When trying to determine the factors that increase risk of Type II diabetes, researchers have studied everything from genetics to nutrition; from level of physical activity to family history of diabetes. Science has found that while genetic factors may play some role, environmental factors (lifestyle choices) are the overwhelming determinants of Type II diabetes.
Yes, diet and physical activity are two main points of concentration when trying to control diabetes, but when was the last time you stopped to consider how your stress level may be impacting your blood sugar?
As part of the body’s response to stress, the hormone cortisol is released. Cortisol is actually known as the body’s “stress hormone.” It raises blood sugar and instructs the body’s cells to either absorb that extra glucose for immediate energy, or store it for later. Frequent high cortisol levels can contribute to insulin resistance, increasing risk of Type II diabetes.
So, how can we de-stress and help regulate blood sugar?
Set yourself up for success. In general, humans find comfort in a dependable routine. If you suffer from headaches, even the smallest stressor can be a trigger.
Develop a realistic routine for yourself – choose a time to wake up every day, make your bed, leave for work with time to spare, and have a set time to go to sleep at night. This provides a sense of predictability and can help reduce stress levels.
For diabetics in particular, sticking to a daily routine is crucial. Testing your blood sugar, as well as, taking your medications on schedule are musts. Be sure to check your blood sugar regularly. Blood sugar that is too high (or too low), or blood sugar that is constantly spiking and falling will have a definite impact on how you feel.
Eat meals high in protein, fiber and good fats. If you are not getting the nutrition you need and you feel hungry, that automatically adds stress to your mind and body and can cause blood sugar to spike or crash.
Stay hydrated! Every single body system depends on water. Drinking plenty of water keeps your body running and can help keep you feeling refreshed. The Mayo Clinic recommends 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids daily for men, and 9 cups (2.2 liters) of fluids daily for women.
It may be tempting to reach for an extra cup of coffee (or two), or possibly an energy drink to help get you through the day. Drink with caution, though. Caffeine can raise blood sugar in some people, and most energy drinks contain more sugar than a regular soda.
Have you ever heard someone say “red wine is good for your heart?” When consumed in moderation, red wine raises levels of good cholesterol and lowers risk of heart diseases and stroke. Just don’t overdo it, or you run the risk of raising your blood sugar (not to mention the embarrassing photos).
Don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Ladies, go get that manicure or massage. If pedicures aren’t your style fellas, hit the golf course or go for a drive and turn up the radio.
Speaking of music, turning up the tunes can help you relax. Choose whichever genre is the most soothing for you; easy listening or hard rock – whatever sounds good to you!
Put down the phone (and tablet, and laptop.) Try to be present and focused by eliminating constant stimulation from electronics. Do not use any electronic devices (TV included) for 15-20 minutes before bed; the light from the screen interferes with sleep message in the brain and can keep you awake.
Everyone knows nothing feels as good as a great night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults between the ages of 25-65.
Physical activity also combats stress. Exercise doesn’t always mean spending 2 hours in the gym every day. Physical activity can be enjoyed as other activities, as well. For example, take a walk with your family after dinner, or play a game of hide-and-seek with your kids or grandchildren.
Take a few moments every day to simply rest and breathe. By practicing stress-reduction techniques, we can lower the toll on our minds and bodies. Meditation and prayer are two more ways to calm your spirit and relax. Or give yoga a try to combine exercise and meditation in one. Keep at it until you find relaxation techniques that work for you!