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How does stress affect blood glucose?

Living with a chronic condition comes with a certain amount of stress. How you manage that stress will determine the effects it can have on your sugar levels.

There are many definitions of stress but simply put: stress happens when pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope. It is an emotional strain or tension that occurs when we feel that we can’t cope with pressure.

How does stress affect you?

Because of stress, and my blood sugar, I landed up in hospital last week. Reading was 30.4 when admitted.


It usually drops when I over think or stress over the inevitable


All over… From high to extreme low… Takes 15 minutes to drop to almost nothing.


Really bad. My sugar spike like mad which makes it difficult because I’m one of those people who stresses over nothing and everything


My levels go high, especially when it’s hot. Just like yesterday, I nearly died. Someone shouting at me for nothing 😩😩😩😩😩😩


Blood-glucose is on the higher scale when I go into office. 😁 Clearly my body only wants to WFH. 😆


Stress very bad for my blood sugar. Goes up and also getting ulcers in my mouth.


Stress is very bad my sugar spikes very high


It does affect it goes high up normally my mom sugar was 32.8 when she got admitted at hospital last tym because of stress, plus stroke, it’s a lot, diabetes it’s demon😭😭😭😭😭😭


When I get a shock to my system or stress my sugar levels hit the roof😲


First of all Peace and contentment free you from worries and stress. Understanding the challengers that comes your way. Yeah stress can make you suffer and not control your blood glucose


Negatively when ever I’m stressed my glucose level drops every time

Ditshibane Mojalefa

Why does stress affect blood glucose?

Why is it so important to manage your stress when you have diabetes? Because it has a direct impact on your blood glucose.

When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This made sense when stress was caused by the appearance of a wild animal: cortisol and adrenaline give you an energy boost for a ‘fight or flight’ response.

Unfortunately, modern day stress is not only something we can’t run away from (like a wild animal), but also, often, chronic. Which means that we are constantly being given a dose of stress hormones – when we’re late for work or rushing to pick up kids or have to speak up in a stressful work situation or any of the hundreds of stressors that life throws at us. 

How to manage your stress

As you can see, it’s really important to learn to manage your stress. This doesn’t have to be complicated! It can be as simple as:

  • Exercise that makes your heart pump (cardiovascular exercise).
  • Meditation or deep breathing exercises.
  • Talking it over with a friend (even better if you walk and talk!)
  • Looking after yourself and making sure you get enough sleep.

How does stress affect you?

What to read next?

42 factors that affect blood sugar: Not sure how these factors affect your blood glucose? Diabetes can be so confusing, sometimes! Like a puzzle with so many different options for how to make sense of it.

Mindfulness for diabetes: If you can reduce your stress and remain present, you can improve your blood sugar. Krsangi is the founder of Sankalpa Coaching, an NLP practitioner, life coach, time-line therapist and educator in the public sector.

Let’s talk about diabetes guilt: Diabetes is such a strange condition, isn’t it? On the surface, it looks like it’s all about food and medication and exercise: a purely physical condition. But just below that surface there are all kinds of emotions rolling around

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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  1. From Jackie Mokgalagadi on email:
    Good Day

    The best and scientifically proven tool to manage stress effectively is meditation

    Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance
    that can benefit your emotional well-being and your overall health.
    You also can use it to relax and cope with stress by focusing on something that calms you.
    Meditation can help you learn to stay centered and keep inner peace

    Dr. Benson discovered the true power of the meditative mind-body connection —
    slower metabolism, measured breath rate, reduced heart rate,
    and quiet brainwave activity all combined to make the perfect state for healing.

    I do it every day, works 100%
    Reap huge health benefits


  2. Reg Munro Reg Munro

    I became diabetic in 1965 after a motor accident, so I’m not new to this. About three years ago I adopted CGM with Dexcom. What a change to my life! At least I now know where my sugar level is. But control is still heavily dependent on my choices.
    One thing I have learned though, and this isn’t as simple to control as eating. Stress has a significant impact on my blood sugar. I’ve been watching it over the past few months. I thought I was generally pretty relaxed about life, but I’ve learned to note when my stress level goes up, so does my sugar!
    It’s just another benefit of using the latest technology that CGM has added.
    My biggest issue is still trying to anticipate blood sugar levels in the next half-hour. Sometimes the CGM gives an indicator that misleads me to take heavy handed corrective measures. Am I the only one? Any hints you have for me? Reg Cape Town

    • You’re definitely not the only one! I do the same thing. The only hint I have is to wait a few minutes before correcting, and try not to be heavy handed. If the reading doesn’t really make sense, then I’ll wait 5 or 10 minutes and check again, and then take a conservative correction and see if that works.

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.