Sometimes I hear myself using expressions I heard as a child growing up in my grandparents’ house. If I asked my grandfather to get overly excited about something that really mattered to me (like a new outfit) but that didn’t register for him at all, he’d see my frustrated face, laugh and exclaim “It’s nice! What do you want me to do? A dance?” and then he would hum a few bars and do a little jig.
If I forgot to bring something with us on an outing, like sunglasses on a bright day or my allowance to the mall, he’d say “Oh, that’s good. It’ll always be safe.” If a driver in front of him didn’t use his turn signal, he’d say “Oh, that guy is smart. He’ll never have to replace that part.”
My grandmother’s expressions, however, permeate my very existence as a mother. Her take on gossip? “Oh honey, if they’re talking about me, at least they’re leaving somebody else alone.” Her perspective on driving too close to the car in front of you? “Well, why don’t you just get in his back seat and introduce yourself?” Her view on adult choices? “She’s 18 + 3, so she can decide for herself.”
Her guidance when I was an exhausted, tearful mess? “Jenny, you always cry when you’re tired, and you always smile when you’re rested. Go to bed and the tears will stop.” Her response when I asked her to promise me she would never die? “I promise to stay on this earth for as long as I possibly can, and five minutes after that so I can double-check on you.”
I use them all, and always smile when I remember how they came to be part of my dialogue. Some, of course, were more appropriate than others. Upon hearing me quote “I was so mad I could have shot him with a gun,” my best friend encouraged me to come up with a more appropriate expression that reflected sensitivity toward contemporary culture and that couldn’t be used against me in a court of law.
The best one was “My nerves are shot.” When I have just had it, this saying really does the job. And that’s how I feel today. My nerves are shot. And not even for any particularly devastating reason. My 14 year old hates her new camp; yes the four-week one she begged me to let her attend. My 11 year old is down with her third allergy cold of the summer. Try as I might with remedies galore, I believe that our canine pollen carriers coming in and out of the backyard are the consistent culprits.
Two cups of coffee at 10 pm after a lovely anniversary dinner for my aunt and uncle kept me up half the night. I’ve had erratic blood sugars all morning. I’m in the middle of a disagreement with a friend. Technology is failing me. I forgot to pay the cable bill.
While these circumstances seem to collectively serve as an indictment of my failure as an earthling on any given Tuesday, the truth is that these are all human things. Mommy things. Life things. And that would all be fine for your average human who needs to take a few deep breaths and have a margarita…but that’s not the end of the story for the diabetic body.
While what feels like death by a thousand cuts will surely pass, my internal organs don’t know that. Stress elevates blood sugars as much as any cheesecake, so along with my rickety nerves come sky-high sugars. This one-two punch ensures that you get to feel like road kill both mentally and physically.
As busy diabetic moms, we try to eat right, exercise often, keep blood sugars level and medications in check, but we often forget that stress has a serious impact on how we manage this illness. Whether it’s the stress itself that screws up our glucose levels, or the tendency to blow off managing the illness because we’re too stressed to deal with it, it all takes a significant toll on the system.
According to the American Diabetes Association, stress results when something causes your body to behave as if it were under attack. When stress occurs, the body prepares to take action… [and] levels of many hormones shoot up. Their net effect is to make a lot of stored energy — glucose and fat — available to cells. Insulin is not always able to let the extra energy into the cells, so glucose piles up in the blood. Additionally, the heart works faster and harder in preparation for physical action, [and this] increase in pulse and blood pressure causes a strain on the heart, veins and arteries. Constant mental strain can also increase the risk for depression.
The bottom line from the ADA is this: Excessive stress is a major barrier to effective glucose control and a danger to one’s general health.
Yes, everyone has stress, and yes, it is a part of life. It’s important to remember, though, that frequent or intense stress is particularly damaging on an already-compromised system. Tempted though I may be to throw my hands up in the air and lament this drama that is my life, I have to do better. I have to breathe, sit on the porch for 10 minutes, walk around the block, have lunch with a friend, sleep it off or cry it out.
Just as I typically forego the french fries or sugary daiquiri, I have to forego stress as a lifestyle. Easier said than done in our “busy is better, Real Housewives, well I got even less sleep than that” world where GO is respectable and PAUSE is for weaklings who deserve to get run over.
No one is going to hand me a hall pass, so I have to create my own. Take my own timeouts. Declare that every childcare emergency is but a calendar hiccup and every technology disaster a temporary snafu.
I’ve added a few expressions of my own as a grown woman. I teach my kids that “overwhelm obliterates the obvious” and “always and never are rarely true.” I want them to understand that extreme stress hurts the body, is typically of the mind and can be knocked down a few pegs with the right perspective.
And if I’m judged for shutting down, taking to my bed or not pushing through? “Oh honey, if they’re talking about me, at least they’re leaving somebody else alone.”