stress and diabetes

Stress and Diabetes: Symptoms & Complications

The hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released into your body during the fight-or-flight response to stress or threat. If your body cannot process these hormones efficiently, it can lead to increased blood sugar levels. Managing diabetes becomes even harder when you experience chronic stress from long term problems with blood glucose levels.


How can different types of stress affect your diabetes?

Depending on the person, different side effects can be triggered by stress. Furthermore, the physical symptoms will also reflect how severely you are stressing. For example, when people who have type 2 diabetes experience psychological trauma, their blood sugar readings go up more significantly than those of people without diabetes.


People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have sudden changes in blood sugar levels, which can be a rise or drop. If you’re going through tough times like illness or injury, your blood sugar is likely to increase no matter what type of diabetes you have.


What are the symptoms of stress?

Though stress often manifests in subtle ways, it’s crucial to be attuned to these early warning signs. If left unaddressed, stress can take a heavy toll on your mental and emotional health, as well as your physical wellbeing. By tuning into the signals your body is sending you, you will be better equipped to manage stress before it spirals out of control.


Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • headaches
  • muscle pain or tension
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • general feelings of illness
  • fatigue


Stress may also cause you to feel:

  • unmotivated
  • irritable
  • depressed
  • restless
  • anxious

How can you determine if mental stress is affecting your glucose levels?

Logging when you feel stressed, as well as what activities were happening then, can help you understand your triggers. For example, does the start of every work week make you anxious? If so, figure out a Monday plan that includes ways to alleviate stressors and might improve blood sugar level control.


To determine whether mental stress affects your blood sugar, track both your stress and glucose levels for a few weeks, rating your level of stress on a scale from 1-10 before checking your current glucose reading. After you have collected enough data points to form a pattern, it will likely become clear if there’s any correlation between the two numbers. If you notice that most of your high glucose readings occur during periods of high amounts of stress, it’s probable that the latter is negatively influencing the former.


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