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Adrenal Fatigue Stages: What you need to know about this 21st Century Stress Disease

Adrenal Fatigue Stages: What you need to know about this 21st Century Stress Disease

Chronic stress. We’ve all heard of it, but many people are unaware of the damage it can do to the body on a day to day level. In a world where we’ve been taught to multi-task to get things done, live near electronics (or on them most of the day), lack on sleep, and consider ourselves last when it comes to health and wellness, it can be detrimental to your body if you don’t control your stress.

Your body has a built in stress response, which helped keep your Paleolithic ancestors alive, and these little glands on top of your kidney’s are known as the adrenal glands. These little guys help regulate you metabolism, help your body respond to stress, regulate blood pressure, and produces none essential hormones such as adrenaline.

That’s a lot of responsibility, and as a result these little powerhouses are essential to helping you stay healthy, especially if you have weight loss or wellness goals.

When the adrenal glands are over taxed they can create a set of symptoms which alone don’t add up to much, but when repeatedly brought together show the effects of chronic stress. Symptoms can include:

  • Exhaustion (even after a good night’s rest)
  • Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning
  • PMS/Endocrine system problems
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Inability to handle the cold
  • Memory/cognitive problems
  • Craving for salt/sugar
  • Low self-esteem due to low energy output
  • Weight gain around your mid-section
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Chronic fatigue coupled with needing copious amounts of sleep

Do any of these sound familiar? It’s not a random bout of symptoms we’re talking about, either. Instead, it’s symptoms which someone has been fighting with for months or even years. Symptoms which in today’s hectic world are starting to appear in children including tween and teens.

I know, you’re wondering why, if this issue is so prevalent, aren’t medical doctors talking about it and counseling patients to help them head off such a problem? Well, for the most part, in western medicine adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist. If you tell your doctor you have adrenal fatigue they’ll say it’s a made up disease, or test you for an extreme case such as Addison’s disease.

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And, yet, every other organ system in the body can have its own set of issues if imbalanced, but not the adrenals? Adrenals which, when overly stressed, may wreak havoc on your thyroid, endocrine system, digestive system, and sympathetic nervous system. For a better understanding of what your stress response is and adrenal fatigue check out this Mayo Clinic Article on stress response.

Read on and you’ll find the 3 stages of adrenal fatigue/exhaustion and some ways in which you can help heal yourself.

Stage 1: Alarm Phase

This is when your body first responses to stress, also known as fight or flight. It’s when stress is perceived, the adrenals rise to the challenge and aggressively respond to the stressor in your life. The adrenals don’t know the difference between a tough work meeting, the death of a loved one, or a random appearance of a grizzly bear charging toward you, mouth open intent on eating you for dinner. All three scenarios are perceived under one heading “STRESS” and the adrenals are called into action.

The anti-stress response is mediate by the one hormone we’ve heard so much about. Cortisol. In this first stage the demand for anti-stress actions is easily handled by the body, and fatigue is usually very minimal. Adrenal dysfunction is probably rarely noticeable.

In this stage you’re cortisol levels are high, and you’re under a lot of stress. Many times it can be a happy stress, like a new relationship, new baby, or new job. Something which is demanding you to move out of your comfort zone, probably keeping you up at night or on high alert during the day, but will eventually level out. Many times this level will leave you feeling charged and more alive than ever. You get a rush from the stress as you meet the challenges required of you.

The problem occurs when you don’t have enough resiliency to meet the stressor, even enjoy it a little, rise above it, and then let the stress dissipate. Instead, you stay under stress, even after it’s passed.

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When you’re in stage one and you’ve finally moved past your stressor it’s important to allow yourself sufficient time (think twice what you’re initial response would be) to rest, recharge, and let your adrenals heal before throwing anything else at your body. Instead, many people throw coffee at themselves in order to keep moving forward despite the sudden fatigue. Cravings for high carbohydrate or sugar foods may begin to develop. The thing about “needing” that cup of coffee to get you moving in the morning, is that this could be a sign of stage one adrenal fatigue.

A few ways to help reverse stage one adrenal fatigue is by making some lifestyle changes.

  • Get to bed by 10pm
  • If you’re okay to use salt, make sure you’re using a high quality sea salt
  • Limit coffee
  • Remove processed foods and sugar
  • Exercise regularly (nothing too taxing, think movement and a little sweat)

Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to heal.

Stage 2: Resistance Phase

In this stage you’ve stayed under stress for a considerably longer amount of time than your body expected, and it’s beginning to show. It’s also where many people begin to realize “there is something wrong” even though they may not know what it is, or where to get help.

At this stage you may begin to develop a dependency on coffee or other caffeinated drinks to help you get through the day, being able to muster of the energy for your obligations, but crashing hard when you get home at night. Another symptom is “being wired, but tired” – the problem of being exhausted, but unable to sleep.

In this stage your endocrine system is still pumping out the hormones needed, but in order to keep up DHEA and other sex hormones – mainly testosterone – are down regulated. If tested you’ll see the levels begin to substantially drop, along with your sex drive. The reason for this is the body is using all the materials it can to produce cortisol, stealing the needed building blocks from the sex hormones, putting additional stress on the endocrine system.

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You can also see problems in digestion at this point and the body starts to slow metabolism and other bodily functions in order to conserve energy. Sugar imbalances and insulin sensitivity can begin in this stage. At this point your cortisol levels are starting to fail. You’ll see weight gain, and suddenly have more sleepless nights than before.

In addition to the points covered for healing stage one adrenals, you can make sure you add in a few more lifestyle changes to help yourself heal.

  • Choose nutrient dense foods
  • Eat regularly
  • Avoid intermittent fasting
  • Turn off electronics an hour before bed
  • Give yourself space to unwind
  • Take naps and listen to your body, extra rest helps with healing
  • Support with adaptogenic herbs as appropriate
  • Practice grounding or earthing
  • Put routine stress-management practices into place
  • Make self-care and the pleasure principal a priority to help you relax and heal

Stage 3: Exhaustion Phase

At this point the body is breaking down due to the amount of chronic stress it’s under. Cortisol levels are failing, sleep is nearly none existent, and fatigue is a constant friend. On top of it, when you’ve reached this point the body is trying to compensate in every way possible, which means multiple organs and/or system failure is completely possible.

The body has run out of ways to develop the stress hormones it needs to counteract the chronic pressure it’s under. Now the sex hormones are low and the stress hormones are low. This phase is also often called the “Burnout phase”. Aside from a fatigue and low libido someone in the burnout stage can suffer from

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Constipation
  • Sluggish thyroid
  • Compromised mental function
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Bed ridden
  • Fibromyalgia

It seems extreme, but when your adrenals have reached exhaustion the body has slowed as many functions as possible, including metabolism and food digestion. Much like the domino effect, the body will keep down-regulating internal functions until it reaches a point where it no longer feels threatened.

For many this could be bedridden, for others the breakdown in the body happens first resulting in issues such as stroke, kidney conditions, or severe hormonal conditions. Each body reacts differently, but it’s always in an attempt to protect itself. For a better understanding of the effects of adrenal burnout read this article by Dr. Lam.

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At this point a trained professional is your best option to help you heal your suffering and damaged adrenals. Some basic things to implement though.

  • Moderate exercise, with twice as much rest. Too much exercise can cause you to crash harder.
  • Dietary control to help manage and balance blood sugar levels
  • Electrolyte balance
  • Vitamin/mineral support
  • Rest. Rest.
  • Prayer, massage, meditation, and other relaxation techniques 

Keep in mind, healing whichever stage of adrenal fatigue you might find yourself in, can take anywhere from six months to 24 months depending on how bad your adrenal fatigue is, your dedication to getting better, and application of lifestyle changes to prevent it from happening again.

For more information on adrenal fatigue and ways to heal it, check out the pages below.

Dr. Axe: Ways to heal Adrenal Fatigue

Dr. Mercola: Misdiagnosed Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

MD Junction: Adrenal Exhaustion

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Jenna Anderson

Jenna is passionate in helping people find their personal power through movement and healthy life style choices.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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