By Emily Loghmani, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
Mar 16, 2014

Emily Loghmani, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
Emily Loghmani, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Managing a chronic illness like diabetes can cause stress. Every day, the person with diabetes must be vigilant. Diabetes never goes away and yet it’s only one part of your busy life, which also includes work and taking care of your family. If you follow your doctor’s recommendations, you may do all of the following:

  • Check your blood glucose levels one or more times a day.
  • Take one or more medications one or more times a day.
  • Inject insulin.
  • Watch what you eat.
  • Count your carbs.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of activity almost every day.
  • Store medications properly.
  • Keep your blood glucose meter in a convenient place.
  • Remember to refill prescriptions.
  • Watch for signs of hypoglycemia and treat it promptly and properly.

What is stress?

Stress is broadly defined as a physical or mental response to something in your environment or to something that you think or feel. You may feel stress, for example, if:

  • your blood glucose level is over 200 mg/dl
  • you suddenly remember that you left your insulin at home
  • you are worrying about lab results
  • you fear that you might have a low blood glucose level during the night

Similarly, some responses to stress might include:

  • tension
  • anxiety
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • an upset stomach
  • a headache

You may feel stressed before or after you check your blood glucose. That is, you worry beforehand what the number is going to be, and then five seconds after you see the number, you worry that it’s not “good enough.”

Stress can be managed

Fortunately, we can learn to manage stress. We can learn how to avoid feeling stressed or minimize our responses. Here are a few ideas about how to deal with stress:

  • Plan ahead to avoid a stressful situation.
  • Choose a strategy to deal with a stressful event. Some examples to help reduce tension are breathing deeply, or counting to 10.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Learn to meditate.
  • Be patient with and accepting of yourself and others; do not expect perfection.
  • Use humor to lighten an edgy mood.

Up to a point, stress can be a helpful sign that we need to take better care of ourselves. However, too much stress for too long can cause physical and emotional problems. If you believe that you are feeling too stressed too often, please ask your family or health care team for help.

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