By Charlotte Watts
Adrenal fatigue is a term your doctor might not know or even agree with if they have. It’s one used by natural practitioners like nutritional therapists and naturopaths, to describe the state where long-term stress results in feelings of fatigue, exhaustion and de-motivation. It is so-called because it described how the adrenal glands have become depleted after long periods of time continually pumping out stress hormones to react to challenge. It is often felt as a crash in energy after feeling you’ve been on ‘constant alert’ or ‘running on adrenaline’ for a while.
This is the result of levels of the stress hormone cortisol dropping, as our ability to produce it as needed is lessened through tired adrenals. Some equate the term adrenal fatigue with ‘burnout’ and indeed medical opinion is acknowledging that this mental and physical collapse is characterised by lowered cortisol levels, particularly on rising in the morning. In a healthy body, cortisol is naturally high at this time to motivate us to get up and move. When it is low, energy and enthusiasm for the day can be difficult and this can be accompanied with feelings of depression.
Burnout falls outside any categories doctors have for a ‘true’ disease, but has shown that it is a state where responses to stress become dampened. Over a long period of agitation (and even anxiety) where the brain is continually signalling ‘alert’ to the whole body, those signals shut down and we can be left feeling unresponsive, unable to get going and even like we just don’t care. One issue with this state is that if the stress has been a situation like a job or a relationship that doesn’t make us feel safe or happy, we then lack the willpower to leave when we may need.
So it is crucial to notice the signs and avoid reaching this this tipping point. We may not even see the signs if we’re just used to pushing on through and it is part of our normal existence to strive and strive and strive. Maybe people I see admit to not knowing how to relax and so these warning signs may just feel like states they believe to be usual, but they are to be listened to as indications that you are expecting too much of your body.
If you can say ‘yes’ to two or more of the following statements, a re prioritising of your time may be in order:
- You feel like you lurch from ‘high to low’ all the time, sometimes energised and excited, then suddenly with no energy at all
- You are quick to anger, irritability or moodiness
- You panic that if you let go of the reins it will all fall apart
- You don’t make leisure time away from technology and letting your whole body relax
- You need sugar or stimulants like caffeine to get you through the day
- You are showing stress-related symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, depression, IBS and skin issues
- You often find yourself clenching your jaw, holding your breath and feel tight in the shoulders and neck
All of these are indications that you are running things at a really high rate and that is simply unsustainable for any organism. At some point there needs to be recovery and recharge and if that’s not happening as part of your everyday life, then you’ll force the issue where your body will move to a state where you have no choice. You wouldn’t expect your smartphone to keep going if you didn’t recharge the batteries, would you?
The thing is that stress hormones aren’t simply ‘bad’. They are necessary for galvanising energy to get things done, but they need opportunity to come down and let the mind and body reach a point where it can heal, rebuild and find the equilibrium that ensures we can function on every level. The irony that doing too much runs the risk of eventually not being able to do much at all. Finding balance with work and action alongside enjoyment, natural movement, healthy nutrition and relaxation isn’t just good for your well-being – it also improves your quality of life!
Charlotte Watts is author of The De-stress effect, a great resource that can take you through a transformative process to help find new relationships with your body, food and health attitudes. Don’t miss out on this new revolution in eating, exercise and relaxation that will return you to vibrant health by gently bringing balance back to your body and your life. Buy The De-stress effect here today
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