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When Life Drains You: Adrenal Fatigue

Do you find yourself wondering, "What happened to the days when I had tons of endless energy?" Do you drag yourself out of bed with no motivation for the day?
Do you feel dread has replaced enthusiasm? Possibly you have adrenal fatigue.

I developed an interest in adrenal fatigue when I completely ran out of steam.  After years of taking on too much and not getting enough sleep I finally crashed and couldn't rebound.  I wondered how I had rebounded so well in the past and why suddenly I wasn't able to any more.  I started researching.

At first, my research was focused on how I could recover so I could start pushing myself hard again and be as productive as I used to be.  I soon realized that if I was going to recover, I needed to learn how to slow down and pace myself.  No more two and three hour sleep nights so I could do more than humanly possible.   No more taking on a full time job, a full time ministry, and saying yes to everyone who asked me to do something for them.  I was at the end of my rope and realized that if I kept up my insane pace I was in serious trouble. 

Recognizing why I pushed myself so hard was critical.  What drove me to push myself so hard? What was I trying to prove? What would my identity be once I learned to say no? Would people still like me?  A good hard look inward is a critical part of the process.  Unless you figure those things out, it will not matter what you learn about recovery from adrenal fatigue.  You will certainly fall back into old habits. 

What is Adrenal Fatigue Anyway?

Adrenal fatigue is when you have drained your adrenal system of it's reserves and you no longer have adrenalin or other similar hormones to keep you going.  Your body does a pretty good job of regulating itself on it's own when we pace ourselves reasonably.  It's when we push our body past it's own capacities over and over again that they system becomes taxed. 

If you push yourself past your limits of fatigue to accomplish more then your adrenals release powerful hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline; God given hormones to help us arise to a stressful situation if needed.  I'm glad for such a system in case I need to outrun a bear someday.  However, what research is showing is that modern day bombardments of work related stress and demands of an over-scheduled life tax our adrenals constantly.  It's like we are trying to out run a bear everyday.  As a result, a system that is supposed to help us out "in case of emergencies only" becomes a daily factor in our lives. 

Eventually, the adrenals will announce "I've had enough" and will shut down.  To keep up with my commitments I used to function on two or three hours of sleep, and then I would crash by going to bed at 6:00 pm and sleep 12-14 hours and then start over again.  Each time I was able to rebound with new energy to press ahead, at least until I couldn't anymore. 

Why are you reading this article?

Possibly you are reading this because you too are tired beyond belief and you are wondering how you can possibly keep up with the demands.  Or, possibly you are wondering how you can continue to be be Superman or Wonder Woman and want to make sure nothing stops you.  Or, maybe you see yourself on the path to self destruction and you realize at some point you need to stop but you just don't know how. 
Whatever your reasons are, I hope you learn something important to apply to your life to make it more fulfilling and not more demanding. 

Tips For Keeping a Better Balance

  • Get enough sleep! Do not skimp on sleep.  When you do it forces your adrenals to produce more stress hormones to keep you going.  Eventually you will run out and a taxed adrenal system will leave you vulnerable to a variety of health problems.
  • Take vitamin C and eat foods rich in vitamin C.  This will help your body recover from stressful events or lifestyle habits that tax the adrenals by lowering oxidative damage.
  • Take a vitamin B complex to help you recover.  Your adrenals need vitamin B especially B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B6 (pyridoxine) to function.
  • Eat a well balanced diet with whole grains, fish, legumes, meats, and veggies. Processed foods will not help your body recover.  In fact they will tear it down. 
  • If you feel a need to pump your body with caffeine take a nap instead.  Fatigue means you need sleep.  If you consistently push yourself past your limits, you will tax the adrenals causing greater and greater levels of fatigue later on.
  • Eat breakfast.  This helps stabilize your blood sugar and supplies your body with nutrition so it doesn't have to draw from stress hormones that can be toxic at higher levels.  Go for whole grains and protein for breakfast. 
  • Give up the notion that you have to accomplish it all perfectly. My dad once asked me how I manage to get blogs done with a family and a job.  My answer; if I get a blog out then I am probably behind on laundry (and a few other things).  It’s okay to prioritize.
  • Learn how to say “no.”  For some of us this is a frightening proposal.  Your need to please others and attain approval is so high you cannot fathom saying no.  Well, it’s time to learn.  Go ahead...practice.  Say it out loud several times.  Say “no” to yourself in the mirror.  Start saying no to people who ask you to do things.  Realize that the world doesn’t come to an end and you are still liked and appreciated. 
  • Honor your limits.  Learn to tune into your body and when you reach a threshold don't ignore it.  Take a break, put your head down on your desk and take a power nap, go home on time.  To honor your limits you need to tune into yourself and learn when you start to go beyond what is necessary. 
  • Prioritize.  If you need to take some things out of your busy lifestyle then do it.  Tell yourself you can fit in in later.  If you are adding things take other things out.  You cannot do it all at the same time.  Tame the over-achiever in you and slow down.
  • Keep fulfilling things in on your priority list. What fulfills you?  Time with friends? Family? Golf? Jogging?  Don't skimp on is not just about being productive.  It is about having some fun too!

Truthfully, if you learn these important skills then you will be more satisfied with the things that you do choose to do.  You will have more energy for your family and less dread when you head to the office.  I hope you can find some of this useful.   Depending on how far along your adrenal fatigue is it may take time to recover.  Start implementing a few things and don’t give up if you don’t see results immediately.  For me it took a good year to start to feel better.  Then, each year after that just got better. 

Best wishes to you! 


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by Gretchen Flores