My Life In Cardboard Boxes
When lifes stress takes its toll on my diabetes management.
July 2006 — The last month has been chaotic, to say the least. I've quit one job, moved to another state, and started another career. While I am very happy with these changes, it's been pretty stressful.
It dawned on me as I picked up yet another heavy cardboard box filled with books and it jostled painfully against my thigh (where my insulin pump infusion set was happily nested) that stress plays such a factor in my diabetes management.
Take this scenario: I wake up one morning, the week before we're moving, and my fasting bloodsugar is 98 mg/dl. I walk around the apartment and mentally assess what needs to be done before we can move. As I make notes, I feel my shoulders tighten. My eyebrows furrow and move-related anxiety sets in. There is so much to pack! And where are we going to get the boxes from? Did we remember to reserve the U-Haul? Did I accidentally pack the cat?!
Although I've only been awake for an hour or so at this point, I am noting a dryness in my mouth and a bit of a headache. Testing my bloodsugar, I'm not surprised when it clocks in at 172 mg/dl. This raise of bloodsugar level was not influenced by food. Or exercise. Or ketones. Or an air bubble in my pump tubing or spoiled insulin. It was pure, unadulterated stress. The kind you lose sleep over. The kind that causes you to completely chew your fingernails.
The kind you write dLife columns about.
Stress does funny things to bloodsugar levels. When I took the GRE's after college, that four-hour test had my glucose levels hovering close to 270 mg/dl, never dipping below that, regardless of how much insulin I sent coursing through my body. During months of extreme family crisis when I was in college, my A1c was up in the stratosphere, hitting double digits. Mentally, I was all over the map. And instead of my body allowing itself to achieve a Zen-like state, it rebelled against me. The frustrations of daily life melded with my daily health management and I experienced major diabetes burnout. My body suffered the consequences of my tangled mind.
I now realize the importance of keeping myself cool, calm, and carbohydrate counting. In order to be at my strongest both physically and mentally, my diabetes needs to be in reasonable control.
In dealing with my recent move from Rhode Island to Connecticut, I felt the stress starting to boil up. My tools to combat the chaos? Laughter and exercise. For the latter, at least five days a week I venture off to the gym and complete my 33 aggressive minutes on the treadmill and couple it with an occasional weight training session. The physical exertion releases tension and exhausts my body enough so that I sleep soundly at night. As for the former, the healing power of laughter, I truly felt its power on the night before we picked up the U-Haul and the apartment looked completely lived in and unpacked. My boyfriend and I stood in the middle of the living room and laughed like loons. Laughter eased the stress of the situation and kept us mentally in check.
Don't get me wrong: There were flare-ups. Like the morning I realized we hadn't packed anything and our move was 24 hours away. Or the time I couldn't find the foolish cat until I realized she had holed herself up in a suitcase. But constant monitoring and staying in tune with my body helped me keep that tough situation from reflecting on my meter.
And now we're here. Safe and sound. Stressful situations will continue to present themselves but I'll ease through them as best I can. And the moral of the story is …
Oh, for crying out loud. Where is that cat?
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.
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