Feeling stressed is a common emotion, namely when you are attempting to balance the demands of a busy lifestyle while trying to manage diabetes at the same time. Mental stress, which originates in our mind (for example, worrying), can wreak havoc on our body’s systems, especially if it is chronic and repeated. When faced with a psychologically stressful situation, the body releases specific hormones designed to trigger reactions. The adrenal glands pump out cortisol, the hormone primarily responsible for our physiological “fight or flight” reaction to situations humans perceive as dangerous. Stress also prompts the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, the hormone that provides an adrenaline rush type reaction. High levels of circulating cortisol and epinephrine promote insulin resistance in addition to elevating blood sugar levels. Because it increases blood pressure and glucose levels, stress is obviously NO GOOD for diabetes and your health as a whole. In addition to impacting the body and blood sugars directly, stress can also be indirectly problematic because it may distract you from taking proper care of yourself. This is dangerous because it may take you off track from controlling your diabetes as you become preoccupied with other issues. Furthermore, it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating or drinking alcohol.
Learning to Cope with Stress by Harnessing the Power of Positivity
Stress will always be present in our lives one way or another, but the way we manage it and having a positive outlook during tough times can make all the difference. Learning to successfully handle stressful situations in a healthy way can help prevent the cascade of negative effects on the body, namely increasing blood sugars. Below are some ways to use the power of positive coping methods to overcome stress:
1. Reframe Your Thoughts
If your find that negative or worrisome thoughts are your reaction to stress and they start bringing you down, try to replacing them with encouraging ones or put an positive spin on your thoughts. Difficult as it may be, try to find at least ONE positive in a tough situation. For example if you are thinking: “I dread doing this project at work, it’s so time consuming, difficult and is going to be terrible,” instead try: “Wow this project is going to be really challenging but I can do it. I will take it a step at a time and I will learn so much and feel so accomplished when I get it done.” This type of mental exercise is called positive self-talk, which is having an internal monologue going on in your head, where you look at the bright side of things and focus more on the good parts of the situation rather than the bad.
2. Choose and Use a Mantra
Having a mantra, which is a calming and upbeat saying that you repeat over and over in your head, can be helpful to work through times of stress. An example mantra like “I can do this!” is a powerful way to block out negative thoughts and reinforce the positive. Combining your mantra with deep breathing is an even greater way to help tame mental stress.
3. Laugh And Smile Often
A good hearty laugh can do wonders for stress. There have actually been scientific studies that have demonstrated health benefits of laughter as including helping cardiovascular functions and delaying complications in type 2 diabetes. It’s true. Laughter causes positive changes in that effect us for the better psychologically, biochemically and immune-wise. To laugh and smile more try reading a funny story, comics, or watch a comedy show or movie. Tell jokes and funny stories around the table for some planned silliness with your family and friends.
4. Stay Connected with Others
If you are having a tough time, tell someone. Reaching out to your family, friends, or colleagues to talk about problems can help lessen the burden instead of keeping it inside and trying to deal with it on your own. If your issues are getting to be too much to handle, seek help from your medical team and potentially a qualified therapist, to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
5. Take Time out For Enjoyment
Give yourself some time for self-care and to engage in positive activities to cope such as:
- exercise, like a simple walk
- doing a hobby you enjoy such as playing sports, crafting, dancing
- reading a few chapters of good book
- spending time with friends and family
- watching a movie or TV show
- taking a warm bath
- meditating or doing some deep breathing
- journaling your thoughts
It may take practice and time but learning to cope with stress by combating it with positivity is a powerful way to impact your stress levels and improve your health!