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.





1952887_sHave 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 you 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, the body takes time to return to its normal state.

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 going through the decade plus process of perimenopause and menopause and its enormous physical and emotional impact, we are also navigating several other significant life-changes.  Our parents are aging and increasingly dependent. Our children are temperamental teens and making major life choices where our guidance is necessary.  We are mid-career, navigating relationships and so much more. No wonder 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 mobilize our body to deal quickly and aggressively with unexpected danger. In today’s world, the dangers we encounter are primarily emotional, psychological, physical, such as job stress, family dynamics, a poor diet or lack of sleep and exercise.   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.

The fact that we no longer need to fight or flee in physical sense, our bodies have no way to dissipate the chemicals released during a stress response.  We rarely get into a brawl with our stressors 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.  As a result, our adrenal glands work overtime for years before we realize there is a serious problem.  Overuse of the adrenal glands can cause them to fatigue or burn out entirely. Bouncing back becomes increasingly difficult and we become less and less resilient.

Many factors contribute to, and exacerbate adrenal burnout.  A poor diet, 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, are all likely culprits.  Treatment requires addressing each issue one at a time.


The following are common symptoms of adrenal fatigue:

  1. Loss of motivation or desire to do things you previously enjoyed
  2. Feeling tired and run down
  3. Low grade depression
  4. Difficulty getting up in the morning even after a good night’s sleep
  5. Feeling overwhelmed and like everything is just too much
  6. Things once done easily take more effort
  7. Craving salty and/or sweet snacks
  8. Difficulty getting strength and energy back after an illness
  9. Feeling better after 6 o’clock at night than any other time of the day
  10. Nothing seems fun anymore
  11. A cloudy, foggy brain


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.