Guys!! I’m super pumped to have my friend Michelle Cady of FitVista guest posting here today to talk alll about 20 Ways to Give Yourself Adrenal Fatigue. And don’t forget to check out the companion post I wrote for her blog: 7 ways to prevent Adrenal Fatigue!
Hello, hello! I’m Michelle Cady and I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you and thank you Dana for the opportunity to guest blog post before your Adrenal Fatigue Detox Challenge & Meal Plan Launch! Here’s a quick introduction and we’ll get right to it! I’m the Founder of FitVista, a Health Coach, and Wellness Writer. I work with driven and high-achieving individuals to optimize their health, while stressing-less and focusing in on self-care. I’m currently writing my first book, “Self-Care in the City : 100 Ways to Optimize your Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness in an Urban Environment” due to publish in March 2018.
If you know Dana well, I’ll tell you – we’re a lot alike! We both graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, competed on Varsity Athletic Teams (me = cross country, her = swimming), attended school at Institute for Integrative Nutrition and have that Type A go-go-go mentality.
Oh, and coincidence? We BOTH suffered from severe adrenal issues.
Like most of you, I’d been putting my foot on the gas-pedal in life, academics, sports, career and that perfectionist, work hard / play hard mentality, since age 14 or 15. When I reached my mid-20’s, I was working in Finance in NYC and feeling deeply stressed, so I asked my doctor if there was a test for stress hormones. He completely dismissed my question, told me I was perfectly healthy and sent me on my way. Frustrated, I brushed it off and kept up my frantic pace.
It wasn’t until two years later that I decided I’d had enough of feeling so stressed and overwhelmed and somewhat burnt-out all the time. I deeply knew SOMETHING WAS UP and found a Functional Medicine Doctor who would listen to me and test my stress hormones.
Sure enough, I had chronically elevated cortisol levels, was feeling wired and tired at night, had difficulty breathing at times and stopped getting my period. Thankfully, by this time, I’d decided to leave my career in Finance and become a Health Coach and I was able to heal myself from Adrenal Fatigue in just 10 months.
But to rewind, here’s a list of the things I was doing to get all stressed out in the first place.
As you’re reading, ask yourself : What points apply to you and your life? Is there anything you can do now to start unwinding some of your stress-inducing behaviors?
I do hope this could be a wake-up call for some of you. But please be kind to yourself. Stress and our “mode of operating in this world” can be closely linked to our self-identity, our drive and personal vision of success. If you want to chat, just reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what’s going on for you. Remember, I’m with you!
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20 WAYS TO GIVE YOURSELF ADRENAL FATIGUE
Let me be clear, I was doing ALL of these things. In many ways, I created the perfect storm for stress in my life. If just a few are happening for you, you’re going to be OK!
1. SKIMP ON SLEEP. Sleep only 5-6 hours a night when you know you should be getting 7-9 hours of shut-eye. I’d set my alarm for super early AM workouts, often clocking in just 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep. Now I sleep 8-9 hours and feel amazing.
2. DRINK 3-5 CUPS OF COFFEE A DAY to maintain alertness and mask your symptoms of deep fatigue and burnout. I was at 3-4 cups of Coffee per day before I quit Finance. Now I have one cup a day and life is good! If I find myself reaching for two cups of coffee a day, I know something is UP and I need to take a hard look at my schedule, take something off my to-do list and rest more.
3. EAT A TON OF SUGAR. Thankfully I’ve always had a pretty sugar-free and clean diet and this wasn’t actually an issue for me personally, but feel compelled to let you know that sugar is a HUGE stress on the system! Look for hidden sugars, be a sugar detective.
4. RESTRICT CARBOHYDRATES. Long-term restriction of carbs (i.e. Atkins, extreme South Beach Diet or low-carb Paleo) can put pressure on your system and your hormones, especially on females and those who exercise frequently. Your body needs good complex carbs for fuel and muscle recovery! Include foods like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes in your diet, along with 1-2 servings of fruit per day. Don’t try to trick the system. You can’t outsmart your body with a low-carb diet for ten years like I did. It’s fine to go low-carb for a month or two to lose weight, but then start including complex carbs back into your lifestyle. They’re not scary, I’ve now made friends with them!
5. DON’T BREATHE. I always labeled myself as a terrible breather, breathing upwards from my shoulders rather than belly breaths using my diaphragm. Deep belly breaths reduce the stress-response and activate the parasympathetic “rest and digest system.” Learning how to breathe was freaking hard. You can learn though! It takes time and practice. I have a bunch of tips and tricks I use with my clients now.
6. DRINK ALCOHOL TO “REDUCE STRESS”: I definitely did this when I felt stress building in my body. A couple glasses of wine on a Friday night to chill-out, a happy hour with finance colleagues, a Saturday night free-for-all etc, etc. Alcohol might push off the feelings of stress symptoms for a few hours or evening or a hangover day, but it only makes it worse and adds to chronic cortisol elevation over time. It’s the old “kicking the can down the road” scenario.
7. Promise Unrealistic Deadlines: I worked through this during my years in Finance. I used to eagerly say, “oh I’ll get you this by end of day!” and then find myself frantically scrambling to get everything done by a certain time. This scenario can leave you with feelings of panic, a tension headache, or worse : long-term stress. Learn how to “under-promise” and “over-deliver” to build in more time and cushion for your projects.
8. STRESS BY EMAIL: Emails are going to kill you. Guess what, they are NOT. It’s just an email. Reframe your thought process. What’s the worst that can happen? Will this email matter in five years?
9. OVER-SCHEDULE YOUR LIFE! I used to say yes to everything and plan my life down to the minute. I didn’t even realize I was doing this! Now I build in 15 minute windows to my schedule, occasional hours or evenings of “unstructured time” and and entire weekend days with zero plans. I need it to unwind.
10. LOOK AT TECHNOLOGY right before bed and first thing when you wake up: Zing, stressor! Now I try to put my phone away to charge by 8 or 9pm and wait until 8am to check my emails or texts or Instagram updates. This allows me time to tech detox every night, rather than having stress build in my system from technology and social media overload.
LET’S TAKE A LITTLE BREATHER, COUNT TO THREE. THINK OF SOMETHING HAPPY. OK, YOU CAN CONTINUE NOW!
I don’t want to overwhelm you or “stress you out!”
11. DON’T CHEW YOUR FOOD. Ok, please, CHEW. I would eat massive chopped salads for lunch at my cubicle while writing back to “stressful” emails, and use seltzer water to help get the food down my throat. I would seriously barely chew because I had this crazy notion that if I didn’t chew, my system would have to work harder and I’d burn MORE calories. THATS CRAZY and NOT TRUE. I’d also eat part of my breakfast as I was fast-walking to the subway. Your digestive process essentially comes to a complete stop when in an alert, stressed and sympathetic STRESSED OUT nervous system state. This leads to bloating, inflammation, leaky gut, digestive issues and more stress on the system.
12. DO METABOLIC CONDITIONING 5-6X A WEEK: I would sometimes do five high metabolic intensity workouts a week, at 6am, and then rush to work. This workout regimen is a recipe for disaster. High-intensity metabolic conditioning is fine (bootcamps, interval sprints, spinning), but aim for two a week, max. And try to build in ten minutes after your workout to stretch and unwind and let your nervous system calm down, rather than grabbing your keys and booking it out the door and rushing to your next thing.
13. WORK OUT AT 6AM ON AN EMPTY STOMACH: If you’re going for a long-walk on an empty stomach or a yoga class or a slow jog. FINE. Do it on an empty stomach if you want. But don’t do a bootcamp or high-intensity workout on an empty stomach. Your body thinks you are 1) in a famine AND 2) running away from the tiger. Eat something small (about 100-150 calories) pre-workout so your body knows fuel is available and nearby.
14. LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY – OR FOR DANA, IN WASHINGTON, DC: Yup, had to include this zinger. This place is absolutely nuts and a feeding-ground for stress. Being in nature can automatically bring your stress-levels down 15-20%. That’s HUGELY SIGNIFICANT. How can you bring in nature to your life? Schedule hikes outside the city? Walk along a beach? Put in ear-phones and walk along a river? Buy a plant for your window?
15. RUSH TO WORK. EVERY DAY. FOR YEARS. This one kills me. We had a very strict 9am arrival policy and I always exercised in the mornings and often cut it too close. Therefore, I essentially created a 30+ minute stress-response every single morning. For over six years. If could do it again, I’d build in that ten minutes of extra time. Or better yet, I’d have a very candid conversation with my boss about how if I got to work at 9:01am, or 9:10am or god forbid, 9:15 or 9:30am, I’d be sure to stay later in the day to wrap up my work.
16. WORK UNTIL YOU ARE SICK. I now believe in taking a day-off BEFORE YOU GET SICK. You can tell when this is happening. You know when a cold is coming on or the flu. Why don’t we have pre-sick days rather than sick days? If everyone took two “pre-sick” days a year, and rested and putzed around the house in sweatpants, went for a walk, read a book and got a massage, we’d all be a lot healthier.
17. WORK UNTIL YOU ARE BURNED OUT. I used to go pedal-to-the-metal for five weeks, and then experience a huge crash where I’d have to cancel all my weekend plans and have a “Michelle Weekend” where I’d sleep, hole up in sweats, go to the gym or yoga, do errands, re-set my life and not see a soul. My friends came to expect this of me, and I of myself. I’d work, work, work, and then crash. That, my friends, is burnout.
18. BE A PERFECTIONIST. Still working on this one. Dealing with failure or constructive criticism or criticism in general is really hard for me. I rarely ask for feedback (Business 101, FAIL). But seriously, perfectionism is the root of many stressors in life. Can you be good-enough? Can you lower the bar? Can you aim for B’s instead of A’s? Can you also realize that your 85% perfect is someone else’s best effort? You’re doing great, be content.
19. NUMB YOUR BODY. If you really listen, your body is telling you you’re stressed. Here are some physical signs :: tight or rigid torso, migraines, tension headaches, restricted breathing, skin breaking out, a deep feeling of fatigue, feeling “wired and tired” at night, not being able to get out of bed in the morning, lying wide-eyed at night not able to fall asleep, feeling like a run or a glass of wine is the only thing that’s going to chill you out. Here are some mental signs: anxiety, overwhelm, hopelessness, wanting to cry, feeling depleted, feeling constantly busy. This is stress in the body and the mind. So don’t numb yourself with food, alcohol, caffeine, constant busyness, over-scheduling, over-work, bad relationships or technology-addiction. Go for a walk and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
20. BE HARD ON YOURSELF. Always aim for the next best thing, punish yourself with workouts, push yourself to eat a certain way. NO. Be gentle, learn to mother yourself, be kind to what your body needs, realize that what you might need will change day-over-day. You are your own best cheerleader, your own best advocate, so love yourself up and I promise you, it will help.
WELL, NOW YOU KNOW. That felt extremely personal to write and if I helped one person, I’ll consider this a success.
REMEMBER: THIS TOOK ME YEARS TO FIGURE OUT.
And now I work with many of my private nutrition clients – in personalized health coaching programs of just six months – to improve their eating patterns, lifestyle habits AND stress-responses.
You can start working on this NOW. Do some research. YOU are the CEO of your own health. Don’t give yourself adrenal fatigue.
Having a coach can really help. Find more of my work on www.FitVista.com and let’s connect via Instagram at @michellefitvista and email me at email@example.com with your questions!
Thanks again Dana, and guys, remember,
You ARE Calm & Strong.