Caregiver Stress and Diabetes

Did you know that stress, from any cause, can directly affect your blood sugar levels? So, if you are a caregiver with diabetes, it’s important to understand the connection between caregiver stress and diabetes.

In my last blog, I talked about the roots causes of caregiver stress:

  • poor mental health. This may come from worry, overwhelm, depression, or even resentment and anger.
  • physical health problems that result from persistent mental stress
  • poor social health that comes from social circles that have shrunk. You may feel isolated and alone, as if no one understands what you are going through.

If you are experiencing these kinds of caregiver stress, you are at higher risk for developing diabetes. Or, if you have diabetes now, do you know how that stress may be affecting your blood sugars? Are your blood sugar levels stable or are you having difficulty controlling them?

person holding black tube; represents someone checking blood sugar levels and the connection between caregiver stress and diabetes.
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The Connection Between Caregiver Stress and Diabetes

First, let’s talk about the connection between caregiver stress and diabetes.

When we are stressed our bodies release hormones into our bloodstream. For example, cortisol and adrenaline. When these hormones are triggered, glucose is released into the bloodstream. Glucose provides the energy for the “flight or fight” response we experience with stress. For example, when we feel immediate stress, like when we are late for an appointment, our blood sugars spike.

In non-diabetics, the spike in blood sugar levels will be temporary. This is because non-diabetics have enough insulin to lower the blood glucose levels. But for diabetics, there may not be enough insulin to reduce the sugar spike. And so, blood sugar levels stay elevated.

I gave the example of being late for an appointment, which is a temporary stress. But, chronic levels of stress can also lead to diabetes. If you experience caregiver stress, that stress is chronic. So, you may be at higher risk for developing diabetes. Or, if you have diabetes, you may be struggling to control your blood sugar levels.

The Consequences of Stress on Diabetes

Besides raising your blood sugar levels, stress can also lead to erratic eating. For example, when you are stressed you may skip a meal. That makes blood sugars plummet. Then, you overeat later and blood sugars spike. So, erratic eating leads to unstable blood sugars levels.

Stress can also make you forget to take your medication or take medication off schedule. And stress can wreak havoc on a healthy diet. Often, when we are stressed, we eat poorly, grabbing a bag of processed foods or sweets instead of making a healthy meal.

Finally, stress can lead to a higher risk of depression. And depression decreases motivation to make healthy lifestyle choices. For example, you may struggle to motivate yourself to exercise, choose the right foods to eat, or practice good sleep hygiene.

Stress Management as a Solution

So, taking prescribed medications, increasing your physical activity, and eating healthy are all good strategies to control diabetes. But stress management is an important strategy too.

If you are experiencing significant caregiver stress, how well are you managing it? If you are a caregiver with diabetes, how well are you managing your blood sugar levels? So often, a caregiver focuses on the physical and mental health of their loved one, and not enough on their own health and well-being.

If you feel you aren’t managing your stress or diabetes well, what can you do?

Find simple and practical strategies that help you cope with stress better. And try to practice those strategies daily. For instance, writing down your worries, listening to uplifting music, or walking. There are many different ways you can improve your stress and mental well-being. The key is to focus on those things you can engage in easily in your current circumstances.

If you are struggling to create a plan, or to put a plan into action, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Talk with your doctor and get their advice on how to manage stress. You may also consider working with a wellness coach. A wellness coach can help you brainstorm ways to put plans into action that fit your current circumstances and priorities. The important thing is recognizing how stress affects your health. And create a plan for positive change.

Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness.  Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice.  The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you.  There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.

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