Guest Post: Christina Bacino // The Adrenal Fatigue Pandemic
“You need to pull out the big guns on this one,” she said. I had spent nine years helping victims of trauma, and the stress that put on my body and mind finally caught up to me. I was diagnosed with acute PTSD and stage 3 adrenal fatigue. My doctor looked me square in the eyes with those words, and I knew she was right. If I didn’t make some drastic changes, this was just going to get worse.
Adrenal fatigue seems to be a pandemic these days. In most cases it is stress induced and chronic, causing symptoms like foggy brain, low energy, food allergies, mild depression and anxiety, low blood sugar, and a plethora of other symptoms that make day-to-day tasks seem overwhelming. Studies have shown time and time again that psychological changes have an effect on our bodies, and stress is a prime example of this. The mind-body connection is strong, like two best friends who know what the other is thinking; they are in step with one another. And to ignore that connection would be a grave mistake.
You may not have adrenal fatigue, but we all have stress, and a stress free life is unrealistic; so here are some things I found to be helpful in battling stress induced fatigue and illness.
For centuries, experts have searched for a healthy way to relieve chronic stress:
Valerian root, lavender, L-theanine, Prozac, Xanax, and the list goes on an on. Choosing from all of the options can actually cause more stress! One of my most important discoveries during stage 3 adrenal fatigue was that the greatest weapon against stress wasn’t a pill; it was within me - breath. When I was told to do yoga, I inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, “how much could that possibly help?” However, numerous studies have proven that mediation and deep breathing not only change our brain waves, but they improve our immune and circulatory
systems. And in my experience, connecting to my body and breath was the single most helpful tool in reducing stress. If you haven’t already, give yoga or meditation a substantial try.
Before adrenal fatigue, I was a cross fitting, long distance running, spin class loving, you name it I did it exercise junkie. Exercise was my mode of stress relief, and I always looked at it as mind over matter; my body would do what I told it to do. Well, like any one-sided relationship, this didn’t work out too well. Suddenly I had an illness where I could only walk 20 minutes a day or do a low impact yoga class. In my particular case, my body couldn’t afford to produce the stress hormones needed for strenuous exercise anymore. I was sluggish for years, and thought the answer was more exercise. However, some strenuous exercise can actually help stage one and two of adrenal fatigue in that it can regulate high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. My point: finding the right type of exercise for your body is key in reducing stress. Don’t just assume that more or less exercise is going to put that pep back in your step. How will you know which is the right exercise for you? Listen to your body; it will clue you in.
In my opinion, getting enough sleep each night is a highly underestimated way of reducing stress. I understand however, that it can be a vicious cycle if the reason you aren’t getting enough sleep is because of stress! But there really are some simple things you can do to help your mind and body wind down. In my months of recovery, here were some things that helped me:
1. No screen time before bed. This had to be a hard and fast rule. Bye bye Netflix.
2. Meditation or a light yoga session before bed was incredibly helpful. YouTube has some great, short yoga videos.
3. Epsom Salt bath or shower before bed.
4. Get to bed before ten o’ clock. This will help you have deep sleep between two and four, which are the most important hours of sleep.
5. Cut out caffeine completely. If that is unrealistic, then at least keep it as a morning routine rather than morning and afternoon.
Last but not least, you have to ask yourself, what is the underlying cause of my stress? You can do all of the right things mentioned above, but if you don’t address the actual root of your stress, not much will change for you. I understand that some reasons for stress are out of our control. I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my job and move countries, which cut out a tremendous amount of stress for me.
But I know that this privilege isn’t allotted to everyone. Then, what can you do? Can you hire someone to help run the business and lighten the load? Can you get grief counseling? Can you get life coaching? Can you downsize and live in a smaller house? Can you forgive that person? I know this part can be uncomfortable, but I encourage you to be brave on this one! Make the changes you need to. Your mind
and body will thank you.