As I look back over my entire medical career, this is the 3rd major economic/societal disaster I have experienced. I was working in radiology in an ER, 2nd shift, at a hospital in Flint, Michigan on 9/11/2001. When the financial world fell apart 2007-2009, I was just 26 years old, literally months into private practice, with a mountain of student loans and business debt. WORST. TIME. EVER. to start a new business! And of course no one will forget March 2020 and what it looks like to navigate the COVID world.
What I do know about these three cataclysms is that we all have the strength and grit to get through them, and we will also ALL come out of it exhausted! There is a very HIGH chance we will all get adrenal fatigue, which leads to inflammation, thyroid dysfunction, sometimes autoimmunity, and even cardiac issues.
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In my personal and professional experience, 2020 has been, by far, the worst of all three. Not only are we still in a COVID pandemic, but we are navigating floods, the west coast burning to the ground, home schooling, racial tension is palpable, election-year uggghhh election year, social media anger, it’s all too much. All the while being socially distanced, masked, and continually being the most hyper-connected to information, yet disconnected from humanity and nature the planet has ever seen.
These events are leading to a terrible situation for our physiology. Human physiology is designed to adapt to stress for short times and then return to homeostasis (normal). Like running from a tiger or bear. We are not built for this. Not 6 months of missing your friends, your community, your people. Not 6 months of watching the world hate one another. Not 6 months of the unknown…Will I get sick? Will I get laid off? Will I get to see my loved ones at Christmas? This is leaving us in fight or flight for hours, days, weeks, and months instead of minutes.
The problem with our world as we know it is that we NEVER get away from stress as it is. Insert 2020 and it all intensifies the fight or flight response and burns out our adrenals.
This level of stress, for this amount of time, leads everyone (not an overstatement; I mean EVERYONE) to be overly stressed or, to put it another way, to be adrenally fatigued. I am seeing it everyday in almost every patient right now. I see the exhaustion in their eyes, the worry, the stress.
In practice right now, most people walking in the door have some adrenal fatigue, not a medical level condition of Adrenal Insufficiency or Addison’s Disease but adrenal exhaustion, causing all kinds of other imbalances.
Here are the signs and symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
- Feeling tired; struggling to wake up in the morning
- Low Thyroid
- Irregular Periods
- Low Sex Homrones
- Low Motivation
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up at night
- A mid-afternoon slump (falling asleep at 3 pm)
- Anxiety, or feeling on edge
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Autoimmune issues
- Brain fog
- Body aches
- Hair loss
- Lightheadedness (especially when going from lying to standing)
- Adjustments don’t hold
- Slow Healing time
- Potential decrease in immune function
What can you do RIGHT AWAY to pull out of it and get your endocrine system under control:
Diet– Avoid refined sugars/carbs, cut out bread, and most things that use wheat or grain flours.
Eat smaller meals a bit more often to keep your blood sugar stable. There is a ton of debate on this one, but you have to keep cortisol down to help the adrenals balance themselves.
Exercise– If you are more exhausted after exercise, then you are doing too much. You may need to switch to a lower intensity like walking, or hatha yoga.
Meditation– This has been crucial for me and is possibly the only reason I am still upright. I like the CALM app, but there is also Headspace and other meditation apps out there.
Breathwork– This will renew motivation, boost mood, and calm your anxiety. I am a BIG FAN of Nadi Shodhana or “alternate nostril breathing.“
Support– This is based on your individual needs, but a good start is methylated B-complex, Vitamin C, and adaptogenic herbs. Minerals like Magnesium, or GABA, are good if you have a lot of Anxiety. But really, we need to dig in and figure out what is best for you. To do that, you can book your appointment to discuss your specific problem set and what would be the right one for you.
We will get through this, I am certain of it! But it’s up to each of us how well or unwell we will come out of it on the other side. We would love to help you come out well!
Stay Healthy, Stay Safe, Stay Calm, Stay Sane!
Dr. Tenesha Wards