When Stress Turns into Exhaustion and Breakdown
Dr. Ben Allen works with stress conditions that turn to physical exhaustion and adrenal fatigue. This is often a long road to recovery and the goal is to build wellness and hardiness, and restoration of the body and brain after significant stress and high stress load.
Life, when faced with stress beyond human capacity, can be very challenging. This includes trauma as well as any number of life experiences leading to exhaustion. The concept of “nervous breakdown” occurs when an individual’s mind-body connection can no longer cope, and is “totally maxed out.” Those who have experienced this level of stress know of the overwhelming fatigue, and long and chronically symptomatic recovery period.
Adrenal fatigue is the breakdown and exhaustion of the glandular systems that literally help us cope. When functioning optimally, the adrenal glands regulate stress hormonal activity, supporting arousal and alertness, and adaptability for life activity. When in a stress response, we are basically protecting ourselves to cope with negatively challenging stress, but stress (“fight or flight”) also provides endurance to accomplish positive activities, including running marathons, increasing work productivity, enhancing test and stage performance, and riding on roller coasters. Health challenges come from accelerating any type of stress response for too long of a period without recovery and restoration.
When under stress, certain hormones such as adrenaline (brief stress responses) and cortisol (long-acting stress responses) may be produced in excess, but limited in time to get through life challenges, the body restoring balance when the stress ends. Excessive immediate as well as chronic stress can overwhelm the human mind and body, and produce neurotoxic levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, leading to chronic over stimulation and overuse of the entire human system. Over time, this can exhaust and deplete the adrenal glands, and contribute to stress and imbalances in other glands and biological systems.
Many symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: extreme exhaustion-fatigue-aching, inability to relax or sleep well, racing mind, frequent illnesses and generally feeling unwell, mood irritability and sensitivity, increased weight around the middle, craving for sugars and fats, inability to handle pressure, cognitive “brain fog,” stress-caused physical symptoms, and diminished energy for activities.
Causes and/or contributing factors in adrenal fatigue may include: significant immediate and/or chronic stress from any source (i.e., mental, physical, or environmental), overwhelming trauma, excessive activity and minimal restoration, over-training in exercise, a highly active and taxing lifestyle, poor diet and sleep habits, mental health issues, a challenging medical illness, overuse of steroidal medication, job or family stress, and difficult life events and daily challenges.
How dangerous is adrenal fatigue? In mild form, the mind and body in effort to recover from depletion and exhaustion requires rest, nature and good nutrition. Given time and caring restoration, healing and recovery can occur. In more extreme and overly challenged cases, exhaustion and depletion may contribute to chronic physical and mental health issues, and the recovery period may be more lengthy and complicated.
How do you break the cycle of adrenal fatigue? The objectives are to replenish and rebuild a healthy body and sound mind, and heal your life. Here are ten key elements that need healing and recovery when it comes to adrenal fatigue:
- Heal your sleep pattern and create sleep surplus. If needed, see sleep specialists to fix obstacles affecting sleep hygiene.
- Heal your diet. See a nutritionist, work towards a whole foods healing diet. Learn to replenish nutrients needed for mind and body restoration. Stay hydrated, always eat breakfast, and eliminate sugar and caffeine.
- Don’t over work, or over exercise. Focus on recovery periods! Cut back on responsibilities. Do mild exercises daily, and lots of good breathing.
- Learn stress management. Learn and practice how to self-regulate and restore a balanced mind-body connection. Learn to relax and unwind.
- Analyze and work through key emotional issues that contribute to your stress.
- Diminish toxicities in your life (i.e., negative relationships, stressors, behaviors, etc.)
- Remember your wellness: recall positive memories, partake in favored activities, take brief or extended time off to recover.
- Build a powerful nerve force, a hardiness of mind and body for the long haul. Learn of this science. Learn Chi Gung, easy yoga, and meditation, and keep a practice.
- Nature Heals! Spend time outdoors, get sunlight, breathe well, and go for peaceful walks. Drink adequate amount of water throughout the day.
- Think yourself well by imagining wellness and healing.
Unfortunately, life can throw huge challenges in our paths, and test our coping abilities. To prevent exhaustion and breakdown, we need to build surplus strength and hardiness in life, and to be our best healers.