Have you ever wondered why you feel tired all the time? Do you attribute your fatigue to stress or a heavy workload? Does it feel like no matter how much sleep you get, you never feel fully rested? It could be a sign that your stress levels are more than your adrenals can handle.
What are they adrenals and why do they matter?
The adrenals are a pair of triangle-shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They help maintain the body’s cognitive function and hormonal balance, and support your stress resilience. When you’re under an extended period of stress, adrenal exhaustion can become a reality. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked.
Do you remember what the fight or flight response is?
It’s that niggling feeling that something isn’t quite right when you’re out alone at night. The prickling on the back of your neck and the increase in your heart rate are your body’s reaction to that perceived stressor. Your adrenals produce adrenaline and other hormones to give you a quick burst of energy to either fight the threat or run away as fast as you can. It’s a form of self-preservation.
However, it can contribute its share of problems.
Your body doesn’t have the ability to differentiate between one kind of stress and another. It doesn’t know whether you’re under physical threat from a predator, or experiencing mental stress because of your profession or long hours spent studying. Your body reacts the same way by pumping out loads of stress chemicals.
When you’re outrunning a physical threat, the chemicals leave your system without a problem. However, when the stressor strains your mental state, the chemicals build up and eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion, especially when combined with large amounts of caffeine and sugar intake. Marry those ingredients with a sedentary lifestyle and you have a recipe for trouble.
What are the signs of adrenal exhaustion?
1. Decreased ability to handle stress
2. Prolonged fatigue and lack of stamina
3. Memory issues, difficulty concentrating, and mental fog
4. Low libido
5. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when under stress
6. Excess abdominal fat that won’t go away
7. High blood pressure/rapid heartbeat
9. Recurrent infections, inability to heal from wounds
10. Premature aging
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you may want to consult an expert and learn how to make positive changes in your diet and your life. Modern pressures in life have proven to increase the likelihood of adrenal fatigue. Pressure, anxiety, and stress cause your cortisol levels to increase and causes the nervous system to respond.
Learning to manage or balance your hormone levels will take time. Recovery involves lifestyle changes, including diet changes, creating new sleep habits, getting more exercise, and practicing positive self-talk and stress management techniques, to name a few. Some nutritional supplements have shown promise in balancing hormones as well.
To assess your stress responses at home, here’s a rudimentary test you can do: using a stopwatch to mark the time, shine a light across your eyes, and mark the time when your pupils begin to dilate. The longer it takes for your pupils to react, the longer it takes your body (glands) to recover from stressors. Of course, that’s only one indicator. As mentioned previously, it’s always wise to consult a physician for further testing and a diagnosis.
by Jonathan Riels