Have you been irritable lately? You know, a bit touchy or testy. Annoyed, agitated, even a little angry? (OK, enough with the alliteration.)
If your answer is “yes,” do you know why?
It might be the kids who are at home and bored on summer break. Perhaps your vacation plans got scratched by canceled or delayed airline flights. Maybe it’s a domestic issue: Your husband did a terrible job washing last night’s dinner dishes and you had to redo them this morning. Or your sweet pup dug out every one of your newly planted perennials.
Or, if you have type 2 diabetes, your blood sugars are on a wild, crazy, roller-coaster ride.
Did you know that mood disorders and fluctuating blood sugars sometimes go hand-in-hand? That what’s making you hit an emotional wall might not be frustration over dirty dishes or upended daisies but your glycemic load signaling an SOS to your brain?
Blood sugars, it turns out, don’t only impact your body, but also your moods. Ups and downs can mirror mental health symptoms, like anxiety, worry, and irritability.
This makes sense since your brain primarily runs on glucose.
And yet, during a mood meltdown, blood sugars may be the last place we look.
At least that’s true for me. And I think I know why.
When I find myself overwhelmed by irritability and anxiety, my normal self-care practices to combat stress — tracking my blood sugars, meditating, and eating a balanced diet – are the first to jump ship. When anxiety hits, I find myself reaching for the cookie jar.
Take this year. Since December, my husband had two hospital admissions: one for a stent, and the second for back surgery. My youngest suffered a broken nose, and his girlfriend had a miscarriage. My sister had a mini-stroke while eating dinner at our dining room table.
Divided between work and caretaking, I was soon a nervous wreck. Worrying about everyone I loved at the same time plunged me into high anxiety. By day’s end, my mind raced with real and invented fears. To comfort myself, I turned to potato chips and cookies, treats that I felt I deserved.
But anyone who knows type 2 understands those extra helpings of high carbs plus high stress equal blood sugar mayhem, which translates into excess fatigue and irritability.
I promised to get back on track when things calmed down. But then my son and his girlfriend contracted a bad case of COVID-19, followed in my son’s case by tonsillitis. And it was about then that I realized that waiting for the world to stop moving and for everyone in my life to be OK wasn’t a realistic plan.
While I couldn’t fix everything wrong, I could fix myself.
It wasn’t easy getting back to my type 2 care. It never is. Yet as everyone around me began to heal, I did too. With more sleep, better food choices, a return to exercise, and careful monitoring of my sugars, my mood improved, as did the numbers on my monitor and the scale.
With less anxiety, things didn’t appear so bleak. The better care I gave myself, the greater calm I was able to bring to dealing with a full plate.
What’s the lesson? Everyone gets irritable, angry, and overwhelmed at times. Life is not always under our control. But if you have type 2 diabetes, be aware that high and low sugars can impact your moods.
The next time you feel moody or broody, check your sugars. You might be surprised.
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