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Managing Stress When You Have Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 07, 2021

Stress can cause some people to become ill. And when you have diabetes, stress can significantly affect your ability to control the disease. If you are under stress, you may skip meals or forget to take your medication, which will affect your blood sugar level.

Although you can't completely remove stress from your life, there are several ways you can reduce it. And by learning to better manage stress, you can help keep your diabetes under control. Plus, with less stress, you can have the energy you need to eat right, exercise, and check your blood sugar. Having ways to bust stress can also help you sleep better. That’s great because when you don’t get enough sleep, your blood sugar can rise.

 Here are some tips:

Try to Have a Positive Attitude

When things seem to be going wrong, it's always easier to see the bad instead of the good. Find something good in each important area of your life: work, family, friends, and health. Thinking about the good can help you get through the bad times.

Be Nice to Yourself

What are your talents, abilities, and goals? Are you expecting too much from yourself? Don't expect more of yourself than you have or are able to give. It's OK to say "no" to things that you don't really want or need to do.

Accept What You Cannot Change

For those stressful situations or problems that cannot be changed, develop a simple plan of action. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • "Will this be important 2 years from now?"
  • "Do I have control over this situation?"
  • "Can I change my situation?"

Talk to Someone About Your Stressors

Don't keep everything bottled up inside. If you don't want to talk with a family member or close friend, there are counselors and clergy trained to provide support and insight. Ask your doctor for recommendations if you would like to see a psychologist or counselor.

Exercise to Lower Stress

The benefits of exercise in reducing stress are well known. Exercise gives you a feeling of well-being and may relieve symptoms of stress. Think about what kinds of exercise help you relieve stress. You can blow off steam with hard exercise, recharge on a hike, or do a relaxing mind-body activity like yoga or tai chi. You'll feel better. Exercise doesn't just help you fight stress. It can lower your blood pressure and help you lose any extra pounds. Talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise program. Ask what type of exercise might be best for you.

Practice Relaxation Skills

Practice muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, or visualization.

  • Relaxation exercise. Close your eyes while sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down. Starting with your toes, slowly clench one body part at a time. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Keep going until you've tightened and relaxed every part of your body.
  • Deep breathing. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Then close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Let all the air out of your lungs like you're letting air out of a balloon. Repeat many times.
  • Yoga. Slowly relax into a downward dog pose or a warrior's pose. This forces you to focus on your breathing, stretching, and how you place your body. It loosens tight muscles and turns your thoughts away from the stresses in your life. Consider taking a yoga class at a gym or a local community center. Or do a yoga routine online. If you don't have time for a full class, even 5 or 10 minutes of yoga posing or breathing can help ease stress.

Ask your health care provider for information and available programs. You can also check for apps that do that.

Other Stress-Busting Ideas

Try these to help keep stress in check and your diabetes under control:

  • Music. Relaxing music can ease anxiety and depression and lower your blood pressure. Find music that calms you, then put on your headphones and relax. You can make playlists of some of your favorite stress-busting songs so you have them ready when you need them. Keep them separate from the workout music that gets you pumped up to exercise.
  • Hobbies. Fight stress by forgetting about it. Lose yourself in a favorite pastime. Do something that relaxes you, like reading or painting.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: “Coping with Chronic Illness.”

Karen Kemmis, physical therapist, exercise physiologist, diabetes educator, spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

American Diabetes Association: "Stress," and "What is Exercise?"

Dartmouth College: "Deep Breathing Exercises."

Beth Israel Medical Center, The Louis Armstrong Department of Musical Therapy.

KidsHealth: "Yoga for Lowering Stress."

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