Diabetes Blogs

How to Cope with Stress and Crazy Blood Sugars

stress can cause blood sugar fluctuationsThe secret to reducing stress—and maybe even keeping your blood sugar under control—is to lose yourself regularly in an activity you truly enjoy

Last week I took off some time from worrying about my type 2 diabetes to have a breast biopsy.

I’d had a funky mammogram that showed some microcalcifications, so I underwent the biopsy last Thursday. The very good news was that the results were benign (Yay!) but a survey of my blood sugars before and after the procedure were less to celebrate. 

Over the course of one day I managed to range from 270 to 70 then back to my normal 98s to 100s. This glucose rollercoaster ride appeared to be less about diet—which pretty much remained my standard low carb fare—than about stress.

To put it bluntly, awaiting the results of the biopsy, I was a nervous wreck.

All of which got me to thinking about how important it is to stay on an even keel. Yet sometimes it’s impossible—there was no way not to worry when the word biopsy pops up. But all things being equal, how can you take normal stress out of the equation?

When Yoga Isn't The Answer

riding a bike can be stress reducingAnything that takes your mind off your problems can be stress reducing. For some it's gardening or bike riding. For others, it's artistic expression.I’ve tried yoga and meditation classes. While I occasionally do meditate, I find it easy to forget or get busy with other things. Yoga and I are also a bit of a mismatch: I don’t seem to stretch in the same places as everyone else. I’ve tried a variety of teachers, and I do plan to return, but for now, I’ve opted for something else.

One something else is exercise.

People laud exercise for lots of reasons, not the least of which is cancer prevention and weight loss, but what about its meditative aspects? Even though it may not appear so, my aerobically charged hour long twice a week body toning class is a stress breaker, mainly because it’s hard to think of anything else while you’re concentrating on staying in step. After five minutes or so, my mind goes on automatic pilot and stress flies out the window. Biking is the same: the rhythmic pedaling puts my busy mind to sleep.

My other stress reducer is oil painting. Not because I’m gifted at art—far from it. But for three hours of class time, while concentrating on dabbing paint to canvas, my mind goes into numb mode. I narrow my eyes, seek out shadows, and let my mind wander wherever it wants to go. It’s restful, relaxing and good for my sugars.

You don’t have to go to a body toning class or pick art instruction.  Activities can be music, baking, even restful reading—anything that takes your mind off yourself and your problems. (If you don’t have problems, ignore this column).

The thing is that it shouldn’t be a struggle. It should be something that comes almost naturally. And you’ll know it when you’ve found it because you won’t have to make yourself do it. You simply will.

My neighbor, for example, has turned her yard into a small arboretum. I was always telling her how amazing she was and how I wished I had her discipline when she corrected me.

“I find it relaxing,” she said. “It’s not work. I can go out and five hours fly right by.”

The word for this kind of endeavor is “flow” and it’s the secret to relaxing, reducing stress and in turn, helping to keep your blood sugars low. There will be times—like this week—that you can’t go with the flow. But the more you can, the better your sugars will be.



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