Stress: a normal part of life
Stress is a normal reaction to the changes, problems, disappointments and challenges that people face. In fact, stress is such a normal part of life that the body usually reacts to it in useful and predictable ways. It is important for the person with diabetes to be aware of stress and to understand how stress can affect blood sugar. Coping with stress is an essential part of your diabetes care.
When you are under pressure
When you are under pressure, the body reacts by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisone. These hormones cause sugar to be released from the liver. Even though stress usually causes your blood sugar to rise, you may feel as though your blood sugar is low. That is because adrenaline can cause many of the symptoms of low blood sugar. If you are not sure whether your blood sugar is rising or falling, test it to find out. Only then can you take the correct action.
Causes of stress
All sorts of events can cause stress in a person’s life. You know what causes you to feel tense or under pressure. It may be something as simple as an irritating noise. Problems at home or at work may become stressful. Even happy life changes, like getting married, can cause stress. It is important that you recognize when you are under stress.
Long periods of stress
Sometimes stressful situations continue over a long period of time. If this happens, you may need help to solve problems. You may also need help to keep your blood sugar under control during this period. Long-term stress may be caused by serious illness in the family, conflicts at work or preparing for an important exam.
Coping with stress
Sometimes, it helps to talk about your problems with someone you trust. Share your feelings with family or friends. People who know you well may help you find positive solutions to your problems. Be sure to let the members of your diabetes care team know when you need help to resolve stress. Sometimes talking with a psychologist can be a great help.
New powerful feelings
Do you remember when you first learned that you had diabetes? Your reaction may have been, “That’s impossible!” Nobody chooses to develop a lifelong condition like diabetes. Most of us never think about the possibility of having a serious illness – until it happens. Then, suddenly, we are forced to cope not only with major changes in our daily lives but with new and often-powerful feelings. For some people, the stress of adapting to life with diabetes can become a crisis.
The shock phase begins at the outset of the crisis. During this time you may not be able to think clearly or act rationally. Some people appear to be composed and in control. This apparent “calm” often hides inner confusion. Friends, family and professionals who offer information, advice and recommendations now, are often wasting their time. During the shock phase, new information simply doesn’t sink in.
This phase starts when you begin to understand what has happened to you. You may dwell on what has happened or try to come up with an explanation. This often results in feelings of guilt, even though what has happened is not your fault. You may wrongly blame others – especially people close to you – for your problem. During this time, you need support and understanding from others.
During the ‘reconstruction phase’ you begin to accept what has happened to you. You are learning to cope with your new situation. You are able to look at what has happened more realistically and without guilt. You begin to look ahead, make independent decisions and work toward new goals.
In this phase the “wound” of your crisis begins to heal. You have learned to live with the fact that you have diabetes, even though it may still hurt at times. Most people are now more realistic about living with diabetes. They reflect upon their situation and ask questions. At this time, people are able to learn from their experiences and to absorb information provided by the diabetes care team.
The outcome of a crisis
The outcome of a crisis is greatly influenced by the resources at hand and by the support and understanding of family, friends and the professionals in your diabetes care team. A lot also depends on your own behaviour and attitude. Taking responsibility for managing your diabetes puts you in control, and nearly everyone feels better when they have some control over their future.
Life with diabetes
No one but you can decide what your life with diabetes will be like. You must discover your own new path in life, what you want, where you want to go. But you’re not alone. Seek help when you need it. Your diabetes care team is there to help you, not only when you first learn that you have diabetes, but whenever you face new challenges or problems. Use all the resources available to you to gain the knowledge and insight you need to manage your life with diabetes, and to live the life you want.