Stress & Anxiety with T1D

Stress and anxiety are not a pleasant experience for any individual. For Type 1 Diabetic, the consequences of being worried reflect on much more than just our mood and mental state. A lot of things affect us as Type 1’s, which a normal person would not even think about. And surely, blood sugars don't respond well to anxiety and stress either. The “fight or flight” hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, which raise blood sugars are released when we are worried, meaning that our blood sugars will be higher during periods of stress and we will require more insulin. We have to deal with both, the mental side and the diabetic side, which is never easy.

Cortisol is the main hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise during periods of stress. It affects many other of the body’s systems, helping regulate metabolism, inflammation levels and brain function. When the level of cortisol in the body out of its normal range, those processes go out of sync, causing an amplified stress response in the body. This will affect blood sugar levels for Type 1 Diabetics, unfortunately, in the negative way - by raising them.

When we are stressed, the physical (hormonal) aspect of our body is not the only one that is affected. The emotions that come with stress often lead to very poor decision-making, and can cause us to make very stupid management decisions that can send our blood sugars on a rollercoaster ride. Just what we need when we are already stressed, right? Pairing that with the effect of cortisol and bodily functions out of homeostasis, makes blood sugar management extremely challenging.

It is easy to get into this loop of getting stressed, then going high due to that stress, and then stressing because your blood sugars got high, causing them to raise even more. And it just keeps going on and on. The best way is to stop, realise that blood sugars are not the centre of the world, take the insulin to correct the blood sugar, focus on solving the initial problem that made you stress, and then taking some time to care for your mental health.

Diabetes is not just “doing insulin” and carb counting, it is so much more than that. It requires taking care of our mental health, our body, sleep and nutrition. Just “injecting” will not solve the problem. We have a lot more decisions to make in one day than most of the people around us, and we are more prone to stress and anxiety. That is why we need to give so much attention to how we feel, listen to our souls and our bodies, and not let ourselves burn out.

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