How does stress affect your blood glucose levels?

Stress can affect your blood glucose levels. Even positive life changes can cause blood glucose levels to swing. It is not possible to eliminate all of life’s headaches; however, you can take steps to control your blood glucose and stress levels.

Can stress cause diabetes?

Stress alone does not cause diabetes. However, there is some evidence that there may be a link between stress and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Evidence suggests that high levels of stress hormones might stop insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from working correctly.

How can stress affect the body?

It is essential to understand the difference between short term (acute) and long term (chronic) stress. Acute stressors include running late for an appointment or getting stuck in traffic. Although it feels stressful at the time, we cannot control this.

Chronic stress may include difficulty at work, caring for a loved one or financial strains. If you’re dealing with chronic stress, this can lead to long term challenges with managing your long-term measure of blood glucose (glycosylated haemoglobin HbA1c).

If you’re feeling stressed, your blood glucose levels rise. As a result, glucose levels increase.

When blood glucose is high, this can affect your mood, and you may feel cranky, tired and not have enough energy to get things done.

What is out of your control?

Stress can potentially undo the routines you put in place to manage your diabetes. You may start to eat more and exercise less, which will elevate your glucose levels. High glucose levels can:

  • Make it harder to focus on your diabetes care.
  • May make you feel like eating more.
  • Decrease your motivated to exercise.
  • Affect your quality of sleep.

However, you can take steps to better control your blood glucose levels and your stress levels.

10 tips to a healthy balance to feel in control

  1. Closely monitor your blood glucose

  • Monitor your blood glucose levels to see if stress is having an effect or not
  • If you notice any patterns of glucose levels above 10.00mmol over a long period, it is best to see your GP, diabetes specialist, diabetes educator or nurse practitioner for a medication review.
  1. See your doctor

  • If the stressful situation is causing your blood glucose level to swing, see your GP or diabetes treating team to temporarily change or adjust your medication
  • A referral to a psychologist could also be organised.
  1. Eliminate long term stressors

  • If there is too much stress, this can be a warning that something needs to change.
  1. Cut back on short term stressors that can accumulate

  • Try to implement a plan to reduce the short term stress.
  1. Prepare yourself with health quick fixes.

  • Identify the triggers and look at tools to help. This could include:
    • Exercise
    • Massage
    • Relaxing apps
    • Conversations with family and friends
  1. Practice mindfulness to promote a feeling of calm

  • Implementing strategies may assist in the form of meditation, apps, improved sleep hygiene, and deep breathing exercise.
  • Explore a variety of relaxation techniques
  1. Physical activity

  • Exercise lowers blood glucose levels.
  • Physical activity is an excellent way to remove yourself from a stressful situation and improve your mood.
  1. Seek support in reducing stress

  • Take advantage of your support circle
  • Seeing your GP may provide some guidance for you.
  • Call the our Helpline 1300 342 238 and ask to speak to the Diabetes Counselling Service about strategies to mitigate stress, or our health professionals to offer guidance.
  1. Stay organised

  • Staying organised with all aspects of your care, appointments, blood glucose monitoring, and medication can help your diabetes management. Finding this routine will reduce the risk of health complications.
  1. Recharge your batteries

  • Getting enough sleep will help with your diabetes management
  • Discuss with your doctor if it is difficult to sleep


Karen Jameson CDE- RN


Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes