Minimizing stress is a key part of your diabetes treatment plan.
When you think of managing type 2 diabetes, you probably think about taking your medication, eating healthier (fewer processed carbs, more veggies), and trying to exercise more. And all of those habits are critical. But you might be overlooking the power of stress reduction in your diabetes game plan.
“Stress has an impact on your whole body,” says internist Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “One of the things it does is it causes the release of a stress hormone called cortisol. What does cortisol do in the body? It raises blood sugar.” That might not be a huge deal if you occasionally feel a surge of stress when you’re under a tight work deadline or are running to catch your commuter train. But if you’re under daily stress (like so many people are), that means your stress hormones could be keeping your blood sugar levels in a chronic state of elevation.So if that sounds familiar, it pays to make a concerted effort to minimize stress in your daily routine. And some of the habits that are proven stress reducers are also fantastic for diabetes management. Exhibit A: exercise.
“Exercise helps your blood glucose levels. Exercise helps you decrease your stress levels. Exercise just has a lot of benefits,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, an internist in New York City.
In fact, as a certified diabetes educator, Sandra Arevalo, RDN, says helping patients identify go-to stress relievers is an important part of the conversation. “We explore different options for the patients and we try to find what relaxes them, what they like to do, what keeps them out of the real world for a little bit,” she says. “We make a list of the things that you like to do and we say, ‘Okay, these are your top three things that you're gonna do when you're feeling stressed or anxious.’"
Whether your best chill-out method is a sweat session at the gym, a more leisurely walk with your dog, curling up with a novel, or just cuddling on the couch with your kids or partner, the key is to carve out time to make de-stressing a habit. Over time, you just might see a difference in your blood sugar numbers as a result.
Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe is an internist and health media expert in New York City.Paul Knoepflmacher
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.Sandra Arevalo
Sandra Arevalo is a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of nutrition services and community outreach at South Bronx Health Center.
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So it's always stressful when
a patient finds out they have a new
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diagnosis of anything at all,
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especially something like diabetes when
they just think that it's something that
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basically will not allow them to live
a normal life which is not the truth.
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So stress has an impact on our whole
body and one of the things that stressed
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us is the cause of the release of
a stress hormone called cortisol.
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What does cortisol do in the body?
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It raises blood sugar.
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So when a person is under chronic stress
or acute stress, their sugars can go up.
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So anything that they can do
whether it's exercise, mediation,
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relaxation techniques will
help their overall health and
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probably have a positive
impact on their sugar control.
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helps relieve stress.
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It puts you in a better mood.
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There are certain hormones,
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feel good hormones that
are released when you exercise.
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So that's just one thing or one technique
that you can do to sort of calm you down
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and keep you at a state where by you
are more relaxed, and less stressed.
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So exercise helps your
blood glucose levels.
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Exercise helps you decrease
your stress levels.
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Exercise just has a lot of benefits.
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Some of the stress management
techniques that we use is you
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know relaxation, meditation.
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Just to pray sometimes,
reading, long baths.
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It really depends on what the patient
likes to do and helps the patient relax.
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It's very individualistic.
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Some people like long walks.
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So we say, hey, go for
it if that’s going to help you.
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But some older people don't like that and
some older people prefer to read or
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they prefer to go to a salon,
and have their nails doing.
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It really depends.
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So what we do as diabetes educators is
that we explore different options for
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the patient and we try to find what
relaxes them, what they like to do and
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we make a list of the things
that you like to do.
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And we say, okay, these are your top three
things that you're gonna do when you're
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feeling stressed or anxious.
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If you're someone who's managing
your stress levels very well,
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that means you'll be able to
manage your diabetes very well.
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