Finding calm in chaos is becoming harder and harder. We get into bed with our phone blaring a cascade of blue light, maybe sleep for a few hours and wake up to a landslide of email alerts with Alexa blurting out the news. All of these push notifications, text alerts, alarm dings, and calendar reminders mean that not only are we busier than ever, but we’re also more aware of it than ever. It’s over-stimulation at its finest. And the consequences are not insignificant.
Being pulled in so many directions, mentally and physically, triggers the stress hormone cortisol to begin firing. And fire away it does. This regular surplus of cortisol, compounded by other factors, can eventually lead to a condition called “adrenal fatigue.”
Your adrenal glands are two tiny little organs that basically hang out on top of your kidneys and release cortisol all day. When you have adrenal fatigue, these little dudes have a hard time balancing out the cortisol in the body. This creates inconsistent levels of cortisol, in some cases too high, and in others, too low. Considering cortisol is most well-known for “fight or flight” and signify major stress, it’s no surprise that when things get thrown off, havoc is had.
If you constantly feel groggy and sluggish, moody, crave sugar and have a hard time sleeping, your adrenals may be fatigued. Other symptoms include extreme exhaustion, insulin resistance, hormone imbalances, decreased libido, and weight gain. (Note: there are MANY factors that can indicate adrenal fatigue. Seeing your doctor and having blood work done is the best way to approach and treat.)
If you’re ready to whip your adrenal glands back into shape, there are a few things you can try:
Work with adaptogens.
Although highly treatable, anxiety, stress and depression are pervasive and often neglected issues that wreak havoc on energy levels and can lead to both adrenal fatigue and overall poor mental and physical health. The earth is budding with myriad tools to help combat this and pump up your creative and energetic juices. Welcome, adaptogens.
There’s a solid amount of scientific research behind these herbs that suggest their benefits. They’re a unique class of healing plants that help to balance, restore, and protect the body. They don’t necessarily have a specific action—rather, this groovy class of plants helps your body properly respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing physiological functions.
Dr. Axe names some of of the best adaptogenic herbs to be panax-ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, astragalus root, licorice root, rhodiola, and cordyceps.
Indulge in smarter fuel.
One of the number one steps in healing adrenal fatigue is changing your diet. This means eat to nourish your body, not your taste buds. Nutrient packed foods can help your body stay calm and collected, keeping the cortisol at bay. Foods from the sea, like oysters, anchovies and salmon pack loads of zinc, magnesium and omegas, which are both very calming and reduce inflammation in the brain and body. That reduced inflammation helps your body work more efficiently and smoothly. Also, power up when you chow down on dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and asparagus. And consider adding organic, protein rich meats like turkey and liver. They pack a lot of punch and are a great vehicle to get your vitamins. Healthy fats, like coconut milks and oil, are another fantastic option.
This also means taking a break from some of your favorite vices. Caffeine is a favorite among many folks, which can be problematic as caffeine can definitely burn out your adrenals. A study from Duke University Medical Center found that “caffeine may exaggerate sympathetic adrenal-medullary responses to the stressful events of normal daily life.” Dr. Axe also recommends cutting out excess sugar and hydrogenated oils, as these foods are also responsible for spiking blood sugar levels and sending the adrenals into a state of chaos.
Go outside and play.
Rather than popping a pill to feel chill, just go outside. Try taking a walk around the block and listen to the sounds, or throw on a podcast or playlist. Take your shoes off and stroll around the backyard. Feel the blades of grass in between your toes and the sunshine on your face. Drive to a new neighborhood you don’t venture often, take a day trip somewhere, go for a hike and have breakfast with the sunrise. Just be outside, immersed in nature, and see what happens.
Here’s why: adrenal fatigue is often due to stress, and nature is show to promote ease and relaxation. Various studies have illustrated the benefits of nature, so much that “Forest Bathing” is now essentially considered medical treatment. In 2010, a study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine provided evidence that participants who spent time walking through the forest had lower levels of cortisol than those walking through a metropolitan environment.
Exercise is a powerful tool to help boost mental wellness. But when you have adrenal fatigue, you need to be really careful about what type of exercise you’re doing. Dr. Axe notes that “too much exercise without proper rest can cause chronic stress, and is linked to problems in the adrenal gland.” Overtraining syndrome, or OS is capable of causing adrenal insufficiency, in which the adrenal glands are so depleted that they stop producing enough of crucial stress hormones.
Because of this, people with adrenal fatigue might benefit from more moderate exercises, like yoga, bike riding, hiking, or dance classes. Yes, exercise lowers stress, so it’s essential you get get out there and play, but do so mindfully. Counter your workouts with restorative yoga. Focus less on burning calories and more on creating just a bit of heat.
Surround yourself with what brings you joy.
We’re serious about this one. Whether it’s people, flowers, candles, a really good playlist—whatever it is, have more of it. Stop negative self-talk, negative relationships, negative foods and negative situations. This also includes sleep. If you only get six hours, try getting eight every night for a week, and note how you feel.
A good place to start is by making a list of all the things that cause you stress and all the things that bring you joy. How can you omit some of these stress? How can you make space for more day? . Once you’ve identified these moments, invite more of them in tomorrow and the next day and the next. Let yourself have this. Stop kicking your own ass and try saving it.Your entire body will thank you.
Laci Mosier is a copywriter living and loving in Austin, Texas. She and her one-eyed pirate dog live for exploring and discovering life’s magic. She is most inspired by yoga, running, Kundalini meditation, good books, great jams and even better coffee. Getting lost is where she is most often found. Follow her on the Twittersphere or Instagram.