Are you feeling depleted, run-down, dog-tired or even jittery and maybe sleep is eluding you altogether, condemning you to a Groundhog Day of symptoms? I know you probably are because this is what you have been telling me and what I have heard for the last few weeks.
There is definitely a general feeling of heaviness, helplessness and lack of motivation in the air. And I get it because I have felt it myself. Like many busy mums, I have recently struggled to keep all the balls in the air (and may have dropped some 🙊): puppy, new daily routine, settling kids in school, work, husband back in the office, daily household chores, (healthy-ish) cooking, making sure everyone is happy, healthy and alive whilst maintaining my own physical and mental health. Let’s be honest, it’s been tough!
The constant drip, drip, drip effect of stress is with no doubt wreaking havoc on our bodies.
In this blog, I am addressing how to beat burnout and how stress can wreak havoc with your body.
Many people feel stressed all the time. After all, there seems to be a continuous parade of reasons to worry: a pandemic, climate change, job losses, health threats, debt, and loneliness, to name but a few. And worry, by the way, can trigger the stress response just as if the event you worry about was actually happening. That means you rarely get a break, and your body is paying the price.
Whilst humans are primed to be resilient and to bounce back after adversity, there is only so much your body can take before it starts to falter – or worse. That is known as ‘adrenal dysregulation’ or ‘HPA axis dysfunction’. The latter stands for hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction, the current term for what we used to refer to as ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Adrenal gland ‘dysfunction’ is largely overlooked in conventional medicine, and yet it is pervasive and contributes to dozens of health problems. Perhaps you’re wondering whether that might apply to your health…
Signs your body is under pressure
The signs of HPA axis dysregulation are widespread and may include any of the following (some of which might seem contradictory!):
- Allergies (environmental, food, chemical)
- Bone loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Craving salty foods
- Decreased immunity
- Early onset of perimenopause/ menopause
- Fatigue (especially in the morning or after a stressful event)
- Hot flushes
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Low blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Muscle wasting
- Panic attacks
- Poor concentration
- Poor immune system
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia, waking up)
- Weight loss
- Weight gain especially around the midsection
Stressors can lurk in unexpected places
Stress is present in everybody’s life and – I’m not going to lie – nearly impossible to escape. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to take it lying down. You have options. You can take a long hard look at your life and health, eliminate the stressors you can get rid of, and increase your resilience to the stressors you cannot do anything about.
Psychological stressors: Most commonly, people feel stressed when they are overwhelmed with juggling relationships, family and work commitments. Add to that, financial worries, caring for a sick child or elderly parents, illness – whether your own or that of a loved one – and it can all get too much very quickly. That’s before you even start talking about even more severe issues (e.g. trauma), which, even if they occurred in the past, still have an impact on your stress level today.
Physical stressors: Physical stressors are a little more challenging to detect, although many, of course, are apparent. If you live in constant pain, need to take medication daily, and can’t ever get restful sleep, you’ll know this is causing you stress.
The stealthier stressors: Those are threats to the body that you cannot see or put your finger on, and that you might not have even considered. Think toxic exposure through environmental chemicals (e.g. pesticides, pollution etc.), dental mercury amalgams, mould or gut imbalances (e.g. candida/yeast, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, viruses etc.); food intolerance; invisible radiation (e.g. from frequent flying or electromagnetic fields).
Treat your HPA axis with some love with my 5-point Recharge Plan
With so many factors playing a role in HPA dysfunction, no wonder you are overwhelmed. Doing anything about it seems like just another task on your to-do list that is already as long as your arm. And is there any point if stressors are coming at you from long directions? There sure is. You can take it one day at a time, chipping away at the things that are stressing you out.
Start with the easy bit by getting rid of those tasks that add to your workload but that you do not really have to do. Do you have to be the head of the PTA at your kid’s school? Do you have to win the prize for best apple pie at the village fête? Do you have to host a family lunch every Sunday? Would the world stop turning if you quit – at least for a while – to get your health back together again? Don’t get me wrong, all of those are commendable and worth doing, but consider the oft-used metaphor of the oxygen mask on aeroplanes: you’re required to put it on your face first before helping others. By the same token, you won’t be much good to anyone if you are constantly exhausted and – worst case – even sick because you are completely run down.
2. UP YOUR SELF-CARE
Schedule some daily me-time in your diary. Do something you do just for your own pleasure (e.g. reading a novel, painting, a quiet cup of tea in the garden, a phone call to a friend, a soak in the bath…). Whatever it is, you must make time for enjoyment. Every day.
Your body needs you to sleep to get a chance for necessary repair and maintenance. Aim for 8 hours of sleep a night even if you don’t feel you need that much.
Exercise increases your feel-good hormones – endorphins – and improves mood, reduces anxiety and depression and improves sleep quality. It even impacts the HPA axis and thus increases your resilience to stress. What’s important when you’re stressed, however, is not to overdo it. Over-exercising will produce the opposite of what you want right now. Ideally, you want to do some gentle exercise, such as walking or yoga.
5. FOOD MATTERS
The human body cannot function with a diet based on ultra-processed foods packed with sugar, salt, trans-fats and extra ingredients you cannot pronounce. The body just wasn’t made for that and needs proper fuel. To help you recover from burnout, eat a nutrient-dense diet that includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, eggs, seafood, herbs and spices. Whatever you do, don’t diet! Caloric restriction is just another stressor.
You may also want to eat little but often. Though this is not normally what I would advocate, with HPA axis dysfunction, it is essential to keep blood sugar levels stable with regular meals. Make sure to include breakfast and eat something before 10:00 am.
Finally, avoid stimulants: from caffeine, refined carbohydrates (sugar, flour, bread, fruit juices, baked goods, chocolate), nicotine and alcohol.
Once you have put the above suggestions into practice – one by one, so that no new stress ensues – you are likely to feel considerably better. The longer you stick to the plan, the more you will feel the benefits. However, sometimes when there is very little or even no improvement or it’s too much to take on board by yourself, you know it is when it is time to ask for help! To get your mojo back, regain your motivation to look after your health, start feeling good and feeling yourself again, book your Free Health Call with me NOW!