Stress and T1D:
Dr. Natasha Leibel provides coping techniques

Feelings of stress and anxiety are an inevitable part of life.  Dealing with stress can make it harder to manage blood sugars. If we didn’t know it already, this year made it more apparent than ever. Many of our favorite stress-reducing activities stress were suddenly off-limits, like playing with friends, participating in team sports and going to the movies. We have been separated from loved ones and spent more time on Zoom than face-to-face with our classmates, and that made many of us feel stressed-out.  

Blood sugars take a toll when stress levels are high, but why exactly is that?  

Dr. Natasha Leibel, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Diabetes at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center shed light on this complicated topic:  

Our body stores extra sugar (in the form of glycogen) in our liver.  Many hormones cause the release of this sugar from the liver – stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, growth hormone, sex hormones.  This is why even we are not eating our sugars can go up, or why sometimes our blood sugars fluctuate throughout the night when we are sleeping. Emotions (good and bad) such as excitement, fear, and anxiety, can raise our blood sugars, as well as stress on our bodies from illness or injury.  

How can we try and cope with the added stress of high blood sugars when we are stressed?   

-Go easy on yourself. Take a deep breath and know that the emotion will pass with time and your blood sugar will come down.  Living with diabetes is hard.  

-Make sure to correct your blood sugar when you are running high (about every 3 hours).  

-If at all possible, take a walk or just get a little fresh air

-Try to avoid the kitchen and stress eating, which often only makes us feel worse afterwards.  

-Eating lower carb nutrient dense foods will keep your blood sugar more stable and keep you feeling fuller. Find a breakfast that is lower in carbs to start your day off right if you have something stressful coming up like a big test.  

-Stress from excitement such as a playing sports or exercise takes a bit of trial and error to help manage the blood sugars, and it is ok to go a little higher! Work with your doctor and educator to trouble shoot these scenarios. To optimize your blood sugars around exercise, it is important to understand how timing of food and insulin affects your body. 

The doctors and educators at the Berrie Center can help you manage your diabetes and stress.  Talk to us - we are here for you.