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Stress & Travel

How Does Stress Affect Diabetes?
Diabetes and stress are linked. First, diabetes can be something that causes stress in your life. Second, many people find that stress raises their blood sugar levels. Here's why:

  • Your body copes with stress by the fight or flight response. In short, your body prepares you to fight the threat or flee the scene. The hormones that surge as part of this stress response raise blood sugar levels.
  • Also, too much stress can affect your ability to manage your diabetes. Some people eat more when stressed; others forget to eat. Some people forget to take their pills, stop exercising, or drink too much alcohol. These changes will affect blood sugars levels.

Stress may not affect your blood sugars much if you cope with it in a healthy way. If you don't handle stress well, it can make it harder to control your blood sugars.

There are many ways to manage stress:

  • Remind yourself that there are people and things that you cannot control.
  • Laugh. Humor is a great stress relief.
  • Relax. Take a yoga class, meditate, or listen to relaxation tapes. Take a minute to close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and de-stress. Listen to your favorite music.
  • Think positive thoughts.
  • Exercise. Take a walk, join a gym, or go for a bike ride.
  • Join a diabetes support group or find someone in your life you can talk to.

How Does Travel Affect Diabetes?
Travel may be for business or pleasure. Either way, travel can affect your blood sugars.

Here's a sampling of things that can affect your blood sugars on business trips:

  • Your activity level may be greatly reduced. You may be in meetings day and night, with little chance to exercise. Solution? Try to stay at hotels that have fitness rooms. Take a walk before your first meeting in the morning. Or, bring your favorite fitness video and work out in your hotel room.
  • You may have little choice over what or when you eat. If your meals are catered or you need to take clients out to eat, you may end up eating higher fat or less healthy foods. Solution? You still have control over how much you eat. Also, prepare for meals being off schedule. Bring a snack with you just in case.
  • Your usual meal and medication schedule may be off, due to time changes and different meal schedules. Solution? It may be hard to keep up your normal schedule. Do the best you can to eat on time. If meals are delayed, eat a snack. Carry your insulin or pills with you so you can dose at mealtimes.
  • Talk to your diabetes team before traveling across several times zones to learn how to change your insulin schedule.
  • Business trips can be stressful. Work could be a cause of stress. It's also hard being away from home, missing the comforts of home and family. Take time for yourself. Call home. See a movie. Find a way to enjoy your trip.

Planning a vacation can be stressful. But once you are on vacation, hopefully the stress goes away and the fun starts. Even so, vacations can affect your blood sugars. Here's how:

  • Your activity level may change. Often people are more active when they are on vacation. They walk more or enjoy outdoor sports. This change may be good, as it can lower blood sugars. But you may need to watch blood sugars more closely and take steps to prevent low blood sugars. Some people relax a lot more and are less active on vacation. This could cause higher blood sugars.
  • Your meal times and food choices may change. You may eat in restaurants 2 to 3 times a day, and eat new foods or foods that you don't eat on a regular basis. It may be hard to know how to fit these foods into your meal plan. You may also be inclined to eat too much. After all, you are on vacation! Solution? Do the best you can to eat regularly and eat in moderation. Get more exercise to balance out the extra food.
  • Your usual meal and medication schedule may be off, due to time changes and different meal schedules. Solution? If meals are delayed, eat a snack. Carry your insulin or pills with you so you can take them at mealtimes.
  • Learn from your diabetes team how you need to change your insulin schedule if traveling across several times zones.

If you still have questions about stress reductions or travel, contact your diabetes healthcare team for more advice.