Worldwide, Women say they feel more stressed than men.
The results don’t surprise Simone Ravicz, Ph.D., a psychologist in Pacific Palisades, California, and author of High On Stress: A Woman’s guide to optimizing the stress in her life. “We have so many demanding roles, and we’re taught the expected to be deeply involved in all of them, whether it’s work, family, or both. We’re caretakers, mothers, social planners, career women. When these roles conflict, which they often do, it creates stress.”on for long periods of time, even though we’re neither fighting nor fleeing”.
What we’re doing is stewing, which can cause stress but women worry much more about more than their own lives; they also fret over situations such as a friend’s divorce or a family member’s illness, Dr. Ravicz says. “These network-related events are very stressful for women, as they generally preclude much of any level of control. In addition, they’re also much more frequent than the events men report as most stressful, such as financial trouble.” Researchers have linked dozens of physical symptoms to stress overload, from fatigue to weight gain. You can add another symptom to that list: the risk for high blood sugar. What’s more, depression, which can be a major response to stress, is considered a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This can be a particular problem for people with high blood sugar, who are already at higher-than normal risk of heart disease. Stress raises blood pressure, which damages the linings of blood vessels.
Substances that are released during time of stress, such as fatty acids, are trapped in these damaged areas.
This leads to the development of plaques, fatty deposits that can block bloodflow, increase the risk of clots, and possibly lead to heart attacks. It doesn’t have to be this way.Stress isn’t the deadline, the traffic jam, or the surly teenager-it’s the way you react to things. That’s why one women who sees a long line at the supermarket may feel her temper rising out of control, while another contentedly browses through a trashy tabloid. No matter how much stress you experience, you can do something about it. Once you identify the causes of stresses in your life and recognize the danger signs, you can take steps to reduce them. You’ll find dozens of tips in the next chapter. In the meantime, here’s what we know about the effect of stress on blood sugar.
**This Is Your Body, Under Duress** While we tend to view stress as toxic to our minds, we generally don’t consider its potentially harmful effects on the body. But the physical effects of stress are profound. During times of stress, your body gears up to take action. This “gearing up” is called the fight-or-flight response, and it’s what causes your heart to beat faster, your breath to quicken, and your stomach to knot. It also causes skyrocketing of many hormones-a signal to flood your cells with the energy they need, in the form of blood sugar and fat, to deal with the threat, whether that’s to fight or to, well, take flight.
Stress plays a direct in how your body responds to the hormones that raise blood sugar levels.
**Chill Out To Rein In Blood Sugar** “Under stress, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, raising blood sugar levels to prepare you for action,” says Richard Surwit, Ph.D., author of the mind-body diabetes revolution and chief of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. If your cells are insulin resistant, the sugar builds up in your blood, with nowhere to go. We have no shortage of short-term stress in our lives. We may get stuck in a traffic jam, wrangle with a worker at the department of motor vehicles, or put up with in-laws for the holidays. But much of our stress is chronic in nature-the result of working long hours at a demanding job, caring for an aging parent, or even recovering from surgery. The bottom line? Our stress hormones, which were designed to deal with short-term dangers like fleeing predators, are turned e chronically high levels of blood sugar.
The good news is, controlling stress with relaxation therapy seems to help control high blood sugar.
What’s more, simple relaxation exercises and other stress-management techniques can help you gain more control over blood sugar levels, according to a study conducted at Duke University. More than 100 with high blood sugar took five diabetes education classes either with or without stress-management training. After a year, more than half of the stress-relief group improved blood sugar significantly, enough to lower their risk for the worst complications, such as heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and vision problems. Study participants soothed their stress with a variety of techniques: progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and positive mental imagery, as well as by stopping high-tension thoughts. There are many, many ways to teach yourself to handle stress better-and you can learn. It just comes down to making the commitment and taking the time to learn one (or more). One way to start on the road to low-stress living is to seek out a local stress-relief class, which are offered by many hospitals, YMCA’s, and adult-education programs. One thing, though: Tell your doctor you’re starting a stress-reduction program. If you take medication, he may want to adjust your dose so you don’t end up with dangerously low blood sugar levels.
**Give Yourself Time-Outs, Too**One key aspect of reducing the effects of stress on your blood sugar levels-and your health in general- is to consciously insert little pockets of rest time into your life. They don’t have to be long, but they should be frequent, because rest is essential for health and psychological and spiritual well-being. “Rest is a natural and necessary part of life and of work.” Says Stephan Rechtschaffen, M.D., cofounder of the Omega Institute for holistic studies in Rhinebeck, New York. He points out that the heart beats every second. “we might say that it works all the time. But in fact, it contracts for one-tenth of a second and then rests for nine-tenths of a second.” It’s easy to see that if the heart kept contracting without resting, it wouldn’t function. Like our hearts, we too need regular rest breaks. “We need to step off the wheel,” says Wayne Muller, an ordained minister and psychotherapist in Mill Valley, California, and author of Sabbath: restoring the sacred rhythm of rest. “Life works in rhythm-the seas, the tides, the body, everything. If we’re only on one track-producing and working, without time for reflection and re-gathering-we’re doing harm.”
If you don’t make time for rest, your body will demand it-by getting sick
Researchers in the Netherlands say that excessive tiredness-a state they call vital exhaustion, typified by fatigue, irritability, and demoralization-may double your chance of heart attack, for example. Thus, no matter how busy you are, you can (and should) find ways to rest. Start your day with yoga, meditation, or a walk. Take three deep, slow breaths before answering the phone, starting the car, serving the kids lunch, or any other activity. Reserve some hours each week to spend with your spouse or a close friend, where you enjoy a special meal and share an activity. Above all, take back Sundays as a day of rest for family, leisure, and worship. Don’t spend the day mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, or catching up on office work. Don’t feel guilty about spending some time relaxing when you have a lot to do, because a change of pace can make you more productive. “If you leave a problem for a while and do something else, your mind will work on it in the background,” says David Neubauer, M.D.,associate director of johns Hopkins sleep disorders Center in Baltimore. “It’s like when you’re doing one thing on your computer, and windows is working in the background.”
Of course, having diabetes is in itself a source of stress-type that’s unlikely to go away.
**When It’s Diabetes That’s Stressing You Out** Still, there’s plenty you can do to reduce the stress of living with diabetes. First, seek out a diabetes support group. Making friends in a support group can lighten the burden of diabetes-related stresses. It can help immensely to know that others are in the same boat with you-and that they understand. The people in these groups can also give you tips on how they cope with the stresses in their lives. Other ways to short-circuit stress include searching for a new hobby or going back to an old one, learning to play the piano or saxophone (why not?), or joining a swing-dancing club.
You might also want to volunteer your time at a hospital or social-service organisation. Confronting diabetes-related stress head-on can help, too. Ask yourself what aspects of living with diabetes stress you out the most. Is it taking your medication? Checking your blood sugar levels regularly? Eating the way you should, rather than the way you’d like to? Exercising? For help in dealing with any of these issues, you might go to a member of your diabetes team, if you have one, or even a counsellor if the stress is overwhelming. Talking about the issues you face as a person with diabetes can help you come to grips with these challenges and learn new and better ways of coping or changing your behaviour.
FURTHER READING: Can type 2 Diabetes Be cured Without Dieting? Here
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