How to Overcome Burnout
In our modern world, problems like fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, IBS, anxiety and depression and unexplained stubborn weight gain have become all too familiar. But as I always say, “common doesn’t mean normal.”
Sadly, these problems have become the norm in our society. And when sufferers seek help their support circles often tell them they need to suck it up because “it’s all in their head,” and their doctors simply write a prescription for a pharmaceutical, which is just a band aid, ignoring the roots that are causing these “weeds to grow.”
And they’re left feeling embarrassed, ashamed and confused.
But what they experience are real symptoms, indicative of stress from sources that come at us from all different directions.
Have you experienced the following:
- Trouble waking up in the morning even though you got a full night’s sleep?
- Unexplained fatigue?
- Digestive problems like IBS?
- Skin problems like psoriasis and eczema?
- Feeling run down and overwhelmed?
- Difficulty bouncing back from an injury or illness
- Uncontrollable cravings for sweet and salty foods
- Feeling bursts of energy in the evenings?
- Unexplained depression and anxiety?
- Unexplained weight gain, especially around the middle?
If you answered yes to some these symptoms, you might be experiencing some form of adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms that result when your adrenal glands function below the necessary level.
Your adrenal glands are tiny glands that sit on top of your kidneys (‘ad’ means ‘above, ’ and ‘renal’ refers to the ‘kidneys.’) These glands produce hormones or are triggered to produce hormones that are responsible for things like regulating your immunity, blood sugar, fat storage, metabolism, fertility and more.
These hormones are essential for energy, and when the are overworked or underproduced, your energy levels will be zapped.
Rest and replenishment are vital for these glands to function properly. Unfortunately, our culture of always being connected, always on the go and pushing ourselves to accomplish more doesn’t allow for sufficient revitalization.
So what exactly causes adrenal depletion?
Common causes include:
- Intense or prolonged stress
- Not enough sleep
- Poor diet (relying on sugar and too much caffeine to function)
- Perfectionism, Type-A personalities
- Food sensitivities and intolerances
As you can see, these are things that we all experience at some point in our lives making us all susceptible to adrenal burnout, myself included.
A few years ago, it appeared that my life was going well. I had a solid job, short commute, ate healthily, ran marathons, and had an active social life.
But behind the scenes, I had a micromanaging boss and was in constant worry of layoffs every quarter when earnings were announced. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area increased at a rate faster than my salary did. I measured my self-worth by how I ran races (which wasn’t good given my propensity for always being injured), and I was a classic Type-A perfectionist. It was no wonder that I suffered from debilitating insomnia, raging IBS and unexplained weight gain (which as a formerly obese person was a source of high stress).
Eventually, my ability to deal with the pressure exceeded my capacity, and I sought help. Friends and colleagues told me I just needed to learn how to handle it. My primary care physician wrote me a prescription for Ambien and Xanax. I knew there had to be a better way.
That’s when I found a functional medicine practitioner who introduced me to a new way to approach health. She told me I was experiencing adrenal fatigue, but then others said that there was no such thing - adrenal fatigue wasn’t real.
What I’ve since learned is that conventional medicine can sometimes be concerned more with strict disease or pathology, only recognizing extreme forms like Cushing’s or Addison’s disease. But those diseases don’t develop overnight. They happen over a period, and the journey to it begins with adrenal burnout.
If any of this resonates with you because you have or are experiencing the symptoms I’ve just described, know that you’re not alone. Yes, these are common problems, but like I always say:
Common doesn’t mean normal.
There are actions that you can take right now to avoid adrenal burnout, or if you’re already experiencing it, repair your health from it.
So let’s break it down:
1. Identify your sources of stress
Stress is not always emotional. Stress can be eating foods that you know your body is intolerant of, like dairy. I’ve known since I was a child that I was lactose intolerant, but cheese. And ice cream. And isn’t yogurt supposed to be healthy? By ignoring this intolerance, I added layers of unnecessary stress to my system.
Take inventory of all the things in your life that add to your stress. Write them down. Examples can be finances, work stress, traffic, toxic relationships, your inability to say “no” and much more.
2. Come up with a plan on how to remove or alleviate your stressors
If a source or situation can’t be changed, consider changing your approach. Can you reframe your mindset towards it?
Earlier I mentioned that I had an intolerable micromanaging boss. My stomach turned to knots whenever I had to even speak to her. Getting a new job takes time, and I was in no position to quit without something else lined up. So I had to change my approach to the situation.
To do this, I had to look at this person as a human being who had her own pressures to handle. I realized that she treated me this way because of how her manager treated her. After this realization, I found myself being more empathetic. And whenever she made an unrealistic request from me, I was able to put into context and understand why the request was being made. Eventually, the knots in my belly went away, and the lines of communication opened, making my work stress more tolerable.
3. If Plan A didn’t work, have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D
It may feel that some of your stressors are unavoidable or removing them feels insurmountable. But as Marie Forleo likes to say, “Everything is figureoutable.”
Prioritize yourself and your well-being and do what you need to do to take care of you. Because if you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?
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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.