Escaping the Whirlwind

It seems as if I’d been caught in a whirlwind of preparations for weeks, culminating in a major event and a house full of guests. Finally, the event was over. I threw some clothes and groceries in Dad’s truck and, leaving the rest of the guests behind, grabbed him and took off over winding country roads that ended at a gravel lane leading to the lake.

After putting the groceries away and grabbing a cold one, I went out onto the deck overlooking the lake, where the main event was watching a family of Canada geese that included three fuzzy goslings. Within two hours, I was gulping down gummy worms to bring my blood glucose up.

Had I de-stressed? You betcha!

There are two places I totally relax: at the lake and on a cruise. One reason is the lack of phones. There are no phones at the lake and they’re too expensive on a cruise. Cell phones don’t work either place. Therefore, I can’t work. No phones; no computer access. Darn! In today’s world, when people are available one way or another just about anywhere they are, a lack of phones is good.

The only downside is that, before I take off for either place, I have to be not only caught up, but somewhat ahead. It’s a bit of an advance hassle, but worth it. My head is usually buzzing with thoughts of projects, deadlines, children’s activities, and such. Knowing that I have things set up for when I return home rids my thoughts of a lot of that “buzz.”

Stress isn’t good for anybody, but it’s especially not good for people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, the “fight-or-flight” syndrome associated with stress causes the levels of many hormones to increase. “Their net effect is to make a lot of stored energy—glucose and fat—available to cells. These cells are then primed to help the body get away from danger.

“In people who have diabetes, the fight-or-flight response does not work well. Insulin is not always able to let the extra energy into the cells, so glucose piles up in the blood.”

Then, of course, you get stressed because your blood glucose is high.

Or low. While mental stress usually causes glucose levels to go up, some people stress down. In other words, their blood glucose drops. According to the ADA, that’s more common in people with Type 1 diabetes.

People with Type 1 and those with Type 2 also react differently to relaxation therapy, with Type 2s faring better. “The difference makes sense,” according to the ADA. “Stress blocks the body from releasing insulin in people with Type 2 diabetes, so cutting stress may be more helpful for these people. People with Type 1 diabetes don’t make insulin, so stress reduction doesn’t have this effect.” However, the ADA adds, reducing stress can help those with Type 1 take better care of themselves.

Physical stress, on the other hand, doesn’t differentiate between types: It raises blood glucose in both people with Type 1 and Type 2.

There’s a whole plethora of things that cause stress. Preparing for a celebration is stressful, even though it’s a happy occasion. Moving into your dream home is stressful.

Mental stress can send your blood glucose skyrocketing. I once got on the wrong route on the way to Chicago and ended up on the Skyway Bridge. I don’t like heights, especially when the road is going straight up and all you see is sky. When I got to a place where I could check my blood glucose, it was over 300 mg/dl.

Depression is another mental stress and, to top it off, stress can contribute to depression.

Physical stress can include anything from a simple cold to a heart attack. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes tell I’m going to get sick before the symptoms occur. How? My blood glucose goes up.

While stress doesn’t cause diabetes, some say that it can unmask it by making blood glucose levels rise. I’m convinced that I at least wouldn’t have gotten diabetes so soon if I hadn’t been a reporter for a daily newspaper.

And then, of course, taking care of diabetes on top of everything else is stressful in itself.

There are many suggestions for dealing with stress, such as imaging, breathing exercises, relaxation therapy, lifestyle changes, and meditation. You’ll have to decide what’s best for you.

As for me, I’m heading out for a cruise next month. And, in July, I’ll be back at the lake for a few days. I’ll let you know if the Caribbean is still that marvelous shade of turquoise and how the goslings are doing.

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Jan Chait: Jan Chait was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in January 1986. Since then, she has run the gamut of treatments, beginning with diet and exercise. She now uses an insulin pump to help treat her diabetes. (Jan Chait is not a medical professional.)

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