Stress and diabetes: How does diabetes stress, and stress about stress affect blood sugars?

Charlie Granby

Feeling stressed is stressful and it can be difficult to pinpoint why exactly we feel this way and what the root cause is. 

The recent pandemic has undoubtedly increased people’s stress levels. Whether it is financial, health, social, or even just feeling like we carry the weight of what the world is going through right now. It has not been easy, and it is completely normal to be feeling stressed. Throw a chronic illness into the mix and it is a whole other ballgame! 

Living with diabetes adds a lot of pressure and stress to daily life. Stress can have a huge impact on blood sugar levels, and just like diabetes, it affects everyone differently. All too often however, the correlation between stress and diabetes management outcomes is discussed with HCPs or even online. Stress can cause blood sugar levels to rise significantly, or fall dramatically causing major hypos; either situation is not ideal.


How can stress affect diabetes?

Stress affects my diabetes in various ways. If I am worrying about something or having a bad day with anxiety, my blood sugar levels are stubbornly high. If I am upset or if I cry, my levels can run very low, making it difficult to function. This is less common for me though. It is stress-induced highs that I have to contend with more regularly than I would like.

Living with multiple chronic conditions while trying to work full time, and live my life, can sometimes feel overwhelming. There’s a lot of plates spinning, and my diabetes management has been interesting to say the least. My treatment of these stubborn highs is so different day to day, as sometimes, no amount of insulin will bring my levels down, and I essentially just have to ride it out. Other days, I will take a correction dose and my blood sugar will just plummet out of nowhere, leading to a massive hypoI would treat, then my levels skyrocket again because I am still stressed. Those days are really difficult and challenging to deal with, because I feel like a yo-yo! 

Talking about this online, and how stress combined with everything else affects my blood sugar levels has been invaluable in learning ways to cope with this. It is refreshing to know I’m not alone and that there is help out there, that can be tailored to your individual needs. 

Tips on managing stress

While getting outside and walking is a huge help for me, my top recommendations for dealing with stress, and effective ways to relax and reduce the physical effects of stress on the body (high blood sugars, nausea, tense muscles, tension headaches) are: 

  • Using the Quin Diabetes Management app: Quin is really helpful for inspiring me to just live my life as best I can, without huge expectations. Their mindset for not making people feel bad for having a particular food, or for not penalising users if they do a correction, is so important and just reassures me when I have a bad day. It also shows me information I can use to feel slightly less stressed.
  • Apple Music Essentials, Pure Calm playlist: This playlist is a game changer. I will play this periodically throughout the day, or sometimes just at night when I’m winding down. There’s a whole variety of music styles and genres to choose from, including nature sounds. 
  • Journaling: Sometimes just getting all the thoughts in your head out onto paper can make such a difference. It helps me think objectively and calmly about what it is that is troubling me, and prioritising what I need to give my energy to or not. 
  • Calm app: I absolutely love their Sleep Stories to drift off to sleep! They are so effective at making my mind and body completely relax, and I always end up having a really good sleep that night, waking up refreshed (as refreshed as you can be when living with diabetes) the next morning. 


stress and diabetes affect everyone differently


Talking about stress and chronic illness is something I feel quite comfortable with. I am always eager to learn more about different methods and ways of dealing with all of it. If you are struggling, feel free to reach out, or maybe even try creating your own self care routine. It’s not going to solve all issues but it certainly helps and takes a little bit of the load off. Take it one day at a time, and know you are doing great!

Let’s carry on the conversation, follow Quin @quindiabetesapp on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook  and Charlie @charliesbusy on Instagram. 


Note: Everyone’s reaction to stress in relation to diabetes management is different. This is Charlie’s personal experience. Yours may look different, and that’s ok, too! Quin is here to support you either way. 

Charlie Granby