Thankfully I rarely get sick, but when I do it’s usually a signal to me that it’s time to slow down and reset. This week was a long week for me as I had two late nights, which for me means I worked 12 – 14 hour days. Since I generally wake at 4 AM, this also means I was on the go for a period of 18 hours. Couple this with stressful days at work and my body just starts the normal shut down. By Friday, I was really dragging and started to feel the familiar low grade fever that is my signal to slow it down.
When I first began this journey to health, I had been diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. My body was shutting down. Working with many doctors and nutritionists, it was discovered that I was misdiagnosed. I actually suffer from Adrenal Fatigue. While this was good news, it was still troubling and meant there had to be changes to my lifestyle. Eating clean, exercising without depleting myself, improving sleep cycles and trying to keep the stress at a minimum were the recommendations to rebuild my adrenals. Anyone who has a stressful job knows that’s a tall order, but I’ve found a few things that have helped me. Since I’m currently recharging my system, I thought I’d share them and remind myself as well.
First, let me tell you what adrenal fatigue is in case you’re fortunate enough not to know. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Sometimes it is misdiagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, as was the case for me. What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue? For me, it is the body aches and low grade fever that signal I’m in the danger zone. But the common symptoms listed include:
moodiness and irritability
cravings for sweet and salty foods
This past week, my cravings for sweet and salty food were out of control, so of course unhealthy food choices added to my not feeling well pretty quickly. They also disrupted my sleep patterns and so the vicious cycle began. Luckily, adrenal fatigue can be healed with lifestyle changes such as: eating clean, taking specific supplements and reducing stress. It’s not fatal, but the long term effects of leaving it untreated do create havoc on the body. I’ve found the following to be helpful for me:
In every case of adrenal recovery, diet is a huge factor. There are a number of foods that support adrenal function. They help replenish your adrenal energy so your system can come back to full health. But first you must start by removing any hard-to-digest foods and any toxins or chemicals in your environment.
Foods to avoid include: caffeine, sugar and artificial sweeteners, processed food and hydrogenated oils such as canola and vegetable oils.
All of these foods are taxing on the adrenal system and just plain unhealthy. I do drink coffee, but I drink a superfood version (recipe provided below) and try to only have one cup per day. I drink my coffee very early in the day and avoid all other caffeinated beverages. I use avocado oil to cook and on my salads, as well as good quality olive oils. To sweeten anything, including tea, I use organic stevia drops and/or raw organic honey, but even that needs to be limited.
I avoid the microwave at all costs. I still believe that the waves used within, as well as standing near to it, may have negative impacts on my body. It’s the same with cell phones. I try to only speak on them using the speaker option. Anyone who knows me knows I mostly text. No, I am not avoiding speaking with you, I just truly don’t want the waves from the phone, which I believe could possibly cause brain cancer.
What I should be eating are nutrient dense superfoods and clean, simple home cooked meals. Meals that consist of healthy fat, such as avocado, fruits and vegetables and clean protein from organic, grass feed sources. Significantly limiting grains is the hardest part for me, but I quickly notice a difference in how I feel when I eat them. I also take great pains to avoid any dairy foods that have any added hormones. My current favorite read on this topic is –
This is an area I struggle with daily. It’s very hard to be an Elementary School Principal and avoid stress. Many times you feel like stress and criticism are coming at you from all sides. The only way I can keep it at bay is to remind myself every single day that it’s first and foremost about the children. All decisions I make must be made with their interest at heart no matter what outside pressures I encounter.
Resting and getting the proper amount of sleep is critical. For me, I don’t sleep well so this too is a constant battle. Instead of fighting the cycle, I’ve just adapted my life around one that works for me. This means going to bed and sleep most nights by 8:00 PM and waking and rising by 4:00 AM, sometimes earlier. If I lay in bed and stress over not sleeping, I add another layer of unnecessary stress. I am tired early, so if I go to sleep I actually sleep better and generally make 7 hours. Who cares if it’s 3 or 4 AM, it’s a beautiful, quiet time and I get to rest, read and relax before getting up to start my day. Sounds like a win, win to me.
Meditation has always been recommended, but I just can’t seem to commit to it. I’ve tried Headspace, a free app and did enjoy it. Sometimes in those early hours of the morning I put it on, shut my eyes and enjoy. I can’t speak to the true benefits of it though as I don’t feel I do it often enough.
Exercise for me is a huge stress reliever. I have a daily exercise routine and rarely, if ever skip it. But, I’ve been cautioned that exercise itself can be very stressful to the body. This is why I have been working with a heart rate training program and trying hard to stay in my recommended zone, even though it slowed me down a lot. Most doctors recommended yoga and walking as they are not as taxing on the body as running. I do both of those, but wanted to keep the running because it is such a stress reliever for me. The compromise was the heart rate training and I do believe I have seen a huge difference, just not in speed yet.
Avoiding toxicity and emotional stress is another area that I work hard on in my personal and professional life. I am blessed that I’m currently surrounded by a great group of people at work and we work hard to not allow toxicity to permeate our school. I’ve worked in toxic environments and seen personally the damage they can do to myself and others. I’ve seen a career tarnished by it and the emotional toll that caused on them and others. If you are in such an environment, it may be time for a change. Personal relationships in some cases are forged by choice, but not family. I am sad to say there is some toxicity in my family and I have in those cases chosen to limit my exposure to it at all costs. When it can’t be avoided, I engage as little as I possibly can without being rude.
I’ve written a lot about supplements and my feelings on them. For the specific purpose of supporting my adrenals, I take an adrenal supplement. It contains herbs that have been shown to improve adrenal function. In the past, I took separate herbal supplements, but in an effort to reduce the number of pills I was taking, I switched to the highly recommended Dr. Axe Adrenal Restore.
The bottom line for me is that I need to listen to my body. If I am tired, I need to rest. If I am not eating well, I quickly will feel the effects. I need to get back on track, reset and start over. If I am around negativity, I need to remove myself from the situation. I need to exercise daily and use positive self talk to keep myself moving forward. It has been quite the journey and when days like today come along, I don’t dwell on the causes. Rather, I dwell on the changes I can make to get back up again. On tap today for me is, rest, reading and healthy meal planning.
Are you struggling with adrenal fatigue? Please share your successes with me. I’d love to learn about some new tips.
1 tbsp of collagen powder, raw organic honey
1 tsp of raw cacao powder, organic ghee (or kerry unsalted butter), organic coconut oil (or bullet brain octane, organic vanilla, cinnamon, turmeric, and dash of cayenne )
1 cup organic coffee brewed and hot
Put all in Vitamix and blend. Frothy and delicious and oh so healthy. Enjoy