According to the American Diabetes Association the answer is yes.
The fact is that stress alters blood glucose levels. Studies have also shown that people who are under stress often do not take good care of themselves. They often drink more alcohol, eat more of the wrong foods and exercise less. The stress hormones produced by the body alter blood glucose levels directly. Studies show that diabetic mice under physical or mental stress have elevated glucose levels.
Physical stress such as illness or injury causes higher blood glucose levels in people with either type of diabetes. Mental stress raises blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. The effects of mental stress on type 1 diabetes are mixed.
Reducing stress is key to managing your diabetes. The American Diabetes association says that controlling stress with relaxation therapy seems to help. It is more likely to be effective with type 2 that type 1 diabetes. The reason is simple. Stress blocks the body from producing insulin in people with type 2 diabetes, so releasing excess stress help. People with type 1 diabetes don’t make insulin so stress reduction doesn’t have this effect. However, reducing stress is beneficial for all since it helps people to focus on taking better care of themselves.
Ok, so now I know how it will help and why I need to learn to relax but how do you do it? This is the question I hear most from people. My doctor says I need to relax but I don’t really know how to do that. I relax at night in front of the TV, isn’t that enough?
When relaxing at night in front of the TV our mind is still actively engaged. If we are watching a drama or action movie our body is still responding as if the action on TV was really happening, pumping out the same stress hormones it did during the day. To really relax you have to be able to slow down your brain waves.
“Can slowing down my brain waves really be good for me” you might ask. Have you ever gone to bed at night with a problem weighing heavy on your mind? When you wake up it suddenly has become so clear. You have the answer! This is because as you moved deeper into sleep your brain waves slowed from the fast and frenzied beta state in to a slower rhythm called alpha and then even slower rhythm called theta. It is in the alpha and theta states that our mind truly relaxes. Our body has the amazing ability to heal at these levels.
So all I have to do is sleep more! Sounds easy but unfortunately people who are constantly stressed (and if you have diabetes don’t tell me you aren’t) have trouble entering these deeper states. They toss and turn in the bed never fully allowing their body and mind to relax. They often wake up tired. The body has simply forgotten how to relax.
Learning a few simple techniques can help you get back on track towards a more relaxed and restful sleep. Waking after a nice restful sleep each night will help you to better handle the stresses of the day. Adding a few simple exercises into your everyday routine will not take up more of your precious time but you will find that moving to a more relaxed state will improve your concentration and focus. You will accomplish more in less time.
Breath training is probably one of the most effective methods for reducing stress. Most adults in our society have simply forgotten how to breathe naturally. We move through the day holding our breath and taking short shallow inhalations. Have you ever watched a baby breathe? Their breath is slow and even with the breath moving the belly up and down. Does your belly move? Or do you take shallow breaths from up in your chest?
The neat thing about the breath is that it’s portable! You take it everywhere you go. You can literally practice conscious breathing anywhere and everywhere. It will be beneficial to get help retraining your mind and body. But it’s easy and like riding a bike your body never really forgets. Adding visualization or guided imagery to your breath work can be beneficial. Find a coach who specializes in relaxation training or purchase audio products on breathing and guided relaxation and meditation. You only need to practice a few minutes a day. Aren’t you worth it?