Have you ever felt exhausted for a day or more after a stressful event? You had plenty of energy during the event and you may have even gotten a really good night’s sleep after. Still, days later your body feels limp with fatigue and the “I can’t get out of this chair” feeling has taken over. What you are likely experiencing is your body’s reaction to the adrenaline that pumped through it in an attempt to cope with the stressful event.
Chronic stress is fast becoming a way of life for the modern person, particularly at midlife as the daily demands intensify. We quickly find ourselves in overload. Think of it. Our bodies are not only coping with the physical and emotional stress of perimenopause and menopause, we are also facing major life changes as we care for aging parents, cope with teen or young adult children, worry over careers, struggle with rocky relationships and so much more. It’s no wonder that somewhere along the line our body says, “Hey! Wait a minute!”
Chronic stress can do serious damage, not only to our enjoyment of life, but to our long term health. The longer we live, the more likely we are to experience prolonged periods of unabated stress and to eventually experience adrenal burnout. Caregivers are particularly vulnerable to this condition, as day after day, week after week, month after month, they put the needs of their loved ones above their own. Those with chronic illnesses or unhealthy lifestyles are also more susceptible to this condition.
Our adrenal glands produce hormones that are designed to mobilize our body to deal quickly and aggressively with unexpected danger. In today’s world, danger is most often emotional, psychological, and/or physical in nature, such as job stress, poor lifestyle choices, family dynamics, etc. We are not running away from a wild animal, we would like to run away from home!
We do not fight or flee, as a general rule, and our bodies have no way to dissipate the chemicals released in response to stress. We rarely get into a brawl with our stressor or sprint ten miles down the road to get away from it (although this is a good argument for running for exercise!)
To complicate matters, stress has become a chronic way of life for many of us, causing our adrenal glands to work overtime long before we realize there is a serious problem. Overuse of the adrenal glands can cause them to fatigue or burn out and lose their ability to bring our body back into balance.
Many factors can contribute to, or exacerbate adrenal burnout. A poor diet or lack of sufficient sleep over an extended period of time, a history of substance abuse, repeated infections, chronic medical conditions, emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety, financial difficulties, a stressful work environment, etc. are all likely culprits. Treatment requires addressing each of these issues.
SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE
The following are common symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- You are so tired that you don’t want to move.
- You are tired and don’t know why.
- You feel run down.
- You struggle to get up in the morning even when you have had sufficient sleep.
- You feel overwhelmed. Everything seems like just too much.
- Things you once did easily seem like too much effort.
- You crave salty and/or sweet snacks.
- You have difficulty getting your strength and energy back after being sick.
- You feel better after 6 o’clock at night than any other time during the day.
- Nothing seems fun anymore.
- Your brain feels cloudy.
- You lack motivation.
THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY
The very first step to recovery is recognition of the problem. When you are able to hear and acknowledge what your body is telling you, you can then take action and begin taking the steps you need to take to recover.
There isn’t a quick and easy answer to adrenal fatigue. Alleviating adrenal fatigue is a process that takes time and a one-step-at-a-time approach. There are likely long-standing habits of thought and behavior that have laid the groundwork for an adrenal crisis.
The first step to recovery and the best line of defense for prevention is making sure you are getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and eating a healthy diet. Rest is not always easy to come by at midlife, but it is essential. If you do not rest, eventually your body will find a way to make you rest. Prolonged adrenal fatigue can lead to adrenal burnout making recovery more and more difficult.
When I was on my path to recovery I found a great soup that really works. I make an effort to eat it whenever I feel fatigued and I always notice a boost in my sense of well-being. It’s a great place to begin any recovery or prevention effort. Be sure and leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or questions.
16 oz. green beans
1 cup chopped celery
1 zucchini, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup spring water
2 tbsp. raw honey
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup chicken broth
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (optional but good for the immune system)
Combine ingredients and simmer for one hour until vegetables are tender. Pepper to taste.