How Stress Impacts Your Health

by | Mar 18, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Avoiding all of life’s stressors is unrealistic, but learning to reduce stress, both physical and emotional, is especially important when you have health issues. In fact, being diagnosed with a condition can be a stressor in and of itself because:

  • You now have an illness, which you must learn about and manage.
  • You need to change your lifestyle to eat healthfully and exercise regularly.
  • Changing habits is hard work.

Stress has both direct and indirect effects on your health . It can impact blood sugars and physical health (direct effects), as well as emotions, eating, and physical activity habits (indirect effects). Stress that remains constant can lead to a variety of health concerns, including uncontrolled blood sugars and weight gain.

Different kinds of stress

We often think of stress as negative, but not all stress is bad.

  • Eustress is “good” stress. It is exciting and motivating, helping you to keep moving forward to perform an action that ultimately brings you satisfaction. Exercise is an example of eustress.
  • Distress, or negative stress, causes mental anguish, anxiety, or suffering. It feels unpleasant and can lead to mental and physical problems. Distress can come from internal or external sources. Conflict with a friend, fear, and poor sleep are examples of distress.

Both types of stress cause the body to respond by releasing stress hormones that:

  • Increase heart rate.
  • Raise blood pressure.
  • Make muscles tense.
  • Make breathing shallow.
  • Raise blood sugar.

Ongoing stress can result in changes to your emotions and the way you manage your diabetes. Emotional stress may cause you to:

  • Become irritable, anxious, angry, or depressed.
  • Overeat, skip meals, or not eat enough.
  • Eat unhealthy foods.
  • Stop preparing or cooking food.
  • Stop exercising.
  • Smoke or turn to alcohol.

Feeling stressed can reduce motivation to make healthy changes

Becoming lax with eating and exercise can contribute to poor diabetes control and increase your risk for developing complications.

When you are newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, you may have been asked by your healthcare team to make many changes. But, it can be stressful to face a list of to dos. Feeling stressed or unable to tackle these changes might make you feel like throwing in the towel, which is why it’s important to have a healthy way to cope with stress. Limit your stress by focusing on one goal at a time.

Sleep on it

One extremely beneficial goal is getting enough sleep every night. Obesity and diabetes can affect your ability to get a good night’s rest. Excess fat can obstruct airways causing pauses in breathing known as sleep apnea. These interruptions break up sleep patterns and can leave you fatigued in the morning.

Likewise, diabetes can disrupt sleep. If blood sugars are high, the kidneys kick into overdrive trying to expel the sugars. That results in frequent urination, which means getting up multiple times throughout the night to use the bathroom. Interrupted sleep means tiredness in the morning.

However, the American Psychological Association names stress as the No. 1 cause of short-term sleep difficulties. Lack of restful sleep is an accumulative phenomenon: The more tired you feel, the more stressed you become, which interferes with your sleeping patterns, and it becomes a negative cycle. When overtired, you feel drained physically, emotionally, and mentally so you are less equipped to cope with stressful situations. Again, it’s a cycle.

Side effects of not enough sleep

  • Inattentiveness
  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory
  • Reduced productivity

Sleepiness can also affect your ability to stay on course with healthy eating, which in turn, can derail weight loss. When you are tired, you are more likely to grab something quick to give you a burst of energy. That something could be high in calories and sugar, which lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. That lack of control over blood sugar levels will further impact your energy levels not to mention your overall health. Also your daily caloric goal could be busted if you are eating empty calories that don’t keep you feeling full. An increased appetite along with being too tired to exercise set you up to gain weight.

All this affects your ability to control your blood sugars and could take a pre-diabetes diagnosis into full-blown diabetes. In fact, adequate sleep is critical to maintaining control over your diabetes and weight loss.

Tips for a good night’s sleep

The average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, but the actual ideal number varies for individuals and can change as you age. The idea is to make your sleep hours count by having them be restful.

Just like you are creating new healthy habits to control your blood sugar levels and lose weight, you have to develop healthy sleep habits. Try these tips:

  • Switch to decaf after 2 p.m.
  • Don’t exercise vigorously too close to bedtime.
  • Establish a bedtime routine.
  • Turn off all electronics (including your cell phone).

Emotions such as anger, denial, or sadness are normal after being diagnosed with diabetes, but you can’t allow them to get in the way of your health. If you have trouble coping with these emotions on your own, identify a person to help give you support.


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