It isn't just food or extra weight that takes a toll on your health when you have diabetes. Stress can have an impact on your health, too. Managing stress -- physical and emotional -- can be an important part of your diabetes care plan.
When you're under stress, your body acts like it's under attack. It gets ready to take some kind of action -- either fight or flight. To give your body the energy to run or battle, levels of certain hormones shoot up. That can result in an increase in blood sugar.
In addition, when you're under stress, you may not manage your diabetes well. You might forget to eat right and exercise. When you're distracted by stress and anxiety, you also might forget to check your blood sugar regularly.
Keeping stress under control helps keep diabetes under control. Try these stress management tips.
- Relaxation exercises. Close your eyes while sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down. Starting at your toes, slowly clench one body part at a time. Hold for five seconds, and relax. Continue until you've tightened and relaxed every part of your body.
- Deep breathing. Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Then close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs like you're letting air out of a balloon. Repeat several times.
- Music. Relaxing music can reduce anxiety and depression and lower your blood pressure. Find music that calms you, then put on your headphones and relax. You may want to make playlists of some of your favorite stress-busting songs so you have them ready when you need them. Keep them separate from the workout music that gets your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping.
- Yoga. Slowly relaxing into a downward dog or warrior's pose forces you to concentrate on breathing, stretching, and how you place your body. It loosens tight muscles and makes you focus on things other than the stressors in your life. Try taking a yoga class at a gym, local community center, or do a yoga routine through an active video game like the Wii. If you don't have time for a full class, even 5 or 10 minutes of yoga posing or breathing can help ease stress.
- Exercise. Depending on your personality, different kinds of exercise may help you relieve stress. For some people, running and hard-hitting sports let them forget about the things that are bothering them. For others, taking a quiet walk or bike ride is much more relaxing. In addition to fighting stress, exercise can lower your blood pressure and help you lose any extra pounds -- all great benefits for people with diabetes. Be sure to talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise program. Ask what type of exercise may be best for you.
- Hobbies. Fight stress by forgetting about it. Lose yourself in a favorite pastime, preferably something that relaxes you, like reading or painting.