Diabetes and Stress: Deep breaths and Counting to 10 doesn’t work for us!

June 18, 2014By 2 Comments

images67Many people have told me that it will take at least a year after having a baby to get your body back.  Well, no one tells you it takes that and then some to get your sanity, sleep, only half your body, and maybe your diabetes control back if you’re lucky.  For months now I have been trying so hard to focus on getting my A1C down and my numbers back under decent control.  I have been fairly hard on myself, given that I had spent two years prior and during my pregnancy trying to be the perfect diabetic.  I have been racking my brain as to why it has been near impossible for me to get my blood sugars where they are not stuck in the high zone or crashing to lows without notice for so long now that I forget what is working and what isn’t.  I’ve examined my medications to see if any of them, mainly any newer ones like my tons of allergy medication, may be contributing to unexplained and stubborn highs.  I’ve thrown out any insulin bottles that I even think for a second could have been at room temperature for more than a month.  I’ve been checking my blood sugar diligently and even started wearing my sensor again.  I’ve analyzed my diet and my carb ratios to no end.  Then, out of nowhere, for the last week, without changing a thing, my numbers have been almost ideal, ranging between 75-130.  Huh?

What has changed in the last week, I thought to myself, “Oh!! let’s see, I returned from a very long week away from my baby and my home for an intense work conference on the other side of the country.”  The weeks (and even months) leading up to it, I was stressing myself out to the point of a breakdown trying to get everything in order for my trip in regards to work and my household, and of course to make sure that my  mini-me wouldn’t miss a beat in her schedule.  Am I naturally high strung?  Absolutely.  Am I always an anxious person whose mind never stops going?  Sure am.  But take all of the normal characteristics about me and pile on the nerves, thought of packing for myself and preparing a week’s worth of life for my husband and daughter (who by the way would have managed just fine if I hadn’t done a thing, but did I also mention I’m a control freak?), and you get one giant ball of STRESS.  That’s it folks, that is the culprit that has been making my high blood sugars go on strike and just lazily wade around in their pool of sweet glucose water in my body.  Since I have been home from my trip I have allowed myself to just chill a bit, and my blood sugars were ready to get out of the pool.

What exactly does stress do to those of us whose homeostasis (normal process for the body to right itself) is insulin deprived?

Here is what the American Diabetes Association (www.Diabetes.org) has to say about stress:

Stress results when something causes your body to behave as if it were under attack. When stress occurs, the body prepares to take action. This preparation is called the fight-or-flight response. In the fight-or-flight response, levels of many hormones shoot up. Their net effect is to make a lot of stored energy — glucose and fat – available to the cells. These cells are then primed to help the body get away from danger. In people who have diabetes, the fight-or-flight response does not work well.  Insulin is not always able to let the extra energy into the cells, so glucose piles up in the blood.

So there you have it.  Stress = a blood sugar strike in your body, fat that is difficult to be burned off for energy, exhaustion and frustration.  Awesome, because all of that is really making everything else even more stressful!  Geez!  I’m not going to go into a giant list of things we can do to alleviate stress in our lives, especially in order to gain control of our diabetes; we all should have a good idea of what those things are: exercise, eating right, communicating with spouse/friends or a therapist, doing things you enjoy…etc.

I’m really writing this to just say having diabetes sucks, especially when you’re really stressed out in life.  It’s so difficult to explain that to people around you.  “Oh, did you have a bad day?…Is it that time of the month? …Did you not sleep well?”  Yes, all of the above and I feel like physical crap because my blood sugars haven’t gone below 250 in a day.  This is what I wish we could say out loud and have people really understand how we feel.  Those of us with this disease, at least many people I know personally, don’t complain much about how awful we sometimes feel when we are in the middle of giving a presentation at work, in the grocery store with a screaming toddler, or trying to do a simple task like laundry.  Stress and high blood sugars is just plain nasty.  That’s it, I said my peace.

Life is too short, and while I am personally someone who let’s every little thing get to me (I am working on these things one day at a time), I have learned that life is too damn short to let stress be a potential secondary cause of me getting complications from diabetes in the future.  I have made conscious decisions to eliminate or at least reduce stressful situations, people and projects that I may take on.  I reevaluate myself constantly, look in the mirror, and decide if it is me or an external force causing my stress.  I put me first.  And while this doesn’t exactly cure my stress, I have to imagine it’s reduced it at least some.  I have a child now, and I will not let excuses get in my way of causing anything to effect my blood sugars in which I can control.  With that said, not everything is controllable, and stress often shoots me right between the eyes at least once a week, I’m just trying harder to not let it get through my skin.  We do the best we can.

I haven’t taken a yoga class in well over a year, since before my daughter was born.  I think about it all the time, at least once a week I promise myself I will go to a class.  I was never a big yogi, but could always appreciate the body’s attempt at stretching (literally and figuratively) its limits all while trying to remember to breath.  This is extremely challenging for me, as I can’t usually spend more than a minute focused on the task at hand without thinking about what the next task is.  I also have such limited time in the week to work out, that I need to treat exercise like speed dating and burn as many calories and tone as many muscles in literally as little time as possible.  Who has time for stretching and breathing?  That doesn’t make sense! 

Finally, after promising myself for months, I made it to a class today.  Barely.  I followed the instructor, and went through all the motions, but all the while totally consumed with the rest of the day and my long to do list in my head.  Well, ‘A’ for effort!  I’ll try harder next time.  I went about my day, with pretty good blood sugars, and feeling happy that my insulin resistance caused by stress over the last few months has seemed too broken.  Then of course, why not, I completely forget to put my pump back on after showering, and don’t realize it until hours later when I go to bolus.  Can’t get stressed about that, there are worse things, at least I didn’t forget to pick my daughter up at daycare today.

And so it goes…

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  1. The Mysterious High Blood Sugar : Serving Up Diabetes | August 18, 2014
  1. Elizabeth Shapiro says:

    Great post. Stress can have such an impact on the body. And yet it is SO hard to control. Can totally relate to your desire to get back into a yoga-class too….no time, and when you do, your mind is still racing thinking of all the things you need to be doing during that hour! Kind of defeats the purpose. I admire you for trying and say keep it up. I am thinking it might be like running…some runs are good, some are bad…maybe some yoga sessions you can let go and relax, some there’s just too much. On the upside, even if your mind was still racing, at least you gave your body a break for that brief moment!

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