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Managing Your Diabetes During Holiday Stress

separator Changes in your lifestyle can cause stress—even changes that seem like a lot of fun. The holidays are pleasant for a lot of people, and difficult for some, but there’s no denying that life can seem a little out of control at this time of year. For people with diabetes, that means it’s important to understand how stress affects your condition and what you need to be aware of. 

The Effects of Stress
Stress can affect you physically and psychologically. It can affect your behavior too.

The physical effect: When you feel upset, nervous, extremely happy or any other kind of emotional high or low, your body produces the stress hormone adrenaline. Then your liver releases a burst of stored glucose (sugar). For most people with type 2, this raises the blood sugar level, and for people with type 1, the level becomes lower. But there’s no way of predicting for sure how stress will affect each person.

Sometimes you can get so caught up in your life that you may not realize that stress is affecting you. It can help you to realize you’re under stress when you know what the symptoms are: 

  • Symptoms of physical stress: 
  • Back or chest pain
  • Cold hands
  • Constipation, diarrhea, indigestion
  • Racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Changes in blood sugar level
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frustration
  • Irritability

When there’s a lot going on in your life, chances are you’re not caring for yourself as well as possible. Your exercise schedule can get out of whack, you might eat differently, forget to take medicine or forget to monitor blood sugar on schedule.

When you notice these signs that stress is getting to you, it’s a good idea to check your blood sugar.

Ways to deal with stress
There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself handle stress a little better that you might already:

Get plenty of exercise. Exercise helps your body handle the effects of stress more easily. There are all kinds of ways to incorporate exercise into your life: take exercise classes, take lessons in a sport you’ve never done, sign up for dance classes and go dancing regularly, etc. 

Explore activities you enjoy. Adding positive activities to your life is another way to help you deal with stress. If you’re interested in history, take a class. If you enjoy gardening, join a gardening club. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, sign up for lessons.

Learn relaxation techniques. Deep breathing exercises can help you to relax and deal with stress when it comes your way. Sitting quietly and following your breath in and out can create a calm feeling that can help you manage stress. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider about other stress reduction techniques that might help you.

Try to gain control of your life. If you hate your job, talk with your boss, co-workers or human resources staff to identify what needs to happen to make you feel better about going to work. If there’s no hope of that, it might be time to look for a new job. If your finances feel out of control, talk to a professional about ways to address this. Identify areas in your life that make you feel uncomfortable, and take active steps to change the situation.

Get plenty of sleep. It’s important to make this a priority. You’ll be able to handle stress more effectively if you feel rested. (And fitting exercise into your life regularly will help you to sleep.)

Get professional help if necessary
If nothing seems to help you get stress under control, it’s probably time to get help from a professional counselor. Research has shown that people with diabetes are more susceptible to depression than people who don’t have diabetes. Call a member of your healthcare team and let them know that you’d like some mental health counseling.

Diabetes Forecast, April 2000; The American Diabetes Association.
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