You’ve probably come across the warnings or read the cringing articles that warns of the dangers of stress, how we are overstressed and it could be sending a number of us to an early grave. As if we already don’t have enough on our plates to worry about, reading all that can create more stress.
Unfortunately for many of us living in the fast paced times of 20th century, stress is inevitable. There’s so much to worry about and so many factors that can trigger this biological response. Juggling jobs, piling debt, losing out on sleep, long commutes to work that require sitting in hours of traffic, fear of losing jobs and even all this fabulous technology that we are blessed with.
Couple that with internal and other environmental stressors and compounded daily, it can lead to a harmful state in the body. A condition known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion.
What causes adrenal fatigue?
When it comes to the female reproductive health, stress might just be one of the most critical factors leading to all kinds of disorders, imbalance and diseases. Chronic stress can lead to cortisol imbalance and adrenal fatigue, a type of hormone imbalance.
The adrenal glands are responsible for helping your body deal with the effects of stress by releasing the cortisol hormone. Cortisol has a regulatory effect on immunity, muscle mass, heart rate, energy production and many other processes in our bodies that allow us to physically cope with the effects of stress.
When chronic stress persists, the adrenal glands go into overdrive to continuously pump out cortisol hormone eventually getting over worked.
The link between stress and hormones is well-established. Prolonged physical, emotional and mental stress will have a negative impact on your body’s hormones. Simply put, the adrenals get worn out. I am a big believer that good digestive health coupled with reduced stress and adequate sleep provides relief for the many female hormone related problems.
Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue affects women at a far higher rate than men because we are more susceptible to stress. Add that to the modern expectations of women juggling careers, relationships, family and everything under the sun.
Naturally, this unrealistic burden will take its toll over time, potentially resulting in adrenal fatigue. In the article, Can Women Have it All? 6 Tips for Work. Life. Balance, we share some tips and strategies women can use to effectively manage their time and increase productivity.
What are symptoms of adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue may present different symptoms in different individuals which can make it difficult to categorize. Usually what happens is we often focus on treating the symptoms and lose sight on the actual problem.
A common symptom of adrenal fatigue is loss of muscle mass, someone with this condition might mistake this loss as not having enough protein in their diet so they up their protein uptake or go hard at the gym, which can worsen the symptoms.
Some other common signs of adrenal fatigue are mentioned below. Having one or two symptoms does not necessarily indicate that you have the syndrome. Having a collection of symptoms on the hand might indicate a propensity to the disorder.
Signs and symptoms that you’re chronically stressed.
- Lethargy, feeling exhausted for no obvious reason.
- Struggling to get out of bed in the morning, even after going to bed at a decent hour and getting plenty of sleep.
- Feeling overwhelmed, high anxiety or depression.
- Dull skin tone, increased signs of skin blemishes and an aged, worn appearance.
- Getting ill frequently, weak immunity characterized by frequent infections like colds of the flu or having trouble recovering from stress or illness.
- Consistent cravings for salty foods, salt is required for cortisol production.
- Feeling more alive and awake at night than during the day.
- Problems with weight gain usually around the midsection. That’s right ladies, want to lose belly fat? Reduce stress
- Frequent feelings of sore muscles typically around nape of neck or lower back and pain in joints.
- Having low to no libido, no stamina and loss of joy or vitality.
- Problems breathing properly or pain when taking deep breaths.
- Feeling cold, even in warm temperatures.
- Foggy memory, difficulty communicating, remembering words or structuring sentences.
- Problems socializing, been argumentative, irritable and a disposition to a negative attitude.
Fighting adrenal fatigue naturally
If you experience multiple symptoms from the list above, you might have overworked adrenals. Fortunately adrenal fatigue is not a dire condition and can be managed and treated with lifestyle changes. The goal is to start a treatment regimen early to avoid a more complicated disease.
Your body utilizes these symptoms as a way to caution you of something not working the way intended to, we have to heed these warnings.
A few changes to make if you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue:
- Work on getting adequate rest
- Eat within 90 minutes of waking up, ideally before 10am. Anything later than that could trigger the overproduction of stress hormones.
- Do not go more than 3 hours in between meals and snacking. Follow a strict eating timetable of breakfast before 10am. Lunch between 11 and 11:30 am, snack between 2-3pm and dinner between 4-5pm.
- Minimize strenuous exercise levels or activities that boost heart rate up to much which cause more stress on the adrenals. Try a simple exercise of walking for 1 minute and running for 30 seconds, repeat 5 times. Or go for yoga or light weightlifting.
How do I worry less & reduce stress?
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate life’s stresses, there are steps and actions that can be taken to manage and reduce them. Massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation and aromatherapy are becoming increasingly popular ways to help manage stress levels naturally, and many women have experienced success with these methods. A few other ways to reduce stress and predisposition to adrenal fatigue includes:
Don’t Sleep on the Power of Sleep
This is probably one of the most important steps to take to reduce stress and counter adrenal fatigue. Our bodies need sufficient rest to rejuvenate and prepare itself for the toils of the next day.
Many health studies have shown that we need at least 8 hours of sleep each day. This is the minimum that we need to sleep to be well functioning individuals. It’s okay to miss a day or two, but consistently missing out on sleep is what can cause the problem.
There are some people that can manage with less sleep than that, everyone is different so you gauge what works for your ecosystem. If you sleep for less than 8 hours and you’re still fatigued, you need to sleep some more.
Just as important in getting enough sleep is the condition of the environment in which you sleep. The room should be pitch dark. Most modern bedrooms have a television or computer. Sleeping with the light from a television or computer on can affect the quality of your sleep. According to Dr. Whitaker, light exposure at night disrupts the production of sleep hormone melatonin.
In addition to the light, what you sleep on is just as important. If you were to ask me, the most important furniture investment in your home is your bed, it is your sanctuary. Invest in a comfortable bed and mattress for your body type.
Think happy thoughts
Many times we focus on the external stressors and don’t pay attention to what goes on internally. When we think negative thoughts or feel sad or down, it is stress on the body and triggers cortisol response. This is probably one of the most challenging stressors to counter especially if a habit has been developed. The good news is that it can be corrected. Depending on the severity it might take time.
What works for me is remembering that positive and negative energy and thoughts cannot exist simultaneously. When one is present, the other is not. Keep this in mind when a negative thought or mood starts to creep up, look for something positive to counter the effects and uplift the mood.
A powerful method to counter negative emotions is to focus on helping others. It takes time away from all the internalizing and can really put things into perspective for many of us.
Surround yourself with people who make you happy, look at pretty things, listen to music, find things that you enjoy to take your mind off the negative energy. If this persists, then it’s probably a good idea to seek professional help.
Be your biggest cheerleader
When I was in my teens and suffered from bad acne, my self esteem was virtually non-existent. Being a prepubescent girl is already challenging enough, add the acne and social stressors to it and I was a mess emotionally. Lack of self esteem and self confidence puts your at risk for chronic stress because you go through life fighting an internal battle. There’s this me vs the world mentality. That is a tough battle to fight. It is important that as women we are our own biggest cheerleaders. What that means is surround yourself with messages and positive thoughts about yourself.
Build a support system of friends and family who love and support you. It doesn’t have to be a huge network, in fact I would argue that our world needs to be small. Not everyone we come across needs to be in the intimate part of our lives. Relationships require investments, when there is too much of them, it can lead to stress.
Find your healing sacred place
Your sacred place is a place you go to reset yourself, find serenity and soothe your mind. It could be a physical or mental place. It could even be a special relationship. Wherever that place is for you, find it and relish it.
For some it could a trip to an island location, for others it could be spending a few minutes meditating or reading the Bible. Whatever that place is, make it a part of your lifestyle. I personally do not believe in going for long periods of time without getting reconnected with your sacred place.
Some of mine include regular trips to the massage parlor and quality aromatherapy. Aromatherapy works by eliciting sensory responses that positively impact the mind and mood.
Declutter your space
Nothing can create stress or amplify it than living in a space that is cluttered and filled with too much stuff. It’s too much for the mind and eyes to absorb creating a state of chaos. Naturally overtime things can fill up your space. I have a monthly routine where I invest a few hours to clear my space, old food, receipts, mailings and excess stuff. It is followed to a deep cleaning to keep my home.
Develop good habits
Many of us are stressed because the activities of day to day life can be too much to handle. We are constantly ON, on the move and it never ends. I used to be a huge procrastinator, it got exceptionally bad in university.
I would always wait till the very night before to study for exams for reasons I had no idea why, simply a bad habit. That always led to me being super stressed and anxious versus if I had just spaced out studying over weeks or months. By developing good planning and time management habits that will greatly help to reduce the feeling of constantly being rushed and ultimately stress.
Don’t stress yourself trying to measure up
President Obama said it, individuals of the new generation are more likely to have a materialistic mind set due to how much we’re exposed to reality television shows perpetuating unrealistic lifestyles. Even social media can be mentally destructive.
Images of perfectly shaped people living lifestyles that we can only dream of has many of us over extending ourselves to try and keep up. Between the Photoshopped images and shallow intentions, most of that is simply not real As one of my good friend calls it, it’s all just film trick and I gladly concur.
While social media helps us connect with each other, it can also leave us feeling inadequate. I like to think of it this way, most people are going to post images of their best selves on their best days and not the reverse. So we see joyous faces and events and think why our lives cannot be the same.
You don’t need to have the best clothes, hair, makeup or travel to the sexiest destination to be amazing. It’s one thing if you want it for yourself, in which you can plan and save accordingly. However overextending yourself by going into debt to attain all these things is not healthy and can create extreme stress for us.
Vitamins, herbal remedies and teas to manage chronic stress and adrenal fatigue.
A variety of herbs foods and vitamins can also affect how your mind and body react to stress. Drink your stress away with teas. Teas are a great natural treatment for over worked adrenals and to promote energy and mood health. Even more importantly are the types of teas.
Some of mood supporting herbs, vitamins and foods include:
- Lemon balm: one of my absolute favorites. Soothes the nerves, helps to fight infections and boosts melatonin. Love to drink it as a tea.
- Omega 3’s: an elixir for brain health and promotes healthy mood.
- Vitamin D: well known to support mood, brain health and energy levels. Best source, the sun, so get outside and get some rays.
- Chamomile, cinnamon and mint herbs are all safe and common herbs that can taken as tea to help soothe and calm the nerves to provide stress.
- Dark chocolate, a well known happiness boosting food.
- Foods and fruits high in vitamin C to help lower cortisol levels and boost immunity.
Adrenal fatigue is believed to affect millions of American women, yet most doctors still don’t recognize the illness or offer effective treatment. Unfortunately, many women affected by it will have to take matters into their own hands by taking the necessary steps to control their stress levels while providing their bodies with the nutrition needed to support good adrenal health.