Take some simple steps to protect yourself against stress
7 August 2015 | Editor
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This article is published courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
I used to think that the best way to deal with stress and exhaustion was to push on and show my body who was boss. Unless I couldn’t move, I continued life as normal. Downtime wasn’t in my vocabulary and progress was always more important than enjoyment. I wasn’t alone. If you ignore your adrenal glands’ cry for help, full-blown adrenal fatigue (the 21st-century "stress syndrome”) could develop.
Many people behave the same way. They regard resting as a weakness, and treat their bodies as if they’re plugged into an external power source.
We all need to learn when to take a break. Any sort of stress - mental or physical - causes the two walnut-sized adrenal glands that sit above the kidneys to produce hormones.
First, they send out adrenalin, the body’s natural "upper” and then noradrenalin, a modulating hormone to keep the body revved without damaging our organs. Finally, they produce cortisol, which is released into our systems when we’ve been revved up too much and need calming down.
Small lifestyle changes, such as drinking calcium-rich carrot juice, can prevent adrenal fatigue from becoming more serious. But the adrenal glands aren’t designed to work around the clock, combating five, 10 or 20 years of low-level stress. They are also not great at dealing with intense stress from different sources at the same time: for example, a redundancy, relationship break-up, crash diet and heavy exercise schedule.
If your adrenal glands have been working hard to feed you the stress hormones you need, they’re going to get tired. And if you don’t rest, they will become overworked. That’s when the first stage of adrenal fatigue kicks in: you feel tired all the time but find it hard to sleep, you can’t recover well from workouts, you feel depressed and you rely on caffeine, sugar and alcohol to get you through.
At this point, you should take a long holiday, detox and tell your loved ones you need support. Yet many of us don’t. We plod on and hope to feel better next week, next month, next year.
However, if you ignore your adrenal glands’ cry for help, full-blown adrenal fatigue - "the 21st-century stress syndrome” - could develop. The adrenal glands pack up and no longer produce cortisol. Everything in our bodies goes out of whack.
This is serious. Adrenal fatigue can get out of hand and bring your life to a halt. Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference, even when they seem obvious. It’s important to get at least eight hours’ sleep a night. Rest between 10pm and midnight, and 7am to 9am is especially valuable.
- During the day, get out in the sun. Vitamin D will raise your cortisol levels. Avoid too much travelling, though, even to exotic destinations. Long flights exhaust the adrenal glands because they interrupt your sleep pattern.
- Meditation is brilliant because it forces you to take time out. Aim for 10 minutes a day.
- Eat every two to three hours. You need to keep your blood sugar levels stable as when your blood sugar drops, your adrenal glands have to do extra work. It’s sensible to eat within 30 minutes of waking.
- Half of your food intake each day should be vegetables, but avoid raw-food detoxes or similar restrictive diets. You may well be deficient in vitamins and minerals, and will need plenty of healthy food and high-quality protein to recover. Pure carrot juice is also effective because it contains calcium, which you might lack.
Take a break from work, too. Increasing numbers of doctors take burnout, stress and adrenal fatigue seriously. If you don’t have an understanding boss, ask for a doctor’s letter. Unless you totally stop, you can’t start to recover.
Q: Can supplements help ease symptoms? TS, 45, Beverley, Yorks
A: Liquorice tincture is said to help with low cortisol (as adrenals fatigue and stop producing adequate amounts). Shabir Daya, a pharmacist at Victoria Health, recommends Multi-Guard ADR.
"It’s packed with nutrients, including B vitamins, which enhances energy and helps concentration. It also contains Korean ginseng to stimulate the production of hormones by the adrenals and co-enzyme Q10, the primary enzyme for energy production by the cells.”