Just like us, our adrenal glands can only handle so much.
If you find yourself unable to shake off the stress of daily life, you may be suffering from “adrenal fatigue.”
Adrenal fatigue describes our adrenal gland activity when we struggle to cope with stress and an overly busy schedule. If you’re in adrenal fatigue, you’ll likely feel burned out, overworked, and dull all over. That’s the result of elevated cortisol levels and dampening of other important systems in our bodies. I’ve experienced this on more than one occasion, most often after days when I have to be “on” all day – making presentations, networking or chairing long meetings.
While adrenal fatigue isn’t a medical diagnosis, experiencing the symptoms listed below is a warning from your body that it’s entering into a critical state. If you don’t address adrenal fatigue early, you run the risk of adrenal insufficiency, which is a medical condition.
1. Stiff and Sore Muscles – Feeling stiff and sore can be a sign that your body isn’t getting a full recharge. One simple way to soothe your sore body is to devote time to stretching or yoga. Optimizing your sleep habits can also help. Try taking warm baths with an anti-inflammatory salt blend. All of these practices can help bring your body back into balance.
2. Your Digestion is Off – Weight gain, indigestion, or constipation can sneak up when our bodies are under stress. When we’re stressed, our digestive system responds accordingly and our metabolism regulates down. No matter how healthy our diet, when we’re in adrenal fatigue mode, we have an increased likelihood of digestive problems and our bodies don’t absorb the full nutrition from meals. Focus on a nourishing diet, complemented by drinking enough water, getting enough minerals, and taking a probiotic daily.
3. Pass the Salt – Craving salty snacks? This could be a sign of adrenal fatigue. Because adrenal fatigue affects hormone balance, our production of aldosterone (the salt-retaining hormone) decreases and leads to a craving for salt. It can also lead to low blood pressure, heart palpitations, and dizziness or lightheadedness upon standing. To combat this symptom, be sure to get enough minerals in your daily routine – start by adding mineral drops to your water, use a high-quality Himalayan pink salt in your cooking, and snack on seaweeds like kelp and nori.
4. Caffeine is Your Best Friend – Coffee lovers may cringe, but the truth is that caffeine can be good for some, and not for others. Remember, coffee doesn’t give you energy – it makes you borrow against your existing energy storage. While caffeine may benefit your brain by helping you get through the day with added stimulation, it also weakens your adrenal glands. And caffeine keeps you in stress mode, signaling for the production of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. To recharge, reach for caffeine-free coffee substitutes or herbal teas instead, like holy basil, dandelion root or mint.
5. Working Out Leaves You Exhausted – Exercise should leave us feeling energized, not exhausted or fatigued. Physical stress affects the adrenal glands, and too much exercise can do the opposite of what you want – it can have negative effects on your body and adrenals. If you’re feeling fatigued after working out, try a gentler, less stressful form of exercise, like stretching, walking, and yoga.
6. Your Hormones Are Hormonal – When your adrenals can’t keep up with stress levels, hormone precursor material (the stuff that makes hormones) will be redirected for use in cortisol production, which can lead to a hormone imbalance. In adrenal fatigue, the thyroid may be affected, creating unfavorable symptoms of a hypothyroid (fatigue, weight gain, dry hair & skin, poor circulation). To lighten the unpleasant effects of hormonal imbalance, help yourself to a nourishing diet, adequate sleep, more water, and less caffeine.
7. You Can’t Sleep – Ideally, adults should get between eight and ten hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. This is crucial recover, reset and recharge time for your body. If you find your sleep is off balance, and you’re having trouble falling and staying asleep, try introducing some healthy sleep habits to improve your rhythm. Get in bed by 10:30 p.m. Even if you can’t fall asleep quite yet, being in the dark helps your body to produce melatonin (your sleep hormone). If your mind starts to race, practice some guided meditation or take a warm bath to help you relax.
8. You’re Overly Anxious or Depressed – When we’ve got too much on our plates, anxiety can creep in. Pressure from deadlines and a busy schedule can put us on an adrenaline rush. Adrenal hormones play a key role in cognitive function, mood, and mental states. Because of this direct corollary, anxiety and depression can be directly related to stress. Take a time-out for your mental health and well-being. Forget cleaning the kitchen and opt for engaging in something that relaxes you and brings you joy, and that will, in turn, reduce your anxiety and depression.
9. Life Feels Overwhelming – So many of us put self-care at the bottom of our to-do list. Try not to wait until you’re feeling overwhelmed to prioritize you. The key to everyone’s success resides in how we take care of ourselves. No matter what our career or personality type, chronic stress leads to burnout and diminished performance. So give yourself permission to take a step back from commitments that don’t serve you, and add some self-care into your daily routine. Remember that you need time for you. On our daily to-do lists, this important factor of managing stress shouldn’t get kicked to the bottom – it should be item number one.