9 Diabetes-Friendly Stress Busters to Try Today

Is stress interfering with your diabetes management? Here are a few simple things you can do today to chill out and better control your condition.

Susan Amoruso
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Some amount of stress in life is simply unavoidable, especially when battling a chronic condition like diabetes. But if every little thing like a long line at the supermarket checkout or an unexpected road detour sends your anxiety skyrocketing, it can take a toll on your health: Uncontrolled chronic stress can raise blood sugar levels and make you more susceptible to long-term complications, such as kidney, eye or nerve disorders. Plus, you’re more likely to engage in bad behavior like binge-eating, drinking or smoking, when you’re stressed out.

The good news? Identifying and easing anxiety can help you feel better overall and improve your diabetes: According to Duke University Medical Center research led by Richard S. Surwit, PhD, professor of medical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, stress-management techniques can lead to significant improvements in A1C levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

Take a few moments to evaluate your main sources of stress, and then try one of these simple tension-tamers today.

Start yawning
Scientists aren’t sure why, but yawning can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system that creates positive feelings and reduces stress. Add some exaggerated stretching and you’ll immediately feel calmer. Lucky for you, yawning is contagious: Looking at a picture of someone yawning or reading about yawning can trigger this function of the body. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were yawning right now!

Hug your loved one
A warm embrace can do wonders for your mood. In a study in Psychosomatic Medicine, couples sat close to one another, talked for 10 minutes and then shared a long hug. The result? They had a rise in oxytocin, the feel-good hormone known to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

Work it out
One of the best ways to tame that tension is to literally work it out. Whether you go for a long walk, pop in an exercise DVD or take a class at the gym, exercise will help you burn off that nervous energy and boost those feel-good endorphins.

Get some shut-eye
More than 85% of respondents in a National Sleep Foundation survey said poor sleep affects their mood; 72% said it affects their family life and responsibilities and 68% said it impedes their social life. Lack of sleep can also lead to slip-ups in your diabetes management—more junk-food cravings and less energy to exercise, for example.

Practice progressive muscle relaxation
A technique called progressive muscle relaxation can help ease stress. And the best part is that it can be done just about anywhere. Dim the lights and sit in a comfortable chair. Take several slow, deep breaths. Tense your muscles for five seconds and then relax for five seconds, starting with your feet and working your way up your body. Pay attention to how your body feels in a relaxed state.Have more sex
In addition to being a good diversion from our worries, sex has been shown to positively affect our ability to manage stress. One study showed that participants who had recently had intercourse tended to have either a lower baseline blood pressure, less of a rise in blood pressure during stressful events or both.

Exercise your funny bone
Fretting about counting carbs or managing medication side effects? Pop in a funny flick, or check out some comedians on YouTube. According to researchers at Loma Linda University in California, even the mere anticipation of a humorous event can help reduce your body’s stress hormones.

Bask in the light
Increasing your exposure to light—whether outdoors or indoors—has been shown to enhance your well-being and boost your mood. Try squeezing in 20 minutes of sunlight on most days of the week. Can’t manage to go outdoors? Consider investing in an indoor light box that provides full-spectrum light, which mimics the effects of sunshine.

Escape with entertainment
There’s nothing wrong with taking a time-out from daily life and pushing your stressors aside. Let it all go, and lose yourself and your worries in a good book, movie or TV show. 

April 2013