Diabetes and emotional health

Stress and ways of coping with it

Everyone has stress in his or her life. Too much stress can cause your blood glucose to go up.

When you are under stress, you may not follow your normal healthy habits. Some people may not eat properly. Some might forget to exercise. Others don't check their blood glucose levels.

Most people know what causes stress in their lives. Many people do not think ahead about how to handle stress. Even positive things, such as a new job, a birth and celebrations may be stressful and may affect your blood glucose.

A stressful situations list

Sometimes it's helpful to make a list of what causes stress in your life. Then think about ways to make these things less stressful.

For example, your work might cause you stress. You know that taking a short walk at break time usually calms you down. Or your children might stress you out. You know that taking a warm bath helps you unwind at the end of the day.


You may find it helpful to identify situations that cause stress. You can use this worksheet to list your stressful situations and possible ways of coping with them.

Stressful situations worksheet

Tense-and-release relaxation

  • Find a comfortable position, arranging pillows to support your head and legs.
  • Keep all your joints flexed and supported.
  • Do not rest one body part on another.
  • Take a deep breath and relax.
  • Contract the muscles of your forehead. Release.
  • Focus your eyes. Release.
  • Clench your teeth. Release.
  • Contract your jaw. Release.
  • Draw your shoulders up toward your ears. Release.
  • Make fists and straighten your elbows. Release.
  • Take a deep breath, expand your chest, and hold. Release
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles. Release.
  • Squeeze your buttocks together. Release.
  • Tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Release.
  • Tighten your thighs. Release.
  • Tighten your calves. Release.
  • Point your toes toward your nose. Release.
  • Contract everything. Release.
  • Let your entire body relax.
  • Breathe rhythmically and deeply.
  • Rest this way for a few minutes.
  • Rise slowly and gently.

Relaxation from the inside out

Use your imagination to create or remember a place of safety and comfort. Use music or a special scent to help you picture this place. Enjoy the pleasant feelings and sense of comfort. Meditate on a word or sound, or focus on your relaxed, gentle, rhythmic breathing.

Some ways to cope with stress:

  • Avoid it. Don't drive in rush hour. Sidestep hassles. Avoid situations that make you feel anxious, competitive or emotionally drained.
  • Build in pleasantness. Schedule things you enjoy: visiting with friends, watching sports, reading on the front porch.
  • Take a break. If you're stuck in a stressful situation, take a few minutes alone to sit, breathe and consider:
    • What must be done now?
    • What can you postpone?
    • Things will look clearer in a few minutes.
  • Clear your mind. Concentrate on a peaceful, serene place and go there in your mind.
  • Find help. Talk to friends, your health care team, a therapist, a support group, and look for community resources.
  • Breathe. Deep, slow breaths will help relax you.
  • Stretch. Move around. Shrug your shoulders. Point your toes.
  • Eat well and stay active. As you adopt a healthier lifestyle all around, you may notice it's easier for you to cope with stress, too.

Remember, it is easier to deal with problems and stressful things when they are small. Also, you can ask for help from your health care provider, nurse or other diabetes team member to learn how to better cope with your stress.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, sixth edition
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 01/09/2015