mocha Light frappuccinos, which have half the carbs, but still, those midafternoon snacks can do a number on my numbers.

Bernard asked me for suggestions on how to handle stress and also boredom, both of which cause him to overeat, thus dragging up his blood sugars. I’m not a therapist, I told him, but when I was going through my depression in college I found therapy to be valuable. Other options are yoga or meditation.

Do you find that stress or other situations affect your blood sugars in some way and if so, what do you do about it? Perhaps our collective experience can help each other. Stressful situations are unlikely to stop in the near future, so it’s important that we’re able to find ways to fight off the Stress Monster.

8 Comments
  1. August 20, 2008 9:42 PM

    The biggest problem that I have with stress is never knowing what it will do to my blood sugars. At times a little stress can make my numbers soar and a huge amount of stress and they stay steady all day. The next time that stress comes around the result is just the opposite. Dealing with the variables that stress ads is perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of diabetes.

  2. August 20, 2008 9:48 PM

    Stress/anxiety before a race can cause my BG to go super high! What I have done about it is to eat 3 hours before the race so I have time to deal with it, and to also increase my basal rate. It works great. I increase my basal probably about 15-20%.

  3. August 21, 2008 3:41 AM

    I totally agree with what you and Aubrey are saying. For me, stress is totally unpredictable. Sometimes my blood sugars are high and sometimes they are really low. I try to think ahead and figure it out depending on the situation, like increasing my insulin intake or decreasing my basal rates for a couple of hours, but I never know exactly what will happen at that particular moment.

    I think stress will be something I will be thinking about and trying to mentally notice what happened, what my numbers were, and how I could try to predict it the next time I’m in that situation?

  4. August 21, 2008 8:34 AM

    Last night I had a definite impact of stress on my blood sugars. I was fine, then something really pissed me off, and whoosh! Up goes the blood sugar. I just did a small correction, increased my basal, and tried to calm down. It took awhile for it to come down (is adrenaline correlated with insulin resistance?), but overall, I was okay.

  5. August 21, 2008 9:39 AM

    Hi! I got here form the WP News page…

    I have to say though I don’t have diabetes at the moment, I did have gestational diabetes with my last pregnancy. I had a scheduled csection and though for 6 months I was able to keep my fasting blood sugar at or below 75 in the morning (diet controlled, I didnt take any meds), the morning of the surgery it was above 90 even though I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink for the previous 12 hours.

    I didn’t feel stressed out or anything, though apparently my body was telling my drs different as during the surgery they gave me some meds in my IV to calm me down.

    Anyway, just thought I would say that in case anyone in my situation happens upon this post as well. 😉

  6. August 21, 2008 9:49 AM

    It must be going around. I posted about this very same topic yesterday!

  7. Katrin permalink
    August 21, 2008 10:44 AM

    Stress usually makes my bg go up, so I just bolus more or take a few units between meals. But I think it’s better to go high than low. The last thing I need is a low when everything is hectic and stressful. They can make me feel shaky and week for hours even after my bg went up again.

  8. August 26, 2008 10:23 AM

    Exercise definitely helps for me, but I can’t always drop things and get on a bike. I know some music pieces also help (Beethoven’s 9th) but depending on the stress I might also end up in tears!

    Right now I’m building a new basement closet. Ripping out the walls in the old closet are really good at reducing stress. Plus I’m so tired going to bed, I sleep really well.🙂

    Thanks for the suggestion about Yoga, I might look into that later in the year.

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