Recently I had the privilege of serving as keynote speaker at the Warrior Moms’ Pajama Party, an annual event held in honor of moms of special needs children by the Healing Complex Kids organization. The idea for this weekend retreat was both to give these caregivers some much needed time for themselves, and to stress the need for self care when you’re caring for others. The event included fun social events, pampering spa treatments, educational presentations and ever-elusive free time — all well-deserved! As a specialist in women’s hormone issues, I know that self care is important to all caregivers, because if we’re not our best, we can’t give our best to others. With that in mind, I’ve adapted my presentation for a wider audience and will present it in four parts.
Self Care: Caring for Yourself First Makes it Possible to Care for Others Better
I have previously expressed how important it is for caregivers on any level to make it a priority to first care for themselves. While it may seem counterintuitive and even selfish to make yourself a priority when caring for aging parents, special needs children, or even just staying on top of normal tasks associated with managing a career, maintaining household and raising a family, it’s actually a necessary part of doing these jobs effectively.
Of course, sometimes feeling tired and overwhelmed comes with the territory, so we tend to ignore these symptoms and hope they’ll pass. When they don’t, and excessive fatigue become chronic, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, it’s time to take note and, possibly, action.
We’ve discussed how an improperly working thyroid can play a role in chronic fatigue. For this issue, we’ll talk about how important adrenal function is to overall wellness.
The Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands are known as the stress glands, because they are responsible for managing your body’s response to a range of emotional and physical stressors through the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Also called your “fight or flight response,” the release of these hormones prepares your body for action by allowing you a surge of energy and an elevation in blood pressure, and suppressing other body functions — like reproductive hormones and immunity — that aren’t crucial in the moment.
While this is one of your body’s most natural and valuable survival mechanisms, it works best when activated temporarily and then allowed to return to a normal state. When in a constant state of stress, as many multi-tasking caregivers are, the continual release of cortisol can suppress the immune system, raise stroke, cancer and heart attack risk, decrease sexual drive, disrupt sleep patterns, and contribute to a host of other chronic illnesses and conditions.
There are several tests that can help determine if your stress glands are functioning properly. If adrenal function is compromised, there are a variety of natural remedies involving proper nutrition and, not surprisingly, stress management, to get you back on the road to adrenal health.
- Strive for quality sleep. For maximum wellness and healing, most people need 7+ hours of sleep per night, with five of those hours being uninterrupted. Avoid electronics and heavy foods in the hours leading up to bed time, crank down the air to create a cool environment and consider a white noise machine or natural sleep aid to help you relax and prepare for sleep.
- Eat a nutritious diet. Empty calories may keep you from being hungry, but they do little for healing and wellness. Healthy foods help keep you healthy, so add more protein and complex carbohydrates to your diet while avoiding caffeine and carbonated beverages, simple (white) carbs, refined sugars, processed junk foods and fast foods.
- Work herbal support specific for adrenal gland function into your diet to help rebuild glandular function. In addition, consider supplementing your diet with a quality multivitamin, magnesium, Vitamin C and the appropriate B complex to take some of the burden off the adrenals.
- Participate in light exercise 3-4 times per week. Because strenuous exercise raises cortisol levels, it is best avoided when you’re already stressed. Save that for less stressful times and instead try Pilates, Yoga, or walking during high stress times.
- Learn to meditate. While you don’t have to become a Zen Master to help manage your stress, learning to relax, really focus and master deep breathing can be helpful. At the very least, reserve a few minutes every day for journaling or concentrating on positive thoughts or happy memories. Taking time to focus on things you are grateful for can keep other stressors in perspective.
At Infinity Wellness Center, we are experienced in adrenal health care from testing to treatment. We can not only help you determine if your adrenal function is keeping your from feeling your best, but prepare a personalized plan that includes nutrition and relaxation guidelines as well as the best herbal, vitamin and hormone support to get you back on the road to wellness.