Ask the Experts: Stress, diabetes and how to manage both
May 8, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So
In many ways, stress and diabetes feed off one another in a vicious cycle. Research has shown that stress — particularly chronic stress — leads diabetics to make poor lifestyle choices. It also causes their bodies to release hormones that can destabilize blood sugar levels.
At the same time, living and coping with diabetes is itself a long-term source of stress, especially when it involves frequent monitoring and management.
Thus, it is vital for diabetics avoid this cycle as much as possible by keeping their stress levels in check. City of Hope will be hosting an "Ask the Experts - Diabetes and Stress: What You Need to Know" event to help them do just that.Randi McAllister, Ph.D., clinical professor from the Department of Supportive Care Medicine, and Jinsun Choi, M.D., fellow from the Division of Molecular Diabetes Research, will be speaking at the event.
Some tips for diabetics to manage their stress and minimize its effects include:
- Look for a link. McAllister said stress' effect on blood sugar varies considerably, so diabetics should assess how stress impacts them personally. "They should rate their stress on a scale of 1 to 10 just before checking their blood glucose, then write both numbers down. After a week or two, they can see if there is a pattern."
- Learn to relax. This can range from simple deep breathing techniques to progressive relaxation therapy. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), relaxation is helpful for type 2 diabetics because stress blocks the body from making insulin, thus elevating blood sugar levels.
- Take time to de-stress. In addition to relaxing in times of stress, diabetics should take up calming activities such as volunteering for a charity, engaging in a pleasant project or joining a hobby club, the association advises.
- Exercise. Working out is doubly beneficial, because it helps improve blood glucose management and produces stress-reducing endorphins.
- Seek support. "Simply managing diabetes may cause stress, so a support group can be very helpful in dealing with diabetes care-related stress," said McAllister, who leads a diabetes support group at City of Hope on the third Wednesday of each month. In addition to joining a support group, the ADA says, diabetics under overwhelming stress should also consider one-on-one counseling, cognitive therapy and anti-anxiety medications to mitigate its effects.
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