Stress is an all too common state of being in today’s hectic world. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and — most notably for people with type 2 diabetes — higher blood sugar levels. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to manage your stress levels. Here are nine tips to help you reduce stress as you navigate through your type 2 diabetes journey.
Breathing is one of the simplest ways to de-stress. Deep abdominal breathing fills your lungs and allows for a full exchange of incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide. This can help decrease blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and reduce anxiety. When you encounter a stressful moment at the office or at home, try taking a deep breath. Inhale for five seconds and exhale for another five.
Taking a more structured approach can increase the benefits of deep breathing. Find a quiet, comfortable space to sit down for five to ten minutes. Simply closing your office door and putting your phone on silent, or reserving a small conference room, are two discreet ways to take a time out at work. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on feeling your chest and belly rise. This focus redirects your attention from the stressors that surround you and grounds you in the present moment. Over time, you may want to incorporate visualizing relaxing imagery or repeating a calming phrase into your routine.
2. Prepare for tomorrow
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed on a particular day, remember that tomorrow is a new day. Acknowledge your bad day, then shift your focus to making tomorrow better. Make a to-do list to prioritize your tasks and make things more manageable. Pick out your outfit or pack your lunch before bed to help your morning routine go off without a hitch.
3. Organize your space
Clearing clutter can help clear your mind. It may be hard to relax or feel in control if your surroundings are in disarray. Organizing your desk at work and your bedroom at home can help you feel less stressed and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. Conquering that pile of laundry, then staying on top of it regularly, can do wonders.
With ever-advancing technology, it’s getting easier and easier to stay connected. But that has created new challenges when it comes to stress management. Although it’s tempting to check and respond to work emails outside of the office, try to unplug and enjoy your free time when you can. Striking a balance between work and personal life is an important part of keeping stress at bay. And when you’re on vacation? Do your best to leave work at work so you can come back refreshed and de-stressed.
5. Get moving
Physical activity releases chemicals in your brain called endorphins. These chemicals act as natural painkillers and help regulate sleep and stress. You don’t have to run a marathon to feel the benefits. Simply taking a brisk walk or doing a few jumping jacks can do the trick.
Check out these tips for creative ways to fit exercise into your daily routine in and out of the office.
6. Rest up
Getting a good night’s sleep may feel nearly impossible when you’re stressed, but a lack of sleep compounds the effect of stress on your body — and can wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
You can get better rest by making your bedroom a sacred space reserved for sleep and intimacy. Leave work at the door and power down your electronics before bedtime. Research from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States found that using light-emitting electronics before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle.
7. Eat well
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to reach for comfort foods that are high in sugar but low in vitamins and minerals. These nutrients can help reduce stress. A lack of nutrients can also weaken your immune system and cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate.
Studies also suggest that people who get higher levels of vitamins such as folate can have lower levels of depression and depressive symptoms.
Here are some tips for eating healthy and reducing stress:
- Try these 7 foods that could boost your serotonin levels to help stabilize your mood.
- Prep a week’s worth of lunches to take the work out of choosing healthy options in stressful moments.
- Stock up on these 9 healthy snacks for the office.
8. Take advantage of wellness programs
It may be one of the last places you think of, but your company or employer is a great place to turn for health and wellness resources. Employers often invest in these options for their employees because they can save money on healthcare costs and increase productivity. In fact, one review found that workplace physical activity and yoga programs are associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms and anxiety, and can also help relieve stress. Do some digging to learn what might be available to you.
Some workplaces offer:
- employee assistance programs that provide stress-management resources and mental health counseling services from credentialed professionals
- running or walking groups during lunch
- meditation classes or spaces, or other supportive resources such as clinical supervision
- programs that bring in massage therapists, acupuncturists, or nutritionists
- smoking cessation programs or incentives
- referrals for local resources to provide the services that aren’t covered internally
9. Think about what works for you
What do you find relaxing? This list is a great place to start, but you may have other ideas that work to help you de-stress. Some examples include:
- talking to friends or family about how you’re feeling
- using your lunch break at work to practice stress management skills
- taking a bath
- trying acupuncture or massage therapy
- lighting a scented candle
- listening to your favorite album
- writing down how you’re feeling
- talking to a professional or therapist
Finally, remember to be patient with yourself. These tips can help you get a better handle on de-stressing, but managing stress is an ongoing and evolving process.
Julia Telfer, MPH completed her BA in Psychology at Elon University in North Carolina, and earned her MPH in Health Policy and Management at New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice in Valhalla, NY, where she also completed a Graduate Certificate in Health Education Studies.
Julia has been actively engaged in public health programs involving adult immunization, women’s health, substance use, and maternity care. She also develops and maintains health-related content for diabetes and cancer patient populations in third party insurance and device companies. Julia is currently the Director of Prevention at an HIV/AIDS nonprofit organization in Connecticut, where she is responsible for the planning, execution, evaluation, and management of all prevention and harm-reduction programs.