Let’s talk about stress! It is a hot topic in health these days, as is stress management. But what does stress have to do with cortisol and blood sugar? One would argue, everything! But first, let’s define what types of stressors there are and go from there.

There are two types of stressors: Life-threatening and non-life-threatening. Life-threatening stressors are those that could cause grave harm. Non-life-threatening stressors do not. Non-life-threatening stressors are challenging for our bodies to differentiate from their very dangerous counterpart.

Examples of life-threatening stressors:

  • A car stops abruptly in front of you, so you swerve to avoid crashing into them.
  • You are biking, and a car does not see you, so you maneuver your bike out of the way.

Examples of non-life-threatening stressors:

  • Your boss writes you an email reminding you of your deadline.
  • You get your electric bill in the mail, and it is higher than it usually is.

A short-term stress response is ok and can be beneficial, especially when it keeps us alive. However, when our bodies are in a constant reactionary state, this triggers the fight or flight response, which does not turn off. This means our cortisol levels never drop. And the same goes for the hormones Epinephrine and Norepinephrine.  

Increased cortisol levels create a host of issues like weight gain, especially around the midsection, elevated levels of depression and anxiety, sleep problems, and digestive issues, to name a few. Cortisol also interrupts the body’s ability to process sugar, which causes elevated blood sugar levels, making people more prone to Type II Diabetes. And there we have it! The connection between stress, cortisol, and blood sugar.

So how can we fight this stress response?

  • Breathe. When we see an email, a text, a call from someone that stresses us out, take a second and breathe. Use the Box Breathing technique in our To Breathe or Not to Breathe blog. Breathing turns off the nervous system’s fight or flight response.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise, even if it is just going for a short walk.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Connect with your community as best you can. We will include a link to the CDC’s recommendations for Covid-safe activities.
  • Yoga and meditation.

We hope this helps clarify how our system is all interconnected. Let us know how helpful our six tips for managing stress work for you.

Special thanks to Darby Jackson for your contribution!

The article used:


CDC Recommendations for travel and recreation: