Stress Management (and Adrenal Fatigue)

Recently, I’ve been dealing with a case of Adrenal Fatigue, and it could have been prevented.  Over the years, I’ve known several athletes and multiple trainers/strength coaches who have experienced the same battle.  If we push too hard and don’t pay enough attention to recovery, sleep, and healthy eating, something’s got to give.  Adrenal Fatigue is a physiological condition in which your body relies too heavily on adrenaline to function on a daily basis.  You may feel more anxious than usual, because of your extended exposure to high levels of adrenaline and insufficient levels of a stress hormone called Cortisol.  You’ll also feel a decrease in motivation, have trouble sleeping even when tired (“tired but wired”), and might experience unusual blood sugar swings.  So how, exactly, does this happen?  More importantly, how can we avoid Adrenal Fatigue or treat it once it has begun?

Adrenal Fatigue can sneak up on you.  I thought I was doing all of the right things, and I was.  Sort of.  I’ve been working long hours to build this online business.  I also still train a number of clients face to face.  Some of those clients are high level athletes, and require a lot of extra time outside of my typical work day.  On top of all that, I have the normal responsibilities of daily life.  I train my body hard in the weight room, practice martial arts, walk my dogs, clean my house, prepare my meals, etc.  It’s not unusual for me to put in a 14-16 hour day, followed by a busy night at home and an inadequate night’s sleep.  See the issue here?

The best, and really only way to deal with Adrenal Fatigue and other stress induced issues is to manage your stress proactively.  Here are 6 steps that I have taken to return my adrenal glands and Cortisol levels to baseline:

  • Manage your time. Schedule time in your day for relaxation, exercise, and personal development.  Doing this will also help you be realistic when managing your work tasks and other obligations.  Be sure not to bite off more than you can chew, and leave a little bit of time for yourself.
  • Manage your training. Exercise affects Cortisol; your body’s stress management hormone.  If you don’t work out at all, you’ll be less effective at dealing with stress.  Get moving.  If you over-train, you’ll be less effective at dealing with stress.  Dial it back.
  • Deep belly breathing. The atypical movement of your diaphragm during belly breathing helps to flush excess adrenaline from your system.  Every 30 seconds of deep belly breathing reduces adrenaline by about 50%.  Alternatively, you might try yoga, meditation, or other practices designed to calm your body and quiet your mind.
  • Wind down. Take at least 30 minutes to calm down from your day before attempting sleep.  Then, sleep.  Don’t watch TV, surf the internet, or text.  The glow from these electronic devices will make it more difficult for your mind to settle into restful sleep.
  • Eat whole and natural foods. Give your body the fuel it needs to function optimally, and avoid the chemicals and preservatives found in most processed foods that can add to anxiety and restlessness.
  • I recommend a whole food multivitamin and fish oil supplements to all of my clients.  Additionally, if you’re struggling with your own case of Adrenal Fatigue, there are some other supplements for you to consider:  More Vitamin C, Methyl folate, licorice, and rhodiola are the 4 I’ve added to battle my own burnout.