So, You Had A Bad Day, Week, Month, Life

This was originally posted to my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.

Stress, anxiety, depression, etc. There are many diabetics out there that claim these things have a physiological effect on blood sugar. Does being under stress actually do something inside the body that causes blood sugar to rise or fall? I have done some research and have found no scientific studies to prove this a fact or that stress has any effect on blood sugar at all. Not to say that they aren’t out there, I just haven’t come across them.

I’m not talking about emergencies that cause an adrenalin rush. We all know this can make BG rise or fall. I’m talking about a more low tone and extended kind of stress, like a stressful work environment, a string of bad luck, a relationship on the rocks, etc.

But, then why does my blood sugar run much higher whenever I am under a lot of stress? Never fails, stress = high BG for me, and many other diabetics. And yet many other diabetics will tell you without hesitation that stress drops their BG.

My theory is not that there is something changing in the body that causes BG to rise or fall. I truly think that it is how we behave when under stress that directly affects our BG. We may just not be aware of our actions in the moment.

In my previous blog post, “Lessons” From The Past, I wrote about a bad week I had (which actually lasted much longer) and how I realized I still deal with stress in the same old bad fashion I always have.

And it always results in very high BGs.

When I am stressed, I crave carbs. I “need” comfort food. And I always give in, get my treats, plop down on the couch and zone in front of the T.V… I also toss my care and monitoring of my diabetes out the window. It’s just another stress to take care of diabetes, and I’m trying to lessen the stress, so thoughts of diabetes go bye-bye for awhile.

And so the BG rises.

I am losing control, flailing in the anxiety and falling into depression. So I ignore as many troubles as I can easily ignore.

And it becomes a vicious cycle, one feeding the other, over and over in a downward spiral.

And the BGs rise.

The real sad part here is that I am aware of my behavior (because it’s what happens every single time) but I don’t stop.

My inner monologue is this, “Don’t give in to the temptation, it’s just going to make your blood sugar go up.”, “You’re doing it again, you need to stop.”,

“I really don’t care right now, I just don’t give a ■■■■, it’s all a bunch of bull ■■■■, I’m a failure at life, I fail at everything, nothing is ever going to get better, I’m stuck in this ■■■■■■ life forever, I keep trying and things just keep crashing my efforts into the floor. Why try, why work toward anything. I’m spent.”

Something always brings me around, though. Things naturally follow a pattern, things go bad for awhile then get better for awhile. It’s life. I also sometimes get fed up with myself and gather enough strength and determination to pull myself up and take control once more. But it is impossible to cut off the bad behavior before it happens. I guess my psychology just needs to “cry it out” for awhile first.

So, you see, I believe we all have a behavior pattern we follow when dealing with stress. And it is this behavior, conscious or not, that directly causes our blood sugar to rise or fall. Some people might do kind of what I do, some might lose their appetite or become workaholics or sleep more or exercise more. Whatever your coping mechanism is for stress, it’s going to change your BG.

This obviously is my own personal theory. I am more than happy to welcome ideas, experiences, or education on the topic.


Oh yeah, we’ve all been here. Probably 1-2 times each week, I cave into stress-related temptation. The key I find is to keep the worst foods out of my kitchen. And keep healthier choices at hand. Better to eat a few spoons of peanut butter than cookies, right?

I too rarely buy temptation foods, if they are in the larder I eat them :disappointed:

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When I decided to take control of my diabetes one of the first things I did was forbid all “unfriendly” foods in my house. This works wonderfully for good health and BG control for two reasons

  1. It keeps me from giving in to temptation. If the food is not readily available, I won’t eat it!
  2. It’s only me and my hubby (type 2) in the house, so it’s not like I have to fight with other people’s diets.

The only trouble is when I get under a lot of stress, the cravings for comfort food become overwhelming and I’ll actually go to the store/restaurant to get what I want. :frowning:


When I want to reward or calm myself with food, I try to remind myself that food is fuel. I also like to ask myself: "Do I eat for fun or for fuel?

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Interesting. I am apparently a total food wimp, so paralyzed by the thought of high numbers that I am never remotely tempted to eat food with an inordinate amount of carbs. I don’t use insulin yet to correct, so perhaps that is part of it.

My stress reaction is lack of sleep which exacerbates my fibromyalgia and subsequently messes up every number we care about. I work on it, like most of us–breathe deeply; put on quiet Bach pieces or Stacey Kent’s Dreamsville album. But I agree with you, Tamra, stress does mess with us, and I do believe analyzing our behaviors in reaction to stress is important…


I’ve been dealing with unfriendly food for many years before Dx. Banning them or prohibiting them was a tact I tried – but which for me failed. I got cravings that eventually defeated my resolved. Again, pre-Dx, I found what works for me: I don’t “ban” anything. Instead, when I want or crave something, I allow myself a controlled portion of it. Usually, that satisfies, and I don’t lose my resolve. This also has, for me, the add bonus of never feeling guilty for “cheating” – since there IS no cheating!

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Thas, I know many people that works for. For me, however it’s an all or nothing thing. If I try to just have a portion of something I really like or am craving, I end up eating the entire package! I have very little willpower when it comes to junk foods. But I’ve found if I don’t have it readily available then I won’t eat it. I wish I could trust myself to only eat a set portion, but I’ve tried and I’ve just never, ever been able to.

I must say though that not eating carbolicious foods at all has left me feeling much more happy, healthy (I have tons better BG control), and I don’t miss or crave them unless I am under a lot of stress, which thankfully doesn’t happen too often anymore. I am thankful that I don’t feel deprived or restricted. In fact I feel kind of triumphant. I have finally found my control.

I am in control! :smile:

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As one of those science types, I too want to know why things work. In the matter of ‘(Why) Does stress raise blood glucose levels?’ there have been some studies. I found this paper easy to digest: Stress and Diabetes: A Review of the Links. It’s ten years old now, but the studies this paper cites will get one started.

There is a dearth of research on the contribution of low level stress to blood glucose control. Partly because it’s simply easier to note and measure acute stress (have the subject take a timed calculus test and measure BG), and partly because it’s very difficult to control for chronic stress. How does one choose a cohort who eats the same, exercises the same, has a known mix of ages, sexes, and races? Then one has to divide that cohort into ‘stressed’ and ‘not stressed’. Or, at least order them by stress level. It’s a daunting ethical problem.

This paper mentions cortisol; perhaps there are studies that can confirm cortisol levels in stressed vs non-stressed populations. I haven’t found any yet, but science is always chipping away at these questions.

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