Adrenal Exhaustion ~ Is Your Adrenal Bank Account Empty?

You may have adrenal exhaustion if on a daily basis you feel like your life is spinning around you. You run all the time, then fall exhausted into bed, yet you are unable to fall asleep. You wake up unrested and feeling unwell only to repeat the cycle.

'A man can be himself only so long as he is alone.' ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Exhaustion of the adrenals, associated with intense and unabated stress, may also be known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout. It is where the adrenal glands are unable to perform their duties at an optimal level, causing tiredness and fatigue unrelieved by sleep. Adrenal exhaustion is marked by an overwhelming feeling of being unwell, but perhaps without any obvious physical illness.

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Often snacking on sugary or salty foods, and drinking coffee, tea or other stimulants are necessary to get up in the morning, or keep you going throughout the day.

The use of sleep aids, tranquilizers and/or alcohol is used to bring you back down at night for fitful attempts at sleep.

what and where are the adrenal glands?

The adrenal glands are a triangular shape gland, about 1 inch by 3 inches, that sit on top of each kidney. They secrete hormones that regulate the sugar balance and salt balance in your body, and also regulate the sex hormones. 

The adrenal glands have been described in the literature as your body's primary shock absorbers. This is because the adrenal glands secrete hormones in response to your inner condition and perceptions, including your response to stressful situations. 

Adrenaline (or norepinephrine) is the primary hormone that is released by the adrenal glands when you are being threatened in some way. This is the familiar, fight or flight syndrome, where as a result of your emotion of fear, anger, hate or other threatening and strong emotion, your body gears up to either run away (flight) or go into battle (fight). 

The physical response, as a result of your strong emotions, are: 
Your heart beats faster, your blood rushes to your muscles, your pupils dilate and you have a much lower response to pain. This adrenaline is the reason that people can do super-human feats when the fight or flight response is triggered. 

The adrenal glands also secrete cortisol, a necessary hormone to help you store and release energy for your body's use. Cortisol also helps your body manage the stressors of trauma, infection and temperature extremes. It keeps you emotionally balanced. It is also released in the time of stress, although this is not its primary function. Like adrenaline, prolonged elevated levels can do damage to the body instead. 

symptoms of adrenal fatigue

How do you know if you have adrenal exhaustion? Most likely you do if you say yes to most of the following statements:

  • I never have time for myself.
  • I feel like I am running on empty.
  • I have to push myself everyday to get going.
  • I crave caffeine and drink coffee/cola/tea all day long.
  • I never get enough sleep.
  • I rarely if ever feel good.
  • I am being pulled in all directions.
  • I am always tired.
  • I always feel stressed, like my "to do" list keeps getting longer.

The reason you feel this way is because your Adrenal "bank account" is limited. Each time you expose yourself to stressful situations, your body responds as if it is in the fight or flight mode. It makes a "withdrawal" from your adrenal account to manage the stress and maintain your body's balance. If you keep taking from the account without replenishing it, you will go bankrupt. Thus adrenal exhaustion is born and the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are your reality.

With suboptimal levels of adrenaline and cortisone, your body starts to feel the fatigue. You may experience mood swings, insomnia, increased illness and infection, and changes in your circulation. Since these conditions are not immediately life threatening, it is easy to push through, telling yourself that you just need to buck up and deal with it. Just another cup of coffee and a snack will keep you going as long as you need.

Unfortunately, ignoring your need to rest and renew leads to more depletion of the adrenals, and more exhaustion. To add insult to injury, an additional symptom of adrenal fatigue results. Another hormone, DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) that rises to fill the void by counteracting the lack of cortisone now also is over accessed and overused. DHEA is the back-up hormone that attempts to restore balance to your body. When the DHEA is accessed repeatedly instead of occasionally, it also becomes depleted, further throwing your body off-course. The restorative effects of DHEA eventually become exhausted as well.

The end result is overwhelming physical exhaustion and fatigue. The bank account is not only empty, it is in the red.

Pyramid Peak Summit, ColoradComing Down Out of the Fog
Summit of Pyramid Peak near Creede, Colorado

adrenal fatigue treatment

You can request medical intervention for your adrenal fatigue treatment. Adrenal exhaustion, if properly diagnosed, can be treated with the hormone, DHEA and perhaps a synthetic form of cortisone. Most physicians are not very skilled at managing adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue treatment through the medical route is sketchy at best if you don't have access to a holistic-minded physician who practices integrative medicine.

The easier and better road to adrenal fatigue treatment, is to do restorative and holistic activities that replenish your adrenal bank account. Just recognizing that you need to slow down, restore and renew, overtime will improve your adrenal exhaustion. Some suggestions for restoring and renewing are:

  1. Go for regular, long, leisurely walks. Do not set a time or a goal of any kind. Smile at the people who walk by. Gaze at the flowers on your path. Stop to pet a friendly dog. Swing your hips when you walk and find the rhythm of your soul.
  2. Take regular restorative yoga classes at your local yoga studio. The guided meditations are wonderful to help you relax, restore and renew. 
  3. Get a massage as often as you can. Nothing reconnects like the pure pleasure of the hands-on method.
  4. Visit your local library or bookstore and pick up a great read. Places where there are books calm you and draw you into other, interesting worlds to give you a break from your spinning world.
  5. Watch a funny movie: Laughter is truly great medicine. Really, watch any movie that helps you escape. Violent and tragic movies should be avoided. 
  6. Build your social connections: Join a dance club, a knitting club, an antique car club, a church group, or wherever your interests lie. Do what you have always wanted to do, but haven't because you are "too busy." Connect with old friends and reconnect with family. Build your support systems to avoid the feeling of doing it all alone. Community building helps all of those who are willing to reach out. 
  7. Immerse yourself in water: Take a long, soothing, hot bath. Or go for a swim in a pool, ocean or lake. The buoyancy and support of the water will rejuvenate you. Close your eyes and let yourself drift along.
  8. Learn to meditate or do centered prayer: Lots of spirituality/contemplative Christian groups offer this training for free or low cost. Learning to quiet the mind and control the breath are the paths to exquisite health when you do mindful activities like meditation, prayer, and yoga. 

Regardless of what you choose, regularly scheduled activities for you and you alone and for your pleasure alone will replenish your adrenal bank account. Love and respect yourself enough to allow for pleasure in your life.

Give yourself the alone time you desperately need to relax, restore and renew. Take a minimum of 20 minutes a day to do these activities. In this case, more is better! This is the best adrenal fatigue treatment!

If you know about endorphins, most of the activities I describe raise your endorphins, your body's feel-good hormone! This is exactly what you want! 

If you are drawn to yoga and meditation, I have some guided body meditation videos that I believe will help you. Learn all you can on this website about self-lovefoam rolling and other bodywork activities to access your inner spirit to find healing, especially if you have physical symptoms to go along with your adrenal exhaustion.

When you find yourself and your inner spirit, not only will you find healing, but you just might also find God!

your body is a window to your soul

I hope you listen to your body, if this article resonates with you. Your body is your window to your soul. All you have to do is listen to it!

Your body is trying to tell you that you are exhausted and cannot go on. Your heart, your true self is crying, through your body, to listen to it. Spend time with yourself, in silence and reflection and you will hear what your body window is telling you!

May you find healing of your body, mind and soul when you stop to listen to your body's messages. May you never suffer from adrenal exhaustion again!

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