Stress Management: Tips I Learned from Treating Adrenal Fatigue
The Basics: What is Adrenal Fatigue?
"Our lifestyles have changed, but our bodies haven't." (Dr. James Wilson)
Adrenal fatigue affects the adrenal glands, the small but powerful glands related to our stress response. Here are some basic points about our adrenal glands:
- They are located just above the kidneys
- They regulate stress and energy patterns
- They secrete important hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, progesterone and testosterone
The adrenal glands are responsible for our "fight-or-flight" response. This response was critical in the days of hunting and gathering, but a constant state of stress is extremely detrimental to our system.
Normally in adrenal fatigue, a cortisol imbalance occurs, either releasing too much or not enough of this important hormone. Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include the following:
- Morning grogginess (even with ample sleep)
- Caffeine dependence
- Increased PMS symptoms
- Crave salt
- Difficulty losing weight
- Mental fogginess
Effects of Cortisol Imbalance
High Cortisol Levels
Low Cortisol Levels
Both High & Low Cortisol Levels
Lowered immune function
Elevated blood pressure
Low blood pressure
Slow wound healing
Dampened thyroid function
Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue: Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Stress
When I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, I learned many treatments to help heal my adrenal glands. The more I though about these treatments, the more I realized they are positive lifestyle changes anyone could make to reduce and manage stress.
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue?
1. Replace Negativity with Positivity
I was happy to replace reading news with watching funny cat videos, but it's a change I never would have made on my own. However, once I did, I noticed subtle changes in my mood and stress level.
- Limit your time reading & watching the news. Yes, it is important to know what is going on in the world, but we often digest news in excess. Limit your time watching the news, and you'll automatically reduce the negativity in your life.
- Get a good belly laugh every day. You know what really makes you laugh. For me, it's silly cat videos or the Lawrence Welk Show SNL skits. Previously, I only watched these types of videos once in a while, but now I make a point to watch something funny and silly every day.
- Start your day off with positivity. I like to read positivity blogs in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day. A couple favorites of mine include The Happiness Project and positively present.
- Be aware of your thoughts. Buddha says, "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." Norman Vincent Peale says, "Change your thoughts and you change your world." When you start to spiral into negative thoughts, think to yourself, "Nope - I'm not going there!"
Material for Belly Laughs
2. Be Mindful of Your Nutrition
A happy gut is a happy mind and vice versa. It is said that our gut is our second brain since stress can cause all sorts of havoc in our gut. If you are skeptical, notice your digestion during times of stress. Often the effects are as significant as those from a food allergy.
- Try to include veggies in every meal. Especially dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. This is doable even if you're not a veggie person. I hide my spinach in a delicious smoothie every morning. I try to have a salad for lunch, and if I can't I bring some sort of veggie snack. I always keep frozen veggies in my house so I have a quick option for dinners.
- Learn your food allergies. You can do this simply by eliminating common allergies - gluten, dairy, soy - and noticing any differences in digestion, or you can get blood work done to determine your allergies.
- Water, water, water. My doctor recommended drinking half my weight in ounces of filtered water every day.
- Don't fear fat. The good fats in olive oil, avocado, seeds and nut butters are important for our system.
- Avoid sugar, refined carbs, processed foods, hydrogenated fats, caffeine and alcohol. We know these foods aren't good for us, so they are bound to bog down our systems. I have my fair share of cheat days/moments, but I still try to give my system fuel it can easily process.
3. Learn To Manage Stress
This is still difficult for me, but through yoga teacher training and lots of research on the subject, I've learned a few tools that help me manage stressful times and situations.
- Breathing techniques. It is harder to feel stressed when you are taking deep, mindful breaths. A breath technique that is particularly helpful for stress is nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. To do this, place hands in vishnu mudra (with the right hand, curl the pointer and middle fingers into the palm with the thumb, ring and pinky fingers extended). Use the ring finger to close the left nostril, inhaling into the low belly through the right nostril. Pause at the top of the inhale, opening the left nostril and using the thumb to close the right nostril. Exhale evenly through the left nostril. Keeping the right nostril closed off, inhale through the left nostril. Pause at the top of the inhale, opening the right nostril and using the ring finger to close the left nostril. Exhale evenly through the right nostril. This completes one round of breath.
- Aromatherapy. I carry lavender with me for quick stress relief. Other calming & soothing scents include frankincense, rose, vanilla, eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon, and rosemary.
- Mudra therapy. Mudras are hand gestures that redirect the energy in our bodies. Create an anti-anxiety mudra by curling the pointer finger into the crease of the thumb. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Stress Management Tips
- More positivity
- Clean eating
- Relaxation techniques
Treating Our Adrenals Kindly
Treating our adrenals kindly results in overall stress reduction. By cultivating positivity, improving our diet and managing stress with relaxation techniques, we can live a happier and healthier life.
Food Matters, Treating Chronic Fatigue and Adrenal Fatigue Naturally.
Lakeside Natural Medicine, Dr. Sarah Axtell.