What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed: Caring for your body
Many of us experience little moments of feeling stressed, but when that stress leads to long-term overwhelm, it can have extensive and far-reaching consequences. It can impact every part of our personal and professional lives, and often feel unmanageable.
Events of the past few years have hit those living in regional communities particularly hard. And those feelings of overwhelm – although they may start in the mind – will eventually show up in the body as adrenal fatigue.
But the good news is, if you’re feeling that life is just too much, there are some techniques that can help support your body and its vital processes. We will explain the signs of adrenal fatigue to look out for, and how you can help yourself.
In addition to promoting good health, focusing on your body can also bring an awareness and mindfulness to the present moment, which can in turn, help your mind.
What is adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a term that is widely used, but not very often understood. In fact, ‘adrenal fatigue’ is not technically an accepted medical diagnosis. Instead it is a term that is used to describe a loose collection of symptoms centred around feeling tired all of the time. In other words, if you are tired all the time, this might be described by health practitioners as adrenal fatigue.
So what is it? Well adrenal glands are hormone-producing organs that sit on top of the kidneys. Their job is to produce adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol (among other hormones) which regulate your body’s response to stress.
However, for those people who feel stressed day in and day out, it is said that this overproduction of hormones can lead to adrenal exhaustion. They then can’t do their job properly.
While there’s no real scientific evidence that these glands are at the epicentre of the feelings of tiredness we get when exposed to ongoing stress. The fact remains, that the results are the same. When we are overstressed, our ability to cope and manage in additional stressful situations is hampered, and we get more and more tired.
Signs of adrenal fatigue
Every body is different. And because of that, everyone experiencing adrenal fatigue will present symptoms in a different way. However, the below list of adrenal fatigue signs can give a general indication of what to look out for in your body.
- Brain fog
- Insomnia – either unable to fall asleep or waking during the night
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling like you are unable to relax, nervousness
- Body aches
- Experiencing rushes of adrenaline
- Heart palpitations at night or when feeling stressed
- Feeling irritable when stressed
- Low libido
- Low blood pressure
- Digestive issues
- Cravings for salty or sugary foods
Ways you can help your body
If you are experiencing any of the above signs of adrenal fatigue, there are a number of things you can do to help calm your body and potentially ease it out of that fight-or-flight stress response.
- Supplements – Some practitioners may recommend certain health supplements to support the adrenals. These might include ashwagandha, holy basil leaf, phosphatidylserine, rhodiola, asian ginseng, vitamin C or magnesium. Of course you should always speak to your doctor before starting any supplement regime.
- Sleep – Prioritise sleep and aim to get six to eight hours of quality sleep each night. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try increasing your physical activity during the day, turning off the TV earlier at night (and avoiding other screens before bed), modifying the temperature in your room and ensuring it’s dark and quiet.
- Caffeine and alcohol – Try cutting down – or giving up – caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is known for putting a strain on your adrenals, so it might be wise to steer clear right now. (A hard thing to do when you’re feeling low on energy, we know!)
- Water – Drink lots of water throughout the day. Hydration is important for the endocrine system.
- Exercise – High-impact exercise is said to negatively affect your adrenals because of the extra cortisol produced. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s a good time to swap high-intensity workouts for low-impact options, such as yoga or walking. Even better, do your exercise out in nature and let the biophilia effect lift your mood.
- Mindfulness – Take up a physical practice that offers meditative/mindfulness benefits. This could be yoga, tai chi, walking, cycling or swimming. Anything that lets you achieve a meditative state.
- Epsom baths – Take regular Epsom salt baths. A bath will help to relax your entire body. And Epsom salts will also provide a boost of magnesium, which is often impacted when under stress.
- Protein – Make sure you’re eating enough protein throughout the day, as this can also help support your adrenals.
- Processed foods. Processed food can have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels and are associated with higher stress levels. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s best to avoid this type of food.
- Rest – While chill time is important for your mind, it’s also vital that you build some physical breaks into your week too. Schedule a nominated ‘rest day’ or work regular breaks into your daily routine.
- Deep breathing – Set aside five to 10 minutes several times each day to practise deep breathing. Your nervous system will thank you for it. Not only will you physically relax and encourage full oxygen exchange, but it should also help calm your mind.Diaphragmatic breathing slows your heartbeat and can help lower or stabilise blood pressure.
Follow this guide from Harvard Medical School.
- Alternative health therapies –.Some believe that trauma and stress can become trapped inside your body. Consider alternative health therapies such as acupuncture or neuro-emotional technique (NET) to see if these might align with you.
- Educate – Learning more about your body, how stress impacts you and how you to navigate it will really help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Check out this webinar on the power of emotions and their effects on the body. Or this one exploring the fight-or-flight response and the benefits of a conscious breathing practice.
- Get help – Seek help when you need it. Contact a crisis support service such as:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Find more mental health resources online here.
If you are displaying signs of adrenal fatigue, there are things you can do. Try the suggestions here or reach out to a professional. They can make sure that you have the techniques that are right for you.
How to cope with overwhelm and trauma
What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed: Caring for your body
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article should be considered general advice only and professional advice should always be obtained.
If you need to speak to someone, please call:
Lifeline: 131 114
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636