How to stress less for good health

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Picture it, you’re driving in your car when another car suddenly swerves into your lane, missing your car by centimetres and nearly causing a serious collision. Your heart is pounding, you’re breathing rapidly and you wipe beads of sweat from your forehead. This is the stress response.

Maybe you’ve never experienced a similar situation while driving a car, but surely you’ve experienced stress, whether in your job, home life or even with your health.

The stress response, also known as fight or flight, is your body’s natural reaction to a stressful situation. During this response, a whole cascade of physiological changes is set off in your body in response to stress.

Your brain recognises stress and signals your sympathetic nervous system which communicates with the rest of your body, causing a number of hormonal and physiological changes to occur –

  • Your adrenal gland releases the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol.
  • Both hormones cause glucose levels to rise in your blood stream
  • Your heart beats faster
  • Your pulse rate quickens
  • Your blood pressure rises
  • Your breathing increases

How can stress impact on your diabetes?

Regardless of whether your stress is a one-off episode or ongoing, stress causes your blood glucose levels to rise. The stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol block the action of insulin and cause glucose to enter the blood stream, supplying your body with the energy you need to fight or flight.

Unfortunately, if a one-off episode of stress becomes chronic, or ongoing, stress, the stress response can keep your body in an ongoing state of fight or flight, raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk of long term diabetes complications.

Let’s not forget, when you’re under stress, you may be more likely to reach for unhealthy treats, comfort foods, limit physical activity or indulge in alcohol.

Managing stress

There are tried and true solutions to managing stress.

Exercise not only helps with weight management but also releases endorphins that help to improve mood and manage stress.

  • Talk to friends, family or a health professional.
  • Meditation or breathing exercises. Believe it or not, taking a few moments out of your day to meditate can switch off the stress response.
  • Schedule time for yourself or do activities that you enjoy.

If you feel that your episode of stress is unmanageable, speak to your GP who can organise a mental health care plan. This will provide you with a Medicare rebate for mental health services. You can also ring the NDSS Helpline for support at 1300 136 588.

Join our community of over 45,000 people living with diabetes