I have always known that stress affects my diabetes. Stressful situations – particularly prolonged ones – have the potential to send my BGLs into the stratosphere. Regardless of constant rage-bolusing or the complete avoidance of any food containing a scrap of carbohydrate, getting numbers in range when feeling stress is almost impossible.
The thing though that surprises me is how even small stresses can affect BGLs. Wearing a CGM gives great insight into this. Often, I see sudden rises in BGL that almost as suddenly drop back to within range.
After a day with a few unexplained (or unexplainable) spikes on my CGM graph, I decided to see if I could work out what was going on. These spikes didn’t seem to correlate with meal times, so I knew it had nothing to do with food intake.
As explained previously, I was wearing CGM under some duress, really. Aaron was away for work and it was on only for my peace of mind. To minimise feeling overwhelmed, I basically had my settings so that the only alarms and alerts I’d receive would be when I was dropping too quickly or when I was low. The high alarms were effectively turned off.
But after seeing spikes, I started to wonder what was happening. I turned the high alarms back on the next day and started paying attention to when I was starting to go high. Each and every time, it was because I was in a situation with some element of adrenaline-causing stress.
One time it happened when I was caught in traffic and I wasn’t sure I would make to school before the bell rang. I started getting more and more anxious that I would be late.
Another time, I was in a meeting that was running overtime and I needed to move my car before the parking meter expired.
And then, there was the time that I walked in the door to find the letter from VicRoads informing me that my medical review was fine and that my license wasn’t being suspended. And that I did not need to provide an eyesight report. (The outcome here was good, but before I read the letter, just seeing the logo on the front of the envelope, thinking about the difficult phone calls to VicRoads staff and taking a few minutes to consider what could be inside had my stress levels increasing.)
The adrenaline response is so clear on the graph. In all of these instances, there was a spike (not always huge, but definitely visible) that only lasted a short while. Often the blip would be only half an hour or so.
Stress isn’t always bad though. Had I been wearing a CGM when I jumped out a plane last year, I am sure that the stress response – from the excitement, the anticipation and the outright fear! – would have been reflected on the graph.
Excitement – from all sorts of things – may make you feel great, but it can still cause a spike. Managing stress-causing situations – especially those out of your control is sometimes impossible. And sometimes, you want to do things that are going to cause that blip. Some adrenaline-releasing activities can be very, very fun!
Keeping an eye on the leaps and bounds of my CGM graph reminded me (yet again) of the complexity of diabetes and how pretty much everything impacts on it in some way. I turned the high alarms off after a couple of days. I was starting to get concerned about the number of uncontrolled stress-inducing situations that I was having that particular day and the alarms themselves were starting to stress me out. So off they went. Because that was ONE thing I could control!