Q: I have a really stressful job. I find that when I test my blood sugar at work or in the evening after work that my levels are markedly higher than on the days I don't work. I take my food to work with me, so my diet doesn't change from day to day. Is it the stress that is boosting my levels?A: Is your physical activity level also the same during both times? If not, the difference may be simply because you are burning more calories during your off-work days. But if your diet and activities are similar during your on- and off-work days, it is possible that occupational stress is the cause of your higher sugar levels. Psychological stress from a demanding job or other life situations has been implicated in high glucose levels in otherwise healthy individuals. This is true especially among those who have limited social support or who have little authority to make changes at their job.
— Whitney, Arkansas
We are also learning that in people with diabetes, stress complicates glucose control. The mechanism for this is twofold. First, some individuals eat more while under stress, which then raises their sugar level. Second, during stressful times the body produces hormones as a survival mechanism to ensure that there is enough energy to respond to the particular stressor. These hormones facilitate the breakdown of stored fat and glycogen. In this process, glycogen is converted into glucose, increasing its concentration in the blood. These hormones also affect blood pressure, heart rate, and the immune system.
Stress reduction is one of the key elements of diabetes management. Unfortunately, there is no specific method that works for everyone. I recommend consulting your doctor or a psychologist to find what works for you.