Different Forms of Stress

Sometimes stress can sneak up on you

Online CommunityBy Scott Johnson

September 2013 — I know that stress makes my blood sugar run high. But I didn't know how many different forms of stress there were.

Some forms of stress are easy to recognize, such as an argument, or an insult that ticks you off, or a close call that scares you half to death. A great example of this is a story from a good friend named Molly. We met one Saturday morning for brunch and as she sat down at the table she told me about almost getting in an accident on the way there.

As she's driving behind a flatbed semi-truck loaded with tractor tires one of the tires comes loose, tumbles off of the flatbed and starts flying right at her. She frantically swerves out of the way, barely missing the tire and miraculously not crashing into any other vehicle on the freeway. Narrowly escaping death by tractor tire, she didn't think about how close she'd come to a tragic end, nor was she angry at the malfunctioned tie-down. Her first thought was, "Oh great — there goes my blood sugar!"

I think situations like that, where we can literally feel the adrenaline pumping and our heart racing, are easy to recognize. But there are others that are a bit more tricky. For example, did you know there can be "good" stress? Something like starting a new and exciting job, signing a mortgage or new lease, maybe even getting married. These are all good things, right? But the fact that there is change involved can be a stress.

In the past year or so I've learned to recognize stress in another situation that took me by surprise, but makes total sense now that I see it.

When I travel to diabetes related conferences and events I do a really poor job of getting enough rest. I'm usually up early to maximize the conference activities I can participate in, and up late to maximize the social activities I can participate in. These events are usually the only times I get to see friends from the diabetes online community, and being tired doesn't seem like a good reason to miss out on their company.

So I get up early and stay up late, feeling fortunate to get three or four hours of sleep on many nights. I don't even notice how tired I am because these events often fill me with energy and excitement.

At some point during the second day my blood sugars usually start to rise and they don't respond to corrections like they should. Almost subconsciously I start running through my mental troubleshooting checklist. Stress is on that list, third or fourth from the top, but it's hard to naturally associate that with being full of energy and excitement.

I have to step back a bit, and remember that pushing my body by asking it to run on such little sleep is incredibly unhealthy and therefore a major stress on my whole system. I'm sure I'm pumping out all sorts of insulin-blunting hormones just to keep my eyes open.

Once I realize I'm dealing with stress from lack of sleep, I can respond by increasing my insulin a bit and testing more often. That part is important — testing more often. Stress is hard, if not impossible, to quantify, so I have to test a lot and keep adjusting as best I can in order to stay on top of the situation.

I think it can be surprising to see which situations and scenarios are stressful for you, and your blood sugar can actually be a good indicator. It sure helped me see that even though I was having a great time at these conferences and events, I was putting myself through a lot of stress.

Read more of Scott Johnson's columns here.

Visit Scott's blog. 


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: December 18, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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