What’s Stress Doing To Your Body?

By Body, Spirit

What Stress is Doing

Do any of these symptoms sound like you?

  • Fatigue not relieved by sleep
  • Trouble getting up in the morning even when you have had enough sleep
  • Craving salty or sweet snacks
  • Low sex drive
  • Feeling run down and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness
  • The need for caffeine in the morning to get going
  • Use of caffeine throughout the day to get through the day
  • Mood swings
  • Muscular weakness
  • Lightheadedness when getting up from seated or lying down position
  • Mental fog and/or memory problems
  • Increased PMS or menopausal symptoms
  • Frequent sighing
  • Increased food allergies or sensitivities
  • Sleep/wake cycle off balance

If you said yes to some of the symptoms listed above read further to find out why you may be feeling this way and what you can do to change it.

Over time, society and how we live has changed dramatically, but our bodies have not. Our ability to diffuse tension in our life, utilize self-care skills, and modulate our response to life situations plays an integral role in how healthy we are, the amount of joy we have and how much energy is available to us to enjoy our lives. The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of each kidney and are directly responsible for providing the hormones necessary for our bodies to respond to our stress. Although the adrenals secrete many hormones, one primary function is to release epinephrine when we experience stress. This is the classic, “flight or fight” response. Ideally, the way this should work is when you encounter some type of stress, your body releases the epinephrine putting everything into “alert” and you are then able to respond appropriately to the stressor. Classically taught it is our ability to “fight the tiger or run from it.” Once the stress is resolved or you have removed yourself from the situation the adrenals carry on normal functions awaiting the next response. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get back to the resting state often enough. We continually call on the adrenals for support in dealing with our overly burdened and busy lives. Most of us live in a “pedal to the metal” mentality. We are constantly on the go and often critical of others and ourselves when we take time out to slow down. How often have you said or heard someone say, “I wasted the whole morning and just read a book, or took a long walk in the wood may”? Somewhere we have gotten the message that we must not “waste” any time and need to maximize every moment being productive. Then on top of that we are often unrealistic about how much time something is going to take which ends up creating more stress. What this can and often does lead to is a fatiguing of the adrenal glands.

So…How do I know if this applies to me?

Many of these symptoms overlap with other disease processes, which is often why adrenal fatigue is missed. It is not necessary and you rarely will have all these symptoms when suffering from adrenal fatigue. The more symptoms that you are experiencing the more likely you are to be suffering some level of adrenal dysfunction.

Despite the fact that millions of people suffer from adrenal fatigue, the medical community at large has been reticent to address this syndrome choosing to focus only on Addison”s or Cushings diseases, which are the extremes of under and over functioning of the adrenal glands. Whereas blood tests are utilized to determine the presence of Addison’s or Cushing’s diseases, saliva tests are the primary method utilized to determine whether the adrenals are in a fatigued state. These saliva tests are FDA approved and considered a more sensitive marker for cortisol and DHEA over production and/or deficiency, which are the earmarks for normal adrenal function. As more people present with symptoms consistent with adrenal fatigue and even more are having significant success treating with adrenal adaptogens, many physicians are recognizing and addressing this issue with their patients.

Once the adrenal dysfunction has been identified there are many different treatment options that we utilize to improve and repair adrenal function. However, one false assumption is that taking a specific adaptogen or herbal remedy is enough to correct your issues. In order for healthy adrenal repair and function to return you must modify the behavior that initially created the problem. In general it is safe to say that adrenals, especially when undergoing repair, do not like extremes of anything. That is, not getting too much or too little sleep, too much or little exercise, too hot or cold etc. Balance and moderation is paramount to achieving full adrenal repair as it is in most restorative processes.

So, if you have been reading this saying to yourself, “sounds like me”, it may be time to evaluate whether your adrenals may be fatigued. Whether you suffer from this syndrome or not it is a good time to evaluate whether your life is in the balanced place you want it to be. Preventing adrenal fatigue is much easier than healing from it.

There are a number of good resources for additional information but for a comprehensive easy to read reference I can recommend Dr. Wilson’s book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome.

Treatment Protocol for the Adrenals

By Body

Prior to beginning any treatment program your adrenal function should be evaluated by a well-qualified practitioner. The most common test that is utilized to evaluate adrenal function is a 4-sample saliva study known as the “adrenal stress index” or ASI. This test indicates cortisol levels and their corresponding circadian rhythms. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and then should decline throughout the day. One of the first indications of adrenal dysfunction is the disruption of the circadian rhythm. Additionally, this test measures the cortisol-DHEA correlation, which is another important factor in determining the direction of your treatment.

Once your adrenal function has been properly assessed, a treatment program can be designed to meet your individual issues. This often includes the use of adrenal adaptogens, protomorphogens and certain herbal considerations such as Siberian ginseng, withania, rhodiola, high-grade licorice (not twizzlers!) etc. It is imperative to understand the level of your adrenal function so that proper treatment is administered.

Isn’t It Interesting?

By Mind, Spirit

Isn't It Interesting?

Several times a year I have the privilege and joy of presenting workshops and retreats on the “Science of Happiness”. I cover many topics in these workshops and one of the most effective stress reducing concepts we explore is learning how to deal with the stresses, strains and multi-dimensions of your life with curiosity instead of drama, trauma or disrespect of self.

Initially, to change unwanted or stressful behavior you must recognize what it is that pulls you out of your center. Once you have established what your specific triggers are you can begin to change the thought patterns that keep you stuck in these destructive behaviors. Unfortunately, all too often we have little patience with ourselves getting frustrated and defeated before the behavior and its ramifications are fully understood. How many times have you said to yourself something to the effect of, “I can’t believe I’m doing this again! I’m never going to get this right. I’m such a …….”. I find one of the most helpful tools in unraveling your behavior is learning to come from a place of curiosity by asking yourself the simple question, “Isn’t it interesting?” This keeps you out of the self-judgment loop and in a place of curiosity so you can understand your issue and make concrete changes in your behavior without the need to judge or defeat yourself.

Let me give you an example of one of the ways this had played out in my own life. I am for the most part a relatively calm and easygoing person. It generally takes a lot to “ruffle my feathers”. That is, except when I was driving. For a while, I would get in the car and with the least bit of provocation I would find myself engaged in some mild form of lunacy. I would get angry with the person in front of me for not putting on their blinker. Irritated when someone was going to slow. (The speed limit!). Annoyed when someone waited forever to turn left. (When they could have gone five times) Angry if someone pulled out in front of me. (Especially if they went slow) Then on top of it all I would feel bad and berate myself for acting and feeling that way. Utilizing this concept and tool that I know works well, I pondered the question, “Isn’t it interesting” that for the majority of my life I am a very tolerant and patient person but I get in the car and I am more like an impatient lunatic? I wonder what it is that creates that behavior? So, I began to do what I call “taking a backseat to myself” and just observing with curiosity all the intricacies that created the stress of driving. The first interesting observation I made was that I rarely had this response on the weekends. Then, I noticed I was almost always on my way to somewhere when this lunacy occurred. Rushing back to the office after lunch, rushing to pick up my daughter on time, rushing to get to an appointment etc. but rarely on my way home. Interestingly, I noticed I always seem to have this behavior when I was trying to pack far too much into the unrealistic time that I had allotted. I found it was actually NOT true that it takes 10 minutes to get from Buckhead to Decatur, which is what I had allowed for. It became very clear that my stress and “Lunacy “ were clearly self-induced. I realized that my stress was totally created by an unrealistic management of my time.

This was the good news because I was the one creating it and I was the one capable of changing it. So, as I began to tell myself the truth about how much time something was realistically going to take and began to allow for adequate time, something magical began to happen. Not only was I much less stressed, I actually got more done! By allowing myself to spend more time in the present and less in the future, which is what all that anxiety is, I found I was more organized, had more time to create and got a whole lot more accomplished. As I began to be more realistic in my time management, my stress came way down, I was calmer whenever I got to my destinations and definitely had a much more enjoyable time getting there. All of this changed occurred by simply asking the question, “Isn’t interesting?” following the thread, unraveling the issue, not judging what I observed and making a few changes. What is it that is interesting in your life that you want to change?