The Impact of Stress on Blood Sugar Levels and How to Manage It 

We’ve all felt it before. You know, that feeling you get when you spill your coffee, are stuck in traffic, are late for work, and when you finally arrive, you’ve got more hours on your schedule than expected. Experiences like these typically only lead to one feeling – stress! It’s that familiar knot in your stomach, the racing thoughts, and the overwhelming sense of pressure that seems to weigh you down.
But beyond the immediate emotional and psychological effects, there’s something else happening beneath the surface: your body’s intricate response to stress, which can have significant implications for your blood sugar levels.
In this LWell blog post, we’ll explore the fascinating dynamics between stress and blood sugar levels, looking at how they influence each other and, more importantly, how we can effectively manage this relationship to promote optimal health.
From uncovering the mechanisms behind stress-induced changes in blood sugar to unveiling practical strategies for mitigating their effects, LWell aims to empower you with the knowledge and tools necessary to confidently navigate this intricate terrain.


Stress and Blood Sugar: The Vicious Cycle

When stress strikes, our bodies kick into high gear, initiating a cascade of physiological responses designed to help us cope with perceived threats or challenges. At the forefront of this response are two essential stress hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones, often called the body’s “fight or flight” messengers, mobilize resources to fuel our immediate stress response. Cortisol, in particular, plays a central role in regulating blood sugar levels by promoting gluconeogenesis, the process by which the liver produces glucose from non-carbohydrate sources like amino acids and fats, and glycogenolysis, the breakdown of stored glycogen into glucose for energy. PMID: 37796203

As a result, when stress hormones surge, so too can our blood sugar levels, providing us with the energy needed to tackle the perceived threat head-on. While this response can be beneficial in the short term, chronic or persistent stress can disrupt the delicate balance of blood sugar regulation, leading to long-term consequences for our health. One such consequence is the development of insulin resistance, a condition in which cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin, the hormone responsible for transporting glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. PMID: 31617047

Impact of Blood Sugar Levels on Stress Response

While we often focus on how stress influences blood sugar levels, it’s essential to recognize that the relationship works both ways. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can profoundly impact our mood and stress response, creating a feedback loop that further exacerbates our physiological and psychological reactions to stress.

One critical aspect to consider is hypoglycemia, a condition characterized by low blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels drop too low, it can lead to a range of symptoms, including irritability, anxiety, confusion, and even palpitations. These symptoms directly result from the brain’s reliance on glucose as its primary energy source. When glucose levels fall below a certain threshold, the brain struggles to function optimally, manifesting in emotional and cognitive disturbances.

Furthermore, unstable blood sugar levels, characterized by frequent fluctuations between high and low levels, can contribute to heightened stress reactivity. Research suggests that individuals with unstable blood sugar levels may experience greater emotional volatility and have a reduced ability to cope with stressors effectively. This phenomenon can be attributed to the body’s reliance on stable blood sugar levels to maintain optimal brain function and regulate mood. PMID: 7714726

In essence, blood sugar levels impact the stress response in a two-way street. Just as stress can disrupt blood sugar regulation, fluctuations in blood sugar levels can intensify our physiological and psychological responses to stress.

Strategies for Managing Stress and Blood Sugar Levels

Managing stress and maintaining stable blood sugar levels are essential to overall health and well-being. Fortunately, several practical strategies can help you achieve balance and resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

  • Prioritize stress reduction techniques.

This can significantly impact stress levels and blood sugar regulation. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help calm the mind and promote relaxation, thereby reducing the body’s stress response.

Additionally, regular physical activity effectively combats stress, releasing endorphins and promoting a sense of well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week to reap the benefits for both your mind and body.

Finally, consider the power of adequate sleep in managing stress and blood sugar levels. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to support optimal physical and mental functioning.

  • Maintain a balanced diet.

A balanced diet and attention to meal timing can be crucial in regulating blood sugar levels. Focus on incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet, including whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.

Avoid skipping meals, as doing so can lead to dips in blood sugar levels and exacerbate stress and irritability. Instead, aim for regular, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable and energy levels steady.

  • Carve out time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or simply taking a leisurely walk outdoors, engaging in activities that nourish your soul can help counteract the effects of stress and promote overall well-being. Remember that self-care is not selfish but essential for maintaining resilience and vitality in life’s challenges.

The Role of Social Support in Stress and Blood Sugar Management

Social support networks are pivotal in stress management and blood sugar control, serving as a cornerstone of overall well-being. Numerous studies have highlighted the beneficial effects of social connections on reducing stress levels and improving blood sugar regulation. When individuals feel supported and connected to others, they are better equipped to cope with life’s challenges and navigate stressful situations effectively. This emotional support can help buffer against the adverse effects of stress hormones on blood sugar levels, promoting greater stability and balance.

Conversely, feelings of loneliness and social isolation have been associated with increased stress levels and poor blood sugar management. Without a strong support system in place, individuals may struggle to cope with stressors, leading to dysregulation of blood sugar levels and increased risk of metabolic disorders.

One fascinating study conducted in Japan shed light on the profound impact of emotions on blood sugar regulation. Participants who watched a funny movie before eating exhibited a better insulin response than the control group. This finding suggests that the emotional state in which we consume food can significantly influence our body’s physiological response to glucose, highlighting the importance of managing stress and cultivating positive emotions, especially during mealtimes. PubMed: 12716853

So, how can we build and nurture supportive relationships to improve overall well-being and reduce stress? Here are some suggestions:

  • Prioritize quality time with friends and loved ones: maintain regular contact with supportive individuals, whether through phone calls, video chats, or in-person interactions.
  • Join community groups or clubs: Engaging in activities with like-minded individuals can help foster connections and provide a sense of belonging, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Practice active listening and empathy: Show genuine interest in others’ experiences and offer support and understanding when needed. A listening ear can make a world of difference in someone’s life.
  • Seek professional support if needed: If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness or isolation, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist or counselor for support and guidance.


In this LWell blog post, we’ve explored the intricate relationship between stress and blood sugar levels, uncovering how they influence each other and impact our overall health and well-being. We’ve learned that stress can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. In contrast, unstable blood sugar levels can, in turn, heighten our stress reactivity.

Furthermore, we’ve discussed the vital role of social support networks in managing stress and promoting stable blood sugar levels, emphasizing the profound impact of emotions on physiological responses to glucose.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of stress and blood sugar regulation is essential for achieving optimal health. By understanding how these factors influence each other, we can take proactive steps to manage stress effectively and support stable blood sugar levels.

If you’re looking for extra support and guidance, don’t hesitate to schedule an LWell consultation with us. We’ll provide personalized assistance tailored to your needs to help you create a future filled with optimal health. You’ll find that most insurance covers our services.

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