Overcoming Burnout & Adrenal Fatigue
July 30th, 2013
I recently spoke to a patient who was feeling constantly run down. She had some events happen recently that led to a lot of stress and it was no surprise her body was reacting.
I write and speak a lot about maximizing your energy levels and going after your big dreams but for some people who barely have the energy to make it through the day it seems like an impossible ideal. If your everyday life makes you exhausted, it’s doubtful you’ll ever have the energy to follow your dreams.
I can tell you that getting to the root of why you feel run down, addressing your underlying stressors and consciously making an effort to have a positive response to stress can help you regain your energy and vitality. Yet, these things are hard to do. I would rather give you tangible strategies that if done consistently will really move the needle on your energy levels. So here we go….
Research has shown that chronic stress and resulting excess levels of cortisol can lead to something called adrenal fatigue. While adrenal fatigue is not a medical diagnosis, the World Health Organization recognizes the syndrome.
The theory is that continuous stress overloads the adrenal glands which are responsible for creating hormones that help us deal with stressful situations. When we are constantly stressed, the adrenal glands get overworked and stop producing enough hormones.
Part of the problem with this diagnosis is that there is not a reliable test that could accurately measure the levels of the hormones in the body. While the science to accurately diagnose and label the symptoms is not there yet, we do know of a number of ways to treat burnout. These will also likely decrease the impact of adrenal fatigue.
While we often can’t avoid stressful situations, because let’s face it life happens, we can change how we react to them. Two people can experience the same event but it will affect them differently based on their support network, their mindset and their coping mechanisms. Here are some of the things I do to cope with the busy life I know we all lead.
Burnout Coping Strategies
1) The Hour of Energy
Every morning, I get up before everyone else to exercise, regroup and plan ahead for the day. I find that when I don’t get this “Hour of Energy” in the morning, the day feels more rushed and stressful. Being a busy Mom of a 4 year old boy I find it essential to get up before the chaos ensues to get grounded and primed for the day.
2) Plan some downtime
As much as you can, try to schedule in some hours or even a full day with nothing on the schedule besides relaxing and spending time with loved ones. When we don’t plan downtime, it can feel as though we are wasting our time and should be working. But downtime is necessary for letting our minds and adrenal glands relax and recover.
3) Maximize our Productivity
Don’t be busy being busy. Spend your precious time doing the truly important work that will really impact your life and lead you closer to your big dreams and goals. In short, be as productive as possible. Then you will be able to do more in less time.
4) Get Moving and Eat the Good Stuff
With our busy lives it is important that we are taking care of our bodies and minds. As much as possible, eat non-processed foods for energy, get regular sleep and take time to exercise, even if it’s just a 10 minute walk.
Strategies like meditation or deep breathing can be done anywhere in minutes. There is even evidence that deep breathing can increase the levels of DHEA, which is a hormone that can counteract the negative effects of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Adrenal fatigue has sometimes been called the 21st Century Stress Syndrome. With everything going on it can be hard, if not impossible, to avoid chronic stress. We need to be diligent about self-care, preventative calming practices, scheduled down-time and reacting appropriately and proactively to stress.
This post should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you are feeling constantly run down for the most appropriate treatment for you.
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