Diabetes and managing stress

Stress is a normal part of daily life, but the level of stress you experience, whether it is physical or mental, can impact your diabetes through changes in your blood glucose (sugar) levels.

What is stress?

Stress is a normal response that occurs when you feel overwhelmed by things happening in your life.

When you experience stress, your body will respond as if it were under attack and will react by preparing itself to take action. This preparation is called the fight-or-flight response. In the fight-or-flight response, your hormones levels will rise which will stimulate the body to release stored glucose into the blood stream.

If you don’t have diabetes:

  • Your body will produce more insulin in response to the higher blood glucose levels.

If you do have diabetes:

  • The fight-or-flight response will not work as well.
  • As your blood glucose increases, you may not have enough insulin to move this glucose into your cells. This can result in your blood glucose levels getting higher.

What can cause stress?

Managing diabetes can be stressful. Some other causes for stress may include:


  • Illness;
  • Injury; or
  • Surgery.


  • Bereavement;
  • Issues at work or in a relationship;
  • Financial crisis; or
  • Concern for a loved one or yourself.

How does stress affect diabetes?

When you are initially diagnosed with diabetes you may feel stressed. There is a lot of new information to learn which can cause pressure, fear or anxiety. Your diabetes health care team can help you overcome much of this stress by providing support and education, as well as help you establish a diabetes management routine to meet your specific needs.

Stress may also affect your ability to control your blood glucose levels. When you are stressed, you may forget to eat meals or take your medications and/or insulin according to your diabetes management plan.

 What can I do to manage my stress?

The first step in managing your stress is to recognize when it is happening. It is important to learn strategies to deal with your stress. There are some simple things you can do to reduce your stress, such as:

  • Practice relaxation techniques (including breathing exercises and meditation);
  • Learn effective ways to respond to stress;
  • Identify situations that may cause stress and determine ways to avoid them or to reduce the stress associated with them;
  • Make changes to your routine;
  • Participate in activities that will make your life more enjoyable; and
  • Exercise.


Published date: 
March 16, 2016
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