Tag: compassion fatigue

SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

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.)

COMMON SIGNS OF ADRENAL FATIGUE

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

RESULTS WILL TELL THE STORY

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.


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STRESS * BURNOUT * COMPASSION FATIGUE * ADRENAL FATIGUE

 

 

 

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

 

Caregivers Benefit from Internet Tools

Caregivers Benefit from Internet Tools

In honor of National Family Caregiver Month: The month is coming to an end, but the job of the caregiver does not. Take a moment to thank a caregiver whenever you have the opportunity and if you are a caregiver, don’t hesitate to reach out to a support network online or off. You don’t have to go it alone.

Sona Mehring, CEO of CaringBridge saw a need and set out to fill it using her knowledge of the internet and social networking.  In 1997, Sona was called upon by a friend in need for support during a health crisis. She was asked to contact her friend’s family and friends to let them know what was going on and to keep them up to speed.

Realizing the amount of time and emotional energy that would be required to fulfill her friends request, Sona  created a website that did everything for her via email.  Her website worked so well and was so efficient that it led to another birth: CaringBridge, a non-profit website that provides the tools needed to do what she did, create a web-based support network during a health crisis.

Sona understood the value of time and efficiency when she faced her own caregiving crisis. Like most she realized her energy was better spent with her friend or keeping up with the demands of her own already busy life than by spending hours on the phone and trying to contact and coordinate support in person.

Keeping everyone in the loop during a health crisis can take endless hours of telephone tag and comparing schedules.  The CaringBridge SupportPlaner enables friends and family members to post health updates, leave supportive messages, organize tasks such as taking care of pets, bringing a meal, running errands and even hospital visits at the individuals convenience. It gives the helper the time to look at what is already being done by others, to see what needs are waiting to be filled and to determine how best he/she can fill them.

In the last decade,  social network tools and websites have had an enormous impact on the world of the caregiver. We no longer need to be alone in our own world of overwhelm and stress. Help and support is just a click away.

When used properly these tools “amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier”. This is CaringBridge’s mission statement and the testimonies supplied by many users tell me they are living up to their mission. Here are a few of the stories they have posted on their website.

One of the most difficult aspects of any caregiving situation is the emotional and physical fatigue that often accompanies any health crisis.  Easy access to a support network can make all the difference. I know I plan to use one next time I find myself in such a situation. Thanks Sona Mehring and CaringBridge for all you do!

 

 

Create a Support Network in Your Hour of Need

Create a Support Network in Your Hour of Need

Online SupportPlanner from Caring Bridge
Interactive online calendar allows easy scheduling

Are you , or someone you know, facing or dealing with a health crisis? Are you desperate for a little extra help and support but don’t know where to turn?  Now, you don’t have to go it alone.

Ten years ago my husband had a heart attack. We had two high school age children who were knee deep in extracurricular activities, part time jobs, and college searches. My husband and I supported our family with our home based business, that on the best days required 24/7 attention from both of us. There was not time or energy in our days for what we were already doing let alone to deal with the extra demands of a sudden health crisis.  I didn’t know where to turn.

We called on a few family members to help out, who graciously availed themselves to us, but it was not an orderly, easy coordination of efforts and at times seemed more effort than help. Who can think, plan and organize at a time like that? I couldn’t.  CaringBridge.com did not exist at that time, at least in my world. It would have made all the difference.

CaringBridge.com is a non-profit organization that understands the difficulties inherent in coping with a life crisis. Its mission is to “amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier”.  The evidence is clear that it is fulfilling its mission.

The SupportPlanner is CaringBridge’s primary tool to assist people facing a health crisis such as the one my husband and I faced.  It is an online tool that makes coordination of support efforts thorough, easy  and efficient. It provides a centralized, virtual location to organize helpful tasks, such as the delivering of a meal, transportation, taking care of pets, etc. Only people who are invited by the user to view the planner can access the calendar and sign up for a task, ensuring privacy for the parties involved.

Several months ago, my friend Sandy was facing major surgery. She lived alone and was uneasy about the six week recovery period she was facing, when she would be unable to drive. Her sister had heard about CaringBridge.com and before Sandy even entered the hospital she had signed coordinated a full spectrum of support volunteers using The SupportPlanner and she did it all through email.  She coordinated meals, visits, errands, and drivers and Sandy received the support of a dozen well wishers throughout recovery. The support was a tremendous gift to Sandy and, I believe, resulted in a quicker, less painful recovery.

In honor of National Cargiver’s Month, I encourage you to visit CaringBridge.com and learn a little about what they have to offer.  You never know when you, or someone you care about might need support.

 

Midlife Madness

Midlife Madness

Midlife Madness Fatigue
It’s not easy to find a good photo these days and I was so happy to find this one because not only is it the perfect photo, it connected to me to a great blog. Click on the photo and check it out!

Midlife hit me over the head with a hammer and then dropped kicked me into another universe. One minute I was boogying along, full speed ahead, the next I was laying flat out on the floor. Do you know what I’m talking about?

I think back, in a still recent retrospect, and I can’t even name which life altering event altered me more! It was a swift leveling to my senses. My father’s death, my son’s high school graduation, 9/11, my husband’s heart attack, second son leaves home, first son returns, financial stress, caring for my mother, my mother’s death, all the while my body morphing in the way it does at midlife, hormones all topsy turvey, weight shifting hither and yon and yon again…oh! I almost forgot the car accident…flipping four times and living to tell the tale…PTSD.

At one point I found myself glued to a chair unable to move and mumbling to my husband, “I think I have burn out. Do you think that’s possible?”

“I don’t’ know,” he replied. “It has been a little crazy lately. Maybe you just need to rest more.”

Ya think?

When the glaze across my eyes eased for a brief moment, I did some research on burn out to see if what I was feeling fit the bill. My doctor was simply treating my symptoms and rolling her eyes but not getting to the cause. (It always bugs me when doctors do that. It makes me feel like I’m imagining things.)

While researching, I discovered “compassion fatigue”. Oh, yeah! That’s it! Perfect match! It had been a lifetime of compassion run amuck. I hung on to my clever self-diagnosis for some time and began at last to acknowledge that maybe I did have a little stress in my life and maybe I needed to start thinking about doing things differently.

Now, ten years since the beginning of a decade of total come-undone-ness, I’m renaming my condition. I’m calling it “midlife madness fatigue”. My body, mind and soul have had enough and I’m not taking it anymore! Care to join me in the revolt?

 

How to Prevent and Recover from Compassion Fatigue

How to Prevent and Recover from Compassion Fatigue

Yesterday I wrote about my own personal experience with compassion fatigue in the post “What is the Answer to Compassion Fatigue” and hopefully described it in a way that is recognizable to those of you who are feeling the stress of caring too much. It is a common experience among professional caregivers of all types, as well as those individuals who are caring for an aging parent or a sick spouse or child. Women are particularly vulnerable to compassion fatigue as they tend to be the ones who nurture and provide care in a situation. Not only do others expect and depend upon them for this ability, but we seem to be designed to expect it of ourselves as well.

Giving, supporting and caring for others are one of a woman’s most precious gifts, but a strength taken to its extreme can quickly become a weakness. Caring too much can break us down, use us up and make it impossible for us not only to keep on giving but to enjoy our own lives.

The degree to which we may be vulnerable to compassion fatigue will depend on both nature and nurture. If we recognize that we may be suffering from compassion fatigue, whether it is mild or severe, it is time to take action to uncover the internal, as well as, the external causes. Here are a few steps to take to get you started along the road to recovery and prevention. In the future I will cover more specific topics in detail.

Steps to Take to Begin the Healing Process

Journal: Begin writing in a journal at least once every day. Write about your feelings, concerns, problems and issues. It doesn’t matter how well you write because no one ever has to read your journal. It has been shown scientifically that the act of writing is extremely beneficial both emotionally and physiologically. It is relaxing, cathartic and helps your mind process the stresses of the day.

Talk to a Supportive Person: Whatever you do, don’t try to go it alone. When we become overwhelmed emotionally we tend to withdraw. Compassion fatigue often results in a feeling of numbness. We may think we have nothing to talk about because our feelings are buried under exhaustion and a sense of overwhelm and hopelessness. If you do not have a friend or spouse with whom you can talk about your concerns, seek out the support of a therapist or pastor, or someone with whom you feel comfortable and can talk freely. You are not necessarily in need of answers to your care giving problems, you just need to be cared for too!

Care for Yourself: This is often the hardest thing a caring, giving person can learn to do, but it is essential when external demands intensify. Take time to do the things you enjoy doing and do so often. Slow down, find a way to do a little less and time to do nothing. Take ten minutes every day to sit quietly and do absolutely nothing – preferably fifteen minutes.  This time, without distractions or demands, allows your psyche to process all the myriad of information that it already contains. It will help you connect to yourself, to your center, to your life force and you will find that you are rejuvenated.

These three steps will get you started along the path to compassion fatigue recovery and prevention. It is only the beginning, as changing ourselves is always a process that takes time, dedication and determination.

by Dorothy Sander