Live Well

Manage your diabetes

Manage your stress

At some point in our lives, all of us will experience stress. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand, challenge or threat. Each of us will cope with stress in our own way, however, some strategies are more helpful than others.

If you have diabetes it is very important that you recognise when you are stressed and take positive steps to address it.


What happens when I get stressed?

When you experience fear or a threat (physical or emotional), your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, designed to ready your body for emergency action.

Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reactions and enhance your focus.

In a life or death situation, this response can save your life—for example, giving you extra strength to defend yourself or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

However, your nervous system is not good at telling the difference between life-threatening events and everyday stressors. So a high-pressure job, arguments with loved ones or even a traffic jam can create the same response from your body.

When you repeatedly experience the stress response in your everyday life, this leads to several health problems including high blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, and mental illness.

What happens to my blood sugar levels?

Part of the body’s natural response to stress is to increase the amount of glucose in your blood so that you have enough energy to successfully deal with an emergency.

If you have diabetes your body will struggle to bring those blood glucose levels down once the stress has passed. Ongoing stress can lead to high BGLs over a period of time, which in turn can lead to damaged blood vessels and other complications.

If you have diabetes, you may find it much more difficult to manage your BGLs during times of stress. Staying within your target range can be a real challenge. If the stress is likely to be ongoing, it is a good idea to speak to someone in your healthcare team about how to manage the stress and your diabetes.

What can I do to manage my stress?

During times of stress you should:

  • Test your BGLs more often.
  • Eat as well as possible, avoiding unhealthy food and snacks.
  • Get active. Make good use of the extra energy your body has created.
  • Talk to friends, family and your healthcare team about how you are feeling.
  • Take time out to enjoy activities you like. This will help to relax you.
  • Talk to your doctor.

See our factsheets for more information on diabetes and stress.

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