It is important to manage stress in diabetes on a regular basis. The fact is stress and diabetes are intertwined. Stress contributes to your diabetes, which makes you more stressed out. In this way, a vicious cycle sets in and you struggle how to get out of it.
Many diabetics know their blood sugar gets elevated when they are under stress, even though their eating habits didn’t change at all. They also know their elevated blood sugar comes down with the release of stress.
Even subtle stress can elevate your blood glucose levels. For example, some diabetics get so preoccupied by their blood sugar readings that they stress themselves out. As a result, their blood sugar reading starts to escalate. Then, they get more stressed out and a vicious cycle sets in.
As a holistic endocrinologist, I taught thousands of patients how to manage stress in diabetes. It is incredibly rewarding to see their blood sugar level improve as they learn to manage their stress effectively.
How to Manage Stress in Diabetes Acutely?
When faced with an acute, stressful situation, take the following steps:
1. Pause. Take time-out. Don’t say or do anything.
Feel the emotion rising inside you. Don’t suppress it. At the same time, don’t get consumed by the emotion. Instead, start counting. See how long it takes for the emotion to subside.
Be acutely aware of your surroundings: the objects and the space in which objects are; the sounds and the silence, which remains in the background of all sounds; the movements and the stillness, which remains in the background of all movements. Remember 3-S’: Space, Silence and Stillness.
2. Be aware of your breathing
Pay attention to your breathing by counting the inhalations.
Once emotion has settled down, use logic and analyze the entire situation as a third party, from a neutral ground. You will be amazed to see that your emotion was way out of proportion to the actual situation. Then, completely let go of whatever happened. Be aware of the nagging inner voice that wants you to keep festering over “what happened.” Simply laugh at it and move on.
3. Go out for a walk
Take a walk in your neighborhood park, or even in your backyard.
Look at nature: the trees, the sky, the flowers, the stars, the sunset, the sunrise. Also, be aware of the space in which everything is.
Listen to nature: the birds, the crickets, the dogs. Also, be aware of the silence which is always here. Sounds come and go, but silence is always here.
Use your sense of smell to be aware of various fragrances.
Decompress on a Regular Basis
Do certain activities to decompress your stress on a regular basis so it does not build up to a crisis point. Here are some suggestions:
- Do some stretches every day or better yet, several times a day, just a few minutes of stretches at a time, that’s all.
- Every now and then pay attention to your breathing, just for a minute or so. Also, do deep breathing for a minute or so, a couple of times during the day.
- Go for a walk on a daily basis.
- Get involved in physical activities such as gardening, cooking, washing dishes etc. Pay full attention to whatever you are doing. Remember my quote – “Keep our mind where your body is.”
- Minimize emotional thinking.
- Realize future is a mental abstraction – a collection of thoughts, that’s all. Be aware of the What If syndrome, that creates fear and anxiety. In reality, it absolutely does not exist.
- Similarly, do not dwell on the past. It was real when it happened but now it is just a collection of thoughts, emotions and images stored in your brain.
- Instead, pay attention to the real NOW in front of your eyes – what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
- Cut down the use of the Screen- smart phone, computer, TV.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep at night.
The Root Cause of Stress
You may already know some of the advice I just gave. It does work, but only temporarily. Often, you continue to struggle with the stress of daily life. So, what is the root cause of stress? It is a psychological entity which I call the Acquired Self – the self you acquire as you grow up in society. In this way, the root cause of stress actually resides inside you , not out there. It is good to know. Because you can take care of what is inside you, without changing the outside world. What is in the outside world is actually the so-called stressors which are basically the triggers. But who gets triggered is you. What happens if you don’t get triggered? You don’t get stressed, right! That’s how stress ends at its roots.
To learn this unique strategy to get rid of stress at its roots, please refer to my book, “Stress Cure Now”
What is the link between stress and diabetes?
Your own Acquired Self is the link between stress and diabetes. This is how! Your Acquired Self triggers emotions: anger, frustrations, annoyances, anxiety, jealousy, excitement, thrills, restlessness, agitation, sadness, and depression. Each of these emotions is harmful for your overall health, especially for those with diabetes.
How do emotions affect your blood sugars?
Anger, frustrations, annoyances, jealousy, excitement, thrills, restlessness, and agitation cause an increase in your adrenaline level. Adrenaline is a hormone from your adrenal glands, which in turn causes an increase in your blood sugar levels. In addition, adrenaline also raises your blood pressure and can cause an acute heart attack or stroke.
Worrying, anxiety, and panic attacks also cause an increase in your adrenaline level and raise your blood sugars. In addition, these emotions raise cortisol, another hormone from your adrenal glands. Cortisol causes further increase in your blood sugar by worsening your insulin resistance.
Sadness and depression cause an increase in your cortisol level, which subsequently raises your blood sugars. Sadness often leads to “emotional eating behavior.” You end up eating all sorts of comfort foods which are laden with sugar, carbohydrates and fats. Naturally, your blood sugars go through the roof after eating those kinds of foods.
In addition to raising your blood sugars, your elevated cortisol also wreaks havoc on your immune system.
That’s why it is important to get rid of your emotional stress permanently by rise above the Acquired Self.
Why is it so difficult to change unhealthy eating habits?
Most diabetics know what to eat and what not to eat. They try to control their eating habits but find it very hard, almost impossible. Naturally, they get frustrated and give up. Frustrations may cause further rise in blood sugar level.
Have you ever wonder why you cannot change your eating habits? Because you try to control them without exploring their root cause, right! In this way, “trying to control your eating habits” is a superficial approach and bound to fail.
How to get rid of poor eating habits permanently?
Now, let us go one step deeper and ask, “Where do the eating habits come from?” Once you figure that out, only then there is a chance to get rid of them permanently, right!
For example, most of your bad eating habits are linked to the so-called special days – birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Eid, Diwali, national days, cultural days etc. You are not born with the concepts of these special days and to eat fat-rich, sugar-laden foods on these occasions, right! You acquire these concepts from your society as a part of growing up. In this way, your bad eating habits are part of your Acquired Self.
Obviously, only freedom from the Acquired Self can lead to true freedom from your poor eating habits. For details, please refer to “Stress Cure Now.”
Managing your stress can help tremendously in controlling your diabetes. In addition to decompress on a regular basis, you need to get to the root cause of stress, which lies inside you as a psychological entity, the Acquired Self. Naturally, you can get rid of your stress as well as bad eating habits by rising above the Acquired self.