The holiday season is nearly upon us, and it can be a stressful time for many. You may be surprised to learn that stress can contribute to unstable blood glucose levels in many, but specifically Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Often we cope with the seasonal stress by eating, drinking, watching TV and shopping. These coping techniques, as well as all the holiday parties, cocktails, desserts and candy, make managing blood glucose quite a challenge.
What is stress? Stress can include physiologic or psychologic response to external stimuli, or stressful events themselves. Your perceived stressors may be different from your best friend’s, spouse or mother’s.
Being able to acknowledge when you are feeling stressed, or someone close to you is, can be very helpful in adapting and managing stress.
Stress triggers the nervous system, and then other systems to take action. The hypothalamic- pituitary- adrenal axis is part of the neuroendocrine system, and when the hypothalamus receives a signal, it triggers the pituitary to release hormones that stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol. The cortisol tells your body to breakdown carbohydrate, lipid and protein stores which increase energy in your blood glucose. We are programmed this way so we can run from a predator, or survive in times of famine. With repeated stressors that don’t require extra energy, you can see how this leads to increasing blood glucose, multiple times a day. Elevated cortisol levels stimulate the production of more fat cells, to store extra fuel for the next stress attack. And on and on it goes, until you make some changes.
Learn to adjust your awareness, and acknowledge when you’re having a stress response, and then consider how you might decrease your response (shopping is not an option). Learning how to minimize stressful situations, while improving your stress management techniques, can lead to a better stress response, and improved, more stable glucose levels.
Just accept that as long as we are still breathing, there will be one stressful challenge after another for us during the Holidays. The only thing we can control (no matter what you tell yourself), is how we respond to any given situation. I think that’s the place to start.