How Stress Affects Diabetes and What You Can Do to Reduce It

Stress in diabetes causes the body to release hormones that may raise blood sugar levels. This process may harm people with diabetes, although it is manageable.

Your body naturally responds when you’re going through anxiety, under stress, or feeling threatened. A response referred to as the fight-or-flight reaction.

During this reaction, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, and your breathing rate rises, which can significantly raise blood glucose levels when the body cannot process it adequately.

You can become psychologically and physically exhausted from ongoing stress caused by blood glucose issues that have persisted over time. This could make controlling your diabetes challenging. 

What effects can various types of stress have on your kind of diabetes?

People respond to stress in different ways. Your body’s reaction to stress can vary depending on the stress you experience.

People with type 2 diabetes typically notice a rise in their blood glucose levels under mental stress. Whereas, people with type 1 diabetes could react differently, with either a rise or fall in their blood glucose levels.

Your blood sugar can rise as a result of physical stress. This may occur due to an illness or accident, which may impact both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. 

How can you tell whether your blood sugar levels are affected by mental stress?

The easiest way is to identify particular triggers by keeping track of extra details like the date and what you were doing when you became stressed.

Do you, for instance, always feel stressed on Monday mornings? If so, you should note down the activities you usually do on this day to be aware of the specific actions that act as a trigger.   

After rating your stress levels and the type of stress you are suffering from, check your glucose levels too. Keep doing this for a couple more weeks, and you might soon notice a pattern.

If you observe that your glucose levels are consistently elevated, mental stress is most likely to blame. 

What are the common signs and symptoms of stress?

You may not detect stress in diabetes symptoms, especially when they are subtle. However, even mild stress still harms your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Identifying the signs can help you discover stress and begin taking measures to manage stress. 

The physical signs of stress are:

  • Headaches
  • Muscular tension or pain
  • Overall feelings of sickness and exhaustion from sleeping too much or too little

Additional symptoms of stress include:

  • Restlessness
  • Despair
  • Nervousness 
  • Lack of motivation

Stressed individuals frequently exhibit behavior that may be entirely out of character, such as:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Acting out of rage
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Drinking too much alcohol, and smoking 

How to decrease stress in diabetes levels

People suffering from diabetes and stress usually give up on having less stressful times. However, the truth is that the sources of stress can be reduced or limited.

Here are some strategies you can use to control the effects of various types of stress.

  • Exercise frequently
  • Engage in calming activities like yoga or dancing 
  • Practice mindfulness exercises like meditation
  • Avoid well-known triggers, like tense social situations
  • Minimize your caffeine intake
  • Spend  time with family and friends 

How to manage stress caused by diabetes

Be assured that you are not alone if you feel stressed about your health. You can connect with individuals online or in your neighborhood for solidarity and support.

Online forums for assistance

Online support groups provide you with a strong network and practical advice to help you survive. 

For instance, the online resource Diabetic Connect aims to enhance your quality of life. It offers instructional films, recipes, and articles.

Localized support networks

Diabetes Management & Information Centre (DMI-Kenya) provide services to people living with diabetes, their caregivers, healthcare professionals, the community in general, and other stakeholders.


Speaking about your stress with a professional could make you feel more at ease and less stressed. 

A therapist provides you with coping skills specific to your circumstance and a secure setting to communicate. 

They might also offer medical guidance that online support groups are unable to. 


Stress, both physical and mental, can cause the release of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. Needless to say, these hormones can cause an increase in blood glucose levels.

Unexpected blood sugar spikes can severely affect a person’s ability to manage diabetes and cause unpleasant symptoms. But, being aware of stressors and using relaxation techniques can help people deal with these occurrences. 

The Bottomline

Despite the unique obstacles that stress in diabetes might bring, it is possible to manage it and live a happy, healthy existence. 

You can incorporate brief meditations or quick workouts into your everyday schedule. 

Find a support group that best fits your personality and lifestyle needs. Also, being a proactive person can help you de-stress.



Acha Maoni

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