Tag: adrenal fatigue

HOW TO TREAT ADRENAL FATIGUE – Recovering from Stress Overload

HOW TO TREAT ADRENAL FATIGUE – Recovering from Stress Overload

Learning how to treat adrenal fatigue is part science, part intuition and part trial and error. It requires that we tune into our body’s signals, learning as much as we can about interpreting them and then addressing the issues. This is best done by paying attention, noticing, charting, and working with a professional who can provide knowledge, objectivity and a course of treatment. Personal participation and commitment is the number one priority. Most of us need to restore our ability to listen to our senses and intuition, and trust them.


Before we can begin to treat adrenal fatigue we must alter the way we look at the healing process. In our culture we have been taught to hand over responsibility for our health to health care professionals. When we have a problem, our first course of action is to make an appointment with our doctor. Then, the doctor asks us a series of questions, pinpoints a problem, and either schedules further testing or writes a prescription, which we fill, take and wait. We play a very passive role in the healing process. Our body is also treated as if it is simply a passive recipient.


When addressing stress induced illnesses and conditions, of which adrenal fatigue is one. It is imperative to look at ourselves from a holistic viewpoint. What we most often forget in the current medical model is that our body wants to heal. Therefore, if we work with it instead of acting upon it we become better able to understand and see ourselves as a whole being, not just a lot of disparate parts.

Our body sends us signals. It is trying to call our attention to an area of concern. When we cooperate with these signals in a meaningful way, we are better able to support the healing process.  In the case of adrenal fatigue, the presenting symptoms are vague. A traditional medical practitioner will look for a specific problem. Common diagnosis include, IBS, depression, anxiety, acid reflux and/or blood pressure issues. Treatment of choice is an over the counter or prescription drug. We may gain some relief of symptoms but we treating secondary conditions does not address underlying cause(s).


There are two forces at work that impact our ability to recover and heal from adrenal overload. First, is our survival instinct that does everything it can to see that we survive. It’s less interested in whether or not we thrive. As an innate physiological response, the survival instinct and its physical responses (the adrenal system), react instantly to a perceived threat. Without any conscious, intentional help from us, our body instinctively and physiologically enters a state of fight, flight or flee. A life saving response in the right circumstances, it’s not such a good thing in modern times. We are bombarded daily with what our body and adrenal system perceives as threats of bodily harm, when in fact they are not. Our body doesn’t know the difference between the news and reality. It’s more about perceived danger than actual danger. This is where the mind comes into play.

Our minds have evolved to the point where they’ve become very adept at overriding our instinctual response. When we watch something that angers us on TV we don’t jump up and punch the TV. We may turn it off and go do something else. This is a healthier response but our body has already amped up adrenaline production, and, it takes time for it to dissipate. However, we move on to the next hit. And the next. Multiply this by a hundred times a day and our physiological response begins to work over time and our body becomes fatigued.  This fatigue often shows up as things like depression, weight gain or loss, aches and pains, susceptibility to viruses and colds, IBS, high blood pressure, etc.


Our body wants to heal. When we work with it, instead of against it, it’s a happy camper. To treat adrenal fatigue we must stop ignoring what it is telling us. In fact, we need to pay very close attention and learn to understand its language.  The days of “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” is over. That edict served its purpose for previous generations. We are smarter now. More aware and better informed. We can choose to do things differently and we must.


relaxing lavenderThe three most important tools at our disposal are:

  1. Develop an awareness of our body’s signals and what they mean
  2. Practice a lifestyle that includes rest, quiet and a stimulus free environment
  3. Support the body’s healing process with good nutrition and basic supplements


This takes time, attention and practice. It is necessary for most of us to obtain the support of a professional who can help us interpret our body’s signals. Scientifically based, there are patterns we can learn. For example, what you may be experiencing as lethargy may be a signal of mild food allergies. Or, intermittent low-grade depression may be a signal of an imbalance in the digestive system. Use of antibiotics and/or unbalanced food choices tend to lead to this problem.

If this sounds too complicated or overwhelming, don’t worry about it. What’s important right now is to begin paying attention to what you are doing and keeping track. Keep a journal of what you eat, how you feel, your sleep patterns and environmental influences. Pay attention to anything that repeats itself. For example:

  1. Do you have trouble falling asleep or waking up?
  2. Or, always wake up at 3 a.m.?
  3. Do you have lows at particular times of day?
  4. What foods does your body reacts negatively to?

Keep a list. Your initial goal is simply to become more aware.


Our body, and our adrenal glands in particular, needs ample time to reestablish an equilibrium. How much rest and quiet is needed varies from person to person.  However, if you believe you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, or any kind of stress overload, take steps right away to begin modifying your life.  Begin today by adding just a little bit more rest and quiet into your daily routine.  This can be done by turning down the volume on the radio, turning off the TV, and turning your attention away from the news that pours in 24/7. Spend less time on social media and more time reading a good book or doing something creative. Spend more time outside with nature and less time driving, shopping and doing. It’s amazing what just a few simple steps can do to help your body heal.


We women think it’s our responsibility to hold up the world. In many ways it is. However, we must learn to hold ourselves up first. One of the best things to do to reduce stress is to associate with more positive, supportive people and spend less time with negative people. You can still listen to your troubled friend, just change the balance. For every hour with him/her, spend twice the time with someone who listens to you or with whom someone who is energizing.


At first it may be necessary to take drastic steps toward stress reduction in order to get back in touch with what it feels like to be relaxed. Most of us have forgotten. We also need to take drastic measures to provide ample support for the healing of the body.  Once we’ve repaired the damage we can add some stress back in. Returning to a high state of stress must ever be a priority as that was the cause of the problem in the first place!

Major, stubborn stressors such as a job, a marriage/relationship, caregiving, difficult children are not easy to turn off and may take time to change. Begin today by making yourself and your health a priority step by step.


It helps to think of the giant scales of justice when we begin to treat adrenal fatigue. One side of the scale is filled with things that stress us and drain our energy reserves. To begin to balance the scale we must add positive, healing practices and remove energy depleting, stress creating habits from the other. Bit by bit as we add in healthier food, more quiet time, healthful exercise (such as yoga, stretching and gentle exercise), more time in nature, more time doing what we enjoy doing, and less time pushing ourselves to do things that drain us, the scale will start to balance and we will start to feel better.


Once we understand the nature of adrenal fatigue, we must then accept that it takes time to heal. In order to keep adrenal fatigue at bay permanent lifestyle changes are necessary. There are no quick-fix solutions, but incremental changes can not only improve our quality of life physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

A personalized, one-step-at-a-time approach to overcoming adrenal fatigue is best done with the help and guidance of someone who understands the process. Long-standing, well-entrenched and often unconscious life-style habits of thought and behavior are in large part responsible for leading us into our adrenal crisis.

Coming Soon: Support for the Healing Journey

How to Find a Health Practitioner to Address Adrenal Fatigue

Helpful Dietary Changes to Support the Healing of Adrenal Fatigue

How to Chance a Stressful Life into A Life You Love



compassion fatigueAdrenal fatigue is a term that has been growing in popularity and use in recent years. As research dives deeper into the mind/body connection, patterns and connections are emerging. The signs of adrenal fatigue below is offered here to help raise awareness of the effects of stress on our bodies, particularly as we age. Years of high stress living may only begin to show up as signs of adrenal fatigue as we enter or fifties and sixties. Our body reaches a point where it can no longer cope with what we are asking of it.

There are a few things to consider as you read through the list of symptoms. First, please understand that the list provided is merely suggestive information and not a means of diagnosis.  Use this list to evaluate your current situation and ask yourself, a) have I been dealing with high levels of stress for extended periods of time and, b) have I taken sufficient time and care of myself for a complete recovery? Tune in to your body and pay attention to what you are feeling through the day for a week or more. See if any patterns emerge. Keep track in writing. Then seek the support of a healthcare professional. The ebb and flow of mood and energy levels throughout the day provide valuable information to professionals.

Finding the appropriate healthcare practitioner is important.  Traditional medical doctors are less willing to look at us as whole people, body/mind/spirit. They are trained to look for specific illnesses and diseases, and are not keen on looking at a large collection of symptoms and suggesting lifestyle and nutritional support. In addition, most of us have not established a sufficient broad relationship with our doctors. They haven’t the time to tale into consideration what is going on in our lives, and what has been going on for years.

Women are often told they are depressed, worry too much, need to lose weight and exercise, or just need a vacation. They are also often given drugs that only mask or complicate the healing process. We’ve learned not to trust our intuition and our body’s signals.  All traditional doctors are not the same. Some are very keen on a wholistic approach, others not so much. I have had great success working with a Naturopath.  She just looks at things the way I do, understands me, takes all the time I need and above all has helped me heal and become more resilient. Prescription drugs and expensive testing may be helpful but are not always necessary. (Contact me for some guidance on this if you are having difficulty.)

COMPASSION FATIGUE ~ A Specific Type & Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

I learned the signs of adrenal fatigue when I began researching my own symptoms after a particularly frustrating visit with my doctor. It was months after my mother had died and I was having difficulty getting back on my feet.  What I was experiencing was not,in my mind, simply grief.

signs of adrenal fatigue

My exhaustion was deep and physical, not just emotional. I was nearly non-functional, and nothing I did seemed to help. I knew about “burnout” and started my research there. This led me to “compassion fatigue”. It resonated and so I stopped my research and began viewing my predicament through this lens. It made perfect sense to me. Not only had I been caring for my mother, but gad previously spent considerable time caring for my husband after two accidents and a heart attack while raising my two sons through the teen years and into college. My husband and I were also business partners in a home based business that ran our lives 24/7. Yup. Burnout it was and I began to treat it as such with some improvements.

It was not until much later when I sought help from a non-traditional source, when a life complication knocked me back into exhaustion.  My doctor was not at all helpful, nor was talking therapy. I began working with Dr. Crystal Honeycutt, a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Clinical Herbalist (AHG). She changed my life. (If you would like to talk with a holistic health professional in your area reach out to me via email and I will do what I can to help you find one.)


Many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are also symptoms of other conditions, such as depression, and chemical and/or nutritional imbalances in the body. It is the collection of symptoms and the patterns that are useful in recognizing 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
  12. An inability to handle stress
  13. A week immune system – frequent colds and illness
  14. Allergies, asthma, respiratory complaints,
  15. Dark circles under the eyes
  16. Lines in the tips of the fingers
  17. Joint pain
  18. Insomnia
  19. Poor circulation
  20. Weight gain
  21. Low blood pressure
  22. Blood sugar issues
  23. Decreased sex drive


Remember this list is not a definitive answer. Talk with a professional, or two. Find someone who will take the time necessary to offer guidance and support.  In the meantime, any positive life style changes to reduce stress and improve your nutrition will benefit you, no matter what the diagnosis.






Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole

Through-the-rabbit-holeLast week I fell down the rabbit hole. I’ve been working my out ever since. I wrote a blog post toward the end of the week and lost it! I don’t know about you, but sometimes my computer has a mind of its own and decides that what I’ve written doesn’t need to be read.

Crystal changed my supplements and I crashed hard. We’re still trying to figure it all out. I’m learning so much about the adrenal system and the ongoing effects of stress and trauma. The difficult thing is that we are treated differently depending on the type of treatment we seek or have available. It’s a source of great frustration for those of us who feel every ebb and flow that takes place in our bodies.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but depression has been a constant in my life, and I’ve pretty  much been a guinea pig for the changing face of treatment. I will be forever grateful for antidepressants and for what they did for me thirty years ago, but there have been consequences. Every day the growing body of knowledge regarding the body/mind connection gives us better and better alternatives or additions to treatment.

One of the consequences of who I am, my life experiences, and less than ideal medical treatment has been adrenal fatigue/adrenal burnout, a term that I throw around like it’s the answer without really having a firm grasp on the complexities of the adrenal system. It just makes some kind of sense to me, and one of these days I’ll get Crystal to explain it all here.

After caring for my mother, and getting through my husband’s heart attack and two hospitalizations, my kids’ high school graduations and college enrollment, 9/11, and my own stress induced health issues, I discovered “compassion fatigue”. It fit like a glove, and I began to take action to reduce the stress in my life. But, despite my efforts, it was the beginning of the collapse of my adrenal system and I was unaware of how exactly to give it the support it needed. Time went by and as did a level of stress, until the accident put me on my butt again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when we come to midlife from a stressful first fifty years, getting things right takes more effort and focus than I know I recognized.  And, we may never be able to recover the adrenal functioning we have lost, or the quality of life we had hoped for. That’s not to say that there isn’t hope, because I will always believe we can learn to do the best with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Crystal cut back on a supplement that contained thyroid support and I went into a deep depression. The one place I fight with every thing I have to avoid. It’s just too incredibly painful. The PTSD returned as well. However, in the process, I did learn how intricately connected our emotions are to our bodies and its proper functioning. I can’t help but ask, “Has my depression always been tied to my thyroid health?” Of course, I’ve had my thyroid tested regularly throughout my life because I’ve always struggled with my weight, and that’s one of the first places doctors go when you say “weight gain”.  A problem was never detected,  but there are so many variables that can be overlooked in a blood test.

She upped the thyroid support and I feel better but not as good as I did before. I’m trying not to feel discouraged. All I want is to be able to take the trip to see my boys in Missouri we tried to take a few weeks ago. That requires getting the PTSD under control, so I can manage the four days on the road without medication.

How has stress affected your life, and what do you do to counteract it?

Dorothy 2014

Please download a complimentary copy of my book Finding Hope. Today only!



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.


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.


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.


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.