What is the cost of living a life constantly moving and changing, living in a fast paced, instantly gratifying world with a FOMO and a desire to achieve everything humanly possible?
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m an over-achiever, over anxious personality, and a little bit of a perfectionist … okay, a big perfectionist. What I wasn’t willing to admit was that my personality and my desire to achieve EVERY dream imaginable and to try and make EVERYBODY happy, meant that I was burning myself out. I was running on empty and I was actually doing myself a dis-service.
How could being a goal setter, go getter, perfectionist that buzzes around constantly living off the fumes of caffeine, smoothies, a late, late dinner and a few hours sleep a night be bad?
Face palm. I know, I know … now that I say it out loud it sounds pretty dumb. The truth is, I am a wired mess and it took me landing in the Emergency Room in a foreign country, dehydrated, fatigued, lacking nutrients and in severe pain to realise it.
News flash – on the contrary of what I would like to believe, I do have limitations and so do all of us.
Actually, I have been feeling pretty darn awful for quite some time. Despite my eagerness to get it all done and ignore my body, yet again my body had to do something pretty drastic to get me to stop, listen, wake-up and smell the hummus! I mean, I thought I was pretty healthy. But despite all of my learnings I haven’t really been putting it all into practice. The wheel of life is a little out of balance.
So with this new hospital experience, scans, ultrasounds, vials of blood tests later and a good consult with the docs, I have … drumroll please … Adrenal Fatigue.
Okay. Cool. We know what I have, but what does it mean?
Adrenal Fatigue is a bunch of symptoms that hit you like a cold wet fish on a hot summers day when your adrenal glands function below the necessary level. It’s not typically diagnosed in western medicine but sadly is becoming more and more prevelant in our ever growing, modern day, fast city living lives. The good news is when you catch it – you can turn it around. It might be a long slow road that requires patience, understanding, healthy conscious choices to nourish, rest and rejuvenate and require you to make some tough decisions when you look at your life, BUT it is doable!
What are adrenal glands and why do we need them?
Okay – so we know I’m no doc, but as I’ll try to explain it as best I can.
Our adrenal glands are small glands that sit right around the top of the kidneys. They are designed to produce hormones that we can not live without. One of the biggies is our stress response. So … they are pretty important little devils. With adrenal conditions these glands can start to produce too much or not enough hormones that allow our body to function. As this condition develops and the function of our adrenals decrease in effectiveness, EVERY organ in our body becomes affected.
It will start to affect how we metabolise fats, proteins and carbohydrates is affected, our fluid and electrolyte balance is interrupted – DEHYDRATION. It can affect your heart and cardiovascular system, your liver, kidneys and even you bow-chicka-wowwa drive.
Your body starts to compensate for these hormone imbalances and it’s a vicious cycle.
So, all these things happen inside our body and because we can’t see them we are unaware of the damage that is starting to take place. It isn’t until we start to feel all those crappy symptoms, do we recognise something is wrong.
What kind of symptoms do you experience with Adrenal Fatigue?
Now from what I’ve learnt there are 4 stages of AF.
- Fight or Flight Response
- Resistance Response
- Adrenal Exhaustion
- Burnout or Failure
Depending on where you might be on the stage scale may depend on your symptoms but here is what you can expect to feel if you are diagnosed with AF.
You look pretty normal on the outside but you feel like crap and its kind of hard to explain. You are tired, lethargic no matter how much sleep you seem to get, it never feels like enough. You might be experiencing apathy, you might be getting sick ALL THE TIME. Joint and muscle pain and inflammation. You might experience a feeling of anxiousness and nervousness, often without explanation or from a result of simple everyday tasks. Lightheadedness, reduced sex drive, reliance on stimulants, craving salty foods, hypoglycaemia, fibromyalgia, back pain, frequent urination and overall brain fog are also described symptoms. It sounds super fun right?
So what REALLY causes Adrenal Fatigue?
The human lifestyle has evolved and while we can marvel at what we as humans have accomplished we have also altered our levels of stimulation, stress, diet and toxins that we are exposed to. They have all significantly worsened over time. To put it really simply, and I know nothing can ever be cut and dry and we are all different but AF happens when our adrenal glands can no longer cope with the stresses our body is exposed to.
How do we change this?
Food is our friend!
Look for food sensitivities and eat a diet that is rich in minerals, vitamins and protein. In other woods fill your belly with a brightly coloured basket of veggies, a big delicious green smoothie, clean and lean protein and include some healthy carbs. Seriously, don’t restrict your carbs – this can cause more problems. Now I’m not saying go to town on potato mash and PB on toast but think quinoa, brown rice and lentils. Enjoy healthy fats like omega 3’s, increase your intake of Vitamin C so you are able to absorb your nutrients properly and decrease your intake of sugars. If you are going to enjoy fruit look for low GI or blend it up in a high powered blender that allows you to keep all the fibre to help metabolise the sugars! Food is fuel and we needs sustained fuel throughout the day.
The Early Bird Catches the Z’s
… snore fest I KNOW. But our bodies are designed to regenerate between particular hours in the middle of the night. Getting to sleep before this cycle kicks in helps give our body the best chance to rest and regenerate.
A key ingredient for optimum function. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, but more importantly make sure your body is absorbing the water into your cells! If your body is having trouble with this like mine is try adding lemon to your water or sea salt.
Exercise & Rest
Now I’m not talking regular day napping and a hard core cardio workout but more allowing your body and your mind to quiet. Think yoga and meditation. Remember your body is depleted and fatigued so a muscle building, high intensity workout isn’t on the cards for you right now.
This is probably one of the toughest things you are going to have to do. What landed you here in the first place? What are you trying to achieve in life? Success? What is your definition of this? More often than not your drive to succeed and achieve the life of your dreams landed you waist deep in AF and sent your adrenals and stress levels into overdrive, so it’s time to reassess. What do you want your life to look like? Life is a delicate balance, in order for us to be truly healthy and happy we must learn to work all wheels of our life in perfect harmony and that my friends is a lot easier said than done. Believe me! But remember there is only one you. Be kind to yourself.
My journey and recovery has only just begun and I have a long way to go. The hand-break for my life has been used and I am in an adjustment phase. Re-education, kindness and patience will be the key to my success and I am excited to take you all along my journey with me, because I know if any of you are just a little bit like me and you dream big and will do just about anything to get there, maybe just slow down. Just a little. You have time. Be present and look after yourself, don’t go chasing waterfalls!
Are you suffering from Adrenal Fatigue? Let’s open up the floor to discuss in a friendly and open forum a condition that is so often dismissed! How have you overcome your condition?