Tag: adrenal burnout

Developing A Mindfulness Practice

Developing A Mindfulness Practice

Spa-imageUntil recent years, our western culture has been driven by thought processes that are nearly the antithesis of the practice of mindfulness.  Our generation, in particular, was taught at a very early age to think ahead, to plan, to set goals, and to learn from our mistakes. We believe that what we are doing today should, in some way, serve our future. And yet, we are far from being secure and at peace in our “old age”. Instead,  we are a generation plagued by stress related illness and disease. The light, however, is beginning to dawn on many, that maybe there is another way. The age old practice of mindfulness meditation is gaining in popularity.

Serious research into the scientifically measurable benefits of meditation has only been undertaken in the last ten years.  “In 2000, there were 70 studies published in peer-reviewed journals using the terms mindfulness, yoga, or meditation; in 2011 there were 560,” said David Vago, an associate psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, as quoted in an article in the Boston Globe.  It is clear that there are benefits, but what remains to be learned is who benefits, how much of what type of meditation is required, and findings that can be used to tailor treatment. Although research is, at yet, inconclusive mindfulness and meditation are being used as part of therapeutic regimens to treat chronic pain, PTSD, stress, depression, addiction, high blood pressure, anxiety and other chronic illnesses.

201-x600-get-sited-meditationTAKE A STEP

If you have never practiced meditation or mindfulness, you’re in for a treat. First of all, it’s simple. Second, it’s easy. Third, it’s calming.  In other words, it’s easy to do and feels good.

Here are a few ways to begin:

1. Take a conscious breath. That’s it! Just breathe, in and out, but do it consciously. Focus your attention on the process of breathing. Close your eyes if you can and feel the breath coming in through your nose and filling your lungs; follow it into your chest and back out again. You can do this anywhere, any time. Just do it. Once a day is enough to start. Work your way up to five times a day, spread throughout the day.

2. Begin to slow yourself down and tune in to what is going on in the present moment. When you’re eating, take a breath before you take your first bite. Focus on the sensations in your mouth as you chew and swallow.

3. Take five minutes a day to do nothing. Just sit, breathe and let your thoughts come and go as they wish. When you are comfortable with five minutes, increase it to ten, then fifteen.

4. When you walk into a room, notice your surroundings. If it is a place you have been before, look for something new that you have not seen before.

5. When you are walking, feel the muscles in your legs, the sensations in your arms, your back, your feet. Tune into your body.

6. When you are driving, turn off the radio, hang up the phone and listen to the sounds of your car as it drives down the road. Hear the tires whirring, the fan blowing, and the rattles or creaks, or the quiet. Open the window and feel the air on your face.

7. When your phone rings, take a deep breath and listen to it ring a second time before answering it.

 

 

STRESS * BURN OUT * COMPASSION FATIGUE * ADRENAL FATIGUE *

STRESS * BURN OUT * COMPASSION FATIGUE * ADRENAL FATIGUE *

Adrenal fatigue is a term that is growing in popularity as researchers learn more about the mind/body connection. Adrenal fatigue is used to describe a collection of non-specific symptoms that occur as a result of ongoing, high levels of stress.

Living in a chronic state of stress, without allowing for sufficient periods of recovery, precipitates a cascade of events depleting the body’s resources. We used to call it “burn out”, but as practitioners tease out more connections and relate them to causes, the conversation is expanding.  What’s important to know is how it connects to you and your life, and what you can do to improve your quality of life.

First, let’s talk about what is taking place in your body when it is under stress.

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Have you ever felt exhausted for a day or more after a stressful event?  During the event, energy was plentiful.  You danced at your son’s wedding or handled a crisis with ease and grace. That night, sleep came easily.  The next morning, however, you awoke tired and foggy headed.  Days later your body still felt limp with fatigue and your mind sluggish. You had that “I can’t get out of this chair” feeling in spades.

What you likely experienced was an adrenaline hangover. In stressful situations, good or bad, our body goes on high alert. Adrenaline gives us that boost of energy we need to take care of business. Once the event is over, however, our body takes time to return to its normal state of equilibrium.

Chronic stress has become a way of life for men and women of the 21st century. This is especially true during the midlife years when daily demands intensify. Everything hits at once.  Not only are we coping with a decade or more of the physical and emotional demands of menopause, we are navigating other pivotal life-changes.  For example, our parents are aging and becoming increasingly dependent on us for support. Our children are either temperamental teens navigating their own major life choices, or venturing out into the world for the first time.  We are mid-career, mid-marriages, post divorce and beginning to wonder about retirement. No wonder 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 have experience prolonged periods of unabated stress. This can and does eventually lead to adrenal burnout for many. 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.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS

Our adrenal glands produce hormones that mobilize our body to deal quickly and aggressively with unexpected danger. In today’s world, the dangers we encounter are emotional and psychological, as well as physical.  We may no longer need to run away from wild animals, but we sure might want to run away from our job or home life. Job stress, family dynamics, a poor diet or lack of sleep and exercise take their toll on our adrenal system.

The fact that we no longer fight or flee in the physical sense, actually leaves our body without a means of dissipating the chemicals released into them during a stress response.  We rarely get into a fist fight with our neighbor when she makes us angry, or sprint ten miles down the road to get away from her.  (This is a good argument for running for exercise!)

To complicate matters, stress has become a chronic way of life for our entire culture.  Even as our adrenal glands are working overtime trying to keep up, we are telling ourselves that we are lazy or emotionally weak.  When we’re young we carry on, ignoring our body’s objections. Then one day, often midlife, we realize we have a serious problem.  Our adrenal glands are in a state of fatigue. We are now experiencing “burn out”, not only a psychological phenomenon, but a physical one. Bouncing back becomes increasingly difficult and we become less and less resilient.

FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO ADRENAL BURNOUT

Many factors contribute to, and exacerbate adrenal burnout.  A poor diet, lack of sufficient sleep for extended periods 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, are all likely culprits.

Reversing this situation is almost always possible, and the sooner the recovery process is begun the sooner we will be back on our feet. Recovery takes not only significant life style changes, but time. We must remember that it has taken us years to get into this situation. It may take months, if not years, for us to repair the damage. The good news is, however, that we will begin to feel better and better as time goes on, even as we must still remain vigilant as we do.

SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

 

STEPS TO RECOVERY

ADRENAL RECOVERY SOUP