We all experience at least some level of stress. But an excessive amount of stress can potentially cause quite a bit of harm over time. For diabetics, it’s a serious concern as it can raise blood glucose levels significantly. In addition, stress makes it harder to resist foods that hinder diabetes management by impairing sound decision making. It is imperative that diabetics learn how to bust stress.
According to David Sledge, MD, medical director of diabetes management at The Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, people who aren’t diabetic have mechanisms in place that help keep blood sugar under control. However, the mechanisms in those who have diabetes are either blunted or lacking, which makes things a lot more complicated. This puts them at a greater risk for all sorts of health problems, like blindness, kidney issues and nerve damage which leads to foot numbness, and potentially serious injury. Prolonged high blood sugar is also a predecessor to cardiovascular disease which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Managing diabetes is a constant process, and for many, it’s an ongoing challenge that becomes even more complicated by the impact of stress, according to the American Diabetes Association. The organization notes that whether or not you are diabetic, stress is harmful over time because it “causes so much wear and tear on the body.”
Fortunately, there are multiple proven ways to bust that stress right now, including these.
Bust stress by letting worries roll off your back
Find the best way for you to let worries roll off your back and refuse to let the challenges of diabetes take the joy out of day-to-day life. There isn’t one specific thing that’s right for all, rather something that brings joy and happiness to you personally, such as getting together with a friend or laughing at funny videos.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, like getting stuck in traffic. And remember that in the scheme of things, it’s all really small stuff anyway! Simply make the changes you can, and then accept that you can’t change everything.
One great saying to keep in mind whenever those worries start popping up in your mind is a famous quote by Erma Bombeck: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”
If that doesn’t work, write down exactly what you’re worried about, and then write down what can be done about it. Decide upon the best course of action, and begin immediately to follow it. Now, let it go.
Bust stress by setting clear goals
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, author of “Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week,” and a registered dietitian in Newport News, Virginia, told EverydayHealth.com that setting clear goals for diabetes management can help one feel less overwhelmed by the condition. She advises making “three or four very specific goals about what you will do to take care of your diabetes,” such as aiming to pack your own healthy lunch three days a week or measuring out all your servings of starch for the week ahead.
“These are the types of things that will be empowering and bring you results,” she said.
Bust stress by practicing mindfulness
By focusing on the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, can have a dramatic effect on stress reduction. One way to do this is to concentrate on your breath, counting each one slowly as you inhale and exhale.
Research out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that actually counting each breath is a good way to measure mindfulness. In a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, participants were asked to count nine breaths in sequence by tapping one computer key per breath, and a different key for the final breath in every sequence, something that requires awareness of the breath. They discovered a direct correlation between a positive mood and accurate breath counting.
Bust stress by learning how to relax
When you feel tense, you can immediately put yourself into relaxation mode to reduce stress and tension by following this technique:
- Loosen your clothing, or change into something that feels more relaxed and less constrictive.
- Tighten the muscles in each one of your toes and hold the pose for a count of 10. Now relax your toes, experiencing the wonderful release of tension.
- Do the same with the muscles in your feet, holding for a count of 10 and then relaxing them.
- Move slowly up through your body, doing the same, working from the legs to your abdominal muscles, your back, neck, and face, contracting and then relaxing each muscle as you go.
- Breathe slowly, inhaling deeply for a count of five and exhaling for a count of five.
Bust stress by walking
The stress walk is just what it sounds like. When things are starting to get to you, get up and start walking. If you’re at work, you might walk around the office, down the hall or around the building. At home, try to get outside and take at least a short walk. If the weather isn’t cooperating, simply walk around the house.
Bust stress by letting others help
Planning, shopping, prepping and cooking when you have diabetes can take a lot of work. If it’s got you feeling stressed out, ask a family member or friend to help. If that’s not an option, talk to a nutritionist or diabetes educator for assistance in planning simple but healthy meals.
Bust stress by exercising
Regular exercise is a must for diabetics, and it’s also a great way to relieve stress. Unfortunately, many skip daily workouts because they’re just too worn out or strained for time to keep up this important habit. If you are stressed out trying to squeeze in 30+ minutes of exercise each day, consider breaking it up into shorter, more manageable amounts. For example, you could go for a 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch, and dinner and still meet your goal of 30 minutes of daily exercise, but it will feel a lot less challenging getting there.
Bust stress by skipping the caffeine
Caffeine impairs the body’s ability to handle sugar, and it can also increases the amount of stress hormones, reports WebMD. In turn, this can increase blood sugars too. If giving up this popular substance seems impossible, consider replacing it with a healthier option to make things easier. This might include sipping roasted dandelion root tea which tastes similar to coffee but it’s caffeine free and provides a natural energy boost.
Bust stress by taking up a fun and relaxing hobby
Hobbies like quilting, knitting, instrument playing, etc. can be a great way to relax and bust stress, unless you’re the type of person who tends to stress over imperfection. Hobbies induce relaxation and help you enter a flow state similar to meditation. This helps you shut out everything other than your hobby. Playing musical instruments can also help you express yourself and relieve tension. Slow beats, in particular, are associated with meditative states as they encourage slow brainwaves.
Bust stress by practicing meditation
A 2012 study conducted out of the University of Heidelberg in Germany found that those with type 2 diabetes who engaged in meditation were less depressed. They also had lower diastolic blood pressure levels and less psychological stress. Try to spend 5 to 10 minutes a day practicing meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Visualize your stress floating away like a cloud on a breezy day.
Bust stress by creating reminders for yourself
When you have such a long list of tasks to do each day, it can be easy to forget things like taking your medication or checking your blood sugar levels. By creating reminders for yourself, such as setting an alarm on your phone or using a digital calendar, you can take the stress of trying to remember.
Bust stress by connecting with others who have diabetes
Being able to share advice as well as concerns with a friend who can relate to what you’re going through can make a difference in your stress level. If you don’t know anyone else with diabetes, you might connect with someone through online forums or an in-person diabetes support group.
Bust stress by talking to a counselor or therapist
Talking about your problems with a professional is a great stress buster too. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than to a relative or friend. They will give you the time to talk, cry or shout without the fear of being judged.
Bust stress by getting 6 to 8 hours of sleep as often as possible
A lack of sleep increases stress on the body. Aim to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. If you have a hard time falling asleep, avoid watching TV or reading any type of LED screen before going to bed. Blue light, the type of light emitted by tablets, laptops, smartphones, e-readers, etc.,disrupts the body’s internal clock. This may make it harder for you to fall asleep.