A few years ago, my body gave up on me.
I was only 34 years old, but I was starting to suffer from health issues left and right. I had gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, acne, cellulite, muscle fatigue, heart palpitations, brain fog and worst of all, debilitating fatigue that kept me from being able to do anything more than take a shower and put clothes on for the day, without needing a nap.
It literally felt like my body was falling apart on me, but I didn’t know why.
I went to doctor after doctor – my PCP, my Ob/Gyn, an endocrinologist, a GI doctor and even a cardiologist—only to be told that I was just “fine.” The most they wanted to do to help, was offer me an antidepressant or some anti-anxiety medication.
It was frustrating, depressing and ironically, anxiety-inducing. But I knew something wasn’t right. And I wasn’t going to give up until I figured out what it was.
Thankfully, after almost three years of dealing with symptoms that continued to worsen and accumulate, I found a naturopathic doctor, a neuromuscular therapist and an occupational therapist that were able to help me come up with a plan to recover from my “syndrome.”
What condition was it?
I had actually never even heard of it before, but once I started doing research on my own and educated myself, it was like the books and websites I was reading were written about me.
Simply put, adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms that are present when your adrenal glands are functioning below the normal level. Usually causing intense or prolonged stress, your adrenal function becomes reduced, which then can lead to issues in every other part of your body (hence, me feeling like my body was falling apart!).
In fact, left untreated, it can continue to get worse until you only have the energy to stay out of bed for a few hours a day—if that.
This unfortunately is the point that I was almost at, when I finally figured out what was going on. Even doing simple things like taking a shower or carrying a small load of clothes to the laundry room would render me short of breath, dizzy and with my heart feeling like it was going to beat out of my chest.
It wasn’t surprising though, once I learned more about adrenal fatigue and how and why it manifests. When you experience stress (whether real or perceived), your body reacts with the “fight or flight” response.
Your heart rate and respiration increase, your digestion slows down (or stops), your bladder relaxes, you lose peripheral vision, your pupils dilate, your blood sugars, fats and muscle tension increase and you start shaking.
As the name suggests, this is to give your body the strength and speed it needs to either
- fight or
Which in cases of a real stressor, is quite useful and helpful. The problem occurs when your body starts activating this response when there is actually no real stressor present.
This is what happened to me.
After going through an abusive relationship for over 3 years, the death of my father, the death of my mother and a host of other small “stressors” like extensive dental work, surgery, a hostile work environment, an international trip (which included several vaccinations), sleep deprivation and a poor diet…my adrenal glands had literally had ENOUGH.
They got so over-activated, that they stopped functioning normally and that’s when all of the other problems started.
So why do I tell you this? And what does it have to do with you?
If you’re not careful…
Sure, you may never go through the exact same string of events that I did. I can only hope that you wouldn’t! But adrenal fatigue can happen after all kinds of different stress. That’s why Dr. James L. Wilson (my favorite author on the subject!) refers to it as the “21st Century Stress Syndrome.”
As more and more of us push ourselves beyond our breaking points every day, subsisting on coffee, sugar and energy drinks, we’re all about one step away from adrenal fatigue.
Which is why, practicing self-care is so important.
Not sure what I mean by self-care? That’s probably a good sign that you need to start doing it!
So, here are some of my favorite tips to keep your body healthy, your mind and spirit calm and your adrenal glands happy!
1. Slow Down
Slowing down may seem like an impossible concept for some of you that are used to running 24/7. But if you don’t slow down on purpose soon, your body might just slow down for you.
It doesn’t mean you have to completely stop doing the things you love or start sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch. But what it DOES mean is that you need to make time at some point during the day (EVERY day), to be still.
You may not even realize it, but when you are constantly going, going, going…your body is under stress. Simply taking the time to sit still, or even lie down, gives your body the chance to relax and recharge.
2. Meditate and/or Pray
Once you do take the time to slow down and be still, adding meditation or prayer helps your mind relax as well. Which most often, is even more important than your body!
You can sit still, but still be thinking stressful thoughts—which will continue to cause a physical reaction in your body. But quieting your mind through meditation or prayer, will help calm both your body and your spirit.
You can also use visualization techniques during your meditation to help you “release” old issues or emotions that you have been holding inside (which can also lead to physical symptoms!).
3. Repeat Affirmations or Mantras
I used to be the first person to say that affirmations didn’t work. Basically, I didn’t believe what I was telling myself. BUT now that I understand how the mind & body work, I know the power that affirmations can have.
Your mind has a thought—which produces a feeling—which produces a reaction in your body. For example, if you think there may be someone hiding in your house, you may feel fear, which then may lead to sweating and a racing heart. So it only makes sense, that if you think negative or self-demeaning thoughts, you will have negative emotions, which will lead to negative physical reactions in the body.
But it’s also why mantras or affirmations can be so effective as well. Repeating positive phrases to yourself throughout the day may seem strange or forced at first, but these repeated intentional thoughts will help “un-program” some of those negative thoughts that have become automatic over time. Which will then lead to healthier emotions and a healthier body.
Self-care is exactly what it sounds like—taking care of yourself.
It’s not selfish.
It’s not a waste of time.
And it truly is the key to being the best you can be personally, professionally and relationally.
After all… if you don’t do it, who else will?