Adrenal fatigue and stress don’t mix. Or to put it simpler, stress causes HPA axis dysfunction (the scientific term for adrenal fatigue). So, if you’re hoping to heal from adrenal fatigue, you’ve got to get your stress levels under control. But how can you make the necessary changes when life flat-out won’t let you? You know… like during a global pandemic?
Life can be hard, and the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout have made it harder.
Pre-pandemic, you might have been able to manage work commute-related anxiety with deep-breathing exercises. Post-pandemic, you might not have a job anymore.
Pre-pandemic, if your kids were driving you up the wall, you could head to the gym to kick-box your frustration away. Post-pandemic, you can barely leave your house.
The fact is, your tried-and-true stress mitigation techniques might be way over-matched by the new reality. Nevertheless, you can find ways to cope.
There’s good reason to prioritize self-care during the pandemic, too. Reducing your stress allows your immune system to function at its best.
Stress is a part of everyday life, but many of us experience it in unsustainable proportions. Over time, high levels of stress can lead to a condition called HPA axis dysfunction.
What’s HPA axis dysfunction, anyway?
HPA axis dysfunction is a disorder of the neuroendocrine system that regulates immune, digestive, and emotional responses. HPA axis dysfunction is commonly called “adrenal fatigue,” even though the adrenal cortex is only one element within the HPA axis.
Addressing HPA axis dysfunction requires a comprehensive treatment plan. The goal is always to address the causes of the dysfunction and treat any illnesses that may have resulted. But, in this case, the cause is stress.
Unfortunately, reducing stress is challenging, especially if the sources of your stress are people and situations you cannot change.
Like school cancellations and a global lockdown.
Managing stress, when you can’t reduce stress
So, how can you navigate your life healthfully when your life might be making you sick?
1. Identify your destressors
If you can’t reduce your stressors, increasing your destressors is the first step. These might include:
- Regular exercise
- Mindful meditation
- Healthy diet
- Intentional positivity
2. Become a student of your stress
Pay attention to feelings of stress and anxiety. Don’t stuff them, and ignore them. Here are a few things that might help you make healthy choices, even when circumstances make healthy choices exceptionally difficult.
- Document the things that cause you to feel stressed. Some stress is so pervasive that we cannot even isolate exactly what causes it. Keep a stress journal, which can be a simple, hand-held notepad. Write down the events that lead you to feel the most stress and anxiety. Be sure to also write down what you do about those feelings. Do you use anything to cope? You don’t have to write a long entry about each event – unless doing so makes you feel better. What you want is an easy-to-read account of the different incidents that trigger feelings of anxiety. You also want to look at the habits you’ve developed to cope. This will help you take inventory of the things that may be damaging your health.
- Don’t tackle unrelenting stress alone. It would be extremely easy if you could simply quit your stressful job and find equally well-paying employment that didn’t cause emotional distress. Unfortunately, this just isn’t possible for most of us. If your stress is career-related, it can be very tricky to address it, since some jobs are high pressure by their very nature. But work isn’t the only “unsolvable” stressor. Maybe there’s a family member you have issues with and have to see. Whatever it is, when you can’t reduce the stress, get help. Our functional medicine practitioners all trained to help support you reduce and manage stress.
- Seek support for relationship stress. Even the healthiest intimate relationships can be dynamic, rewarding, disappointing, exciting, fulfilling, challenging, and stressful all at the same time. However, if you have a relationship that legitimately causes you high levels of persistent stress – stress that is ruining your health – you have to seriously reevaluate your situation. If you find it challenging to break away – either because of financial dependency or possible emotional/physical abuse – don’t attempt to leave without having the resources you need to keep you safe. Online support forums or a counselor who treats survivors of domestic abuse may be the best option if you have any concerns that seeking help from friends or family may result in greater personal turmoil.
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Vytal Health helps patients determine the most effective, individualized course of action for reducing your stress and correcting your HPA axis dysfunction. To begin your wellness journey, please contact our team.