The dreaded 3pm slump. I can't tell you how many times I've gone seeking a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar at this bewitching hour, promising myself I'll abide by a 10pm bedtime. But what's the point when you're tossing and turning for over an hour? Getting out of bed the next morning feels impossible, and when you do, the brain fog is so dense you can't help but wonder, "Am I depressed? I don't think I'm depressed, but..."
Vicious cycle, right?
It happens to those with the best of intentions - the go-getters, the supermoms, the dedicated employees. The good news? There's one little walnut-sized commonality to that cycle: your adrenals.
Think of your adrenal glands like little sponges that sit on top of your kidneys. With assistance from cortisol they modulate your body's response to stress. The problem is that our current high-paced lifestyles are ringing out these little sponges and leaving them chronically depleted. This can lead to fatigue, hypoglycemia, sleep disruptions and mild depression, to name a few.
But won't stressing about my adrenal health lead to compromised adrenal health? I know, I know. Seems counterproductive. The good news is there are plenty of ways to replenish those adrenals. First we need to assess the situation and then we can quickly move on to whether your precious energy should be diverted toward nurturing them.
THE FIVE SIGNS:
1) You could sleep for 5 hours or 9 hours - and feel the same
If you're slow to start in the morning, tired for most of the day or cannot function without coffee, we're talking to you. Chronic fatigue and compromised cognitive function are signs your adrenals need to be fortified.
2) Your fight or flight mechanism is constantly being activated
Maybe it's career or family stress. Maybe you're planning a wedding. Whatever the source, until you develop a solid practice for cushioning your body against stress (deep yoga breathing, anyone?) you are vulnerable to adrenal fatigue.
3) You're a night owl
Having difficulty falling asleep can indicate a need for adrenal support. Output of cortisol should decline during the day, meaning your energy starts out strong and gradually winds down. For those with adrenal fatigue output is often switched, meaning you're keyed up when you should be chilling out.
4) Blood sugar regulation is a problem for you
Adrenal health and blood sugar are so intimately connected that it's hard to talk about one without the other. Be honest - if it wasn't for that 3pm pick-me-up, would you be able to coast from lunch into dinner? Are your afternoons marked with an embarrassing onslaught of yawning?
5) So bright you gotta wear shades
We log our steps, we log our food... can time logged behind a pair of sunglasses be our next assessment tool? Believe it or not, an intolerance to bright light can be yet another indicator of adrenal insufficiency. Before jumping to conclusions challenge yourself to see how long you can go without your shades. After all, maybe it's just habit. Notice if your pupil constricts in bright light or if it ultimately dilates. If it's the latter then it's time to work on those adrenals!
HOW TO COPE:
Hard to believe two little glands can cause so many big problems, huh? Do your adrenals need some TLC? Here are some strategies you can implement to bolster your energy naturally and break this cycle.
Supplementation can serve as a great bridge to span from your current challenges onto ideal health. Adaptogens are a family of herbs that do just what their names suggests. They help you adapt - to stress! If your Type A tendencies have you feeling like a windup toy, adaptogens will gently ground you. Likewise if you're slow to start, this same family of botanicals will boost you, but not in the intense way caffeine and sugar do. Now you know why ginseng, ashwagandha, rhodiola and holy basil all live on the pharmacy shelf together!
Sleep from 10-2
That's 10 at night, folks! Your adrenals replenish between the hours of 10PM and 2AM. So if you only sleep 6 hours per night, you're better served to sleep from 10PM - 4AM than midnight - 6AM. I'll say it again. Lights out by 10PM! Give your adrenal glands the best chance at recovery by enacting a curfew (and set your tech curfew for one hour prior). And by all means, prioritize getting 8 hours or more. The path to abundant energy is paved with restful sleep.
Just Say "No!"
We already know caffeine is a drug (sorry, no arguing there - it's a stimulant). The same can be said of sugar. These substances can have a pretty tight hold on us. It's not a good feeling when we aren't in control. So stop! Leave yourself a sticky note with some tough love. Stock your desk drawer with an assortment of flavored teas. Go brush your teeth. Whatever motivates you, this is the time to recite your "why" 10 times. Stop letting 3pm be frappuccino o'clock.
Switch up your exercise routine
Think pilates, yoga, barre, stretching... Intense workouts have their merit, but if you're recovering from adrenal fatigue you want to be careful about stimulating cortisol production. Just can't wrap your head around a slower pace? Then limit your HIIT sessions to early AM, and choose a restorative activity to balance out every extreme activity. This is not the time to worry about weight gain. In fact your thyroid, which aligns in the endocrine system above the adrenals, has probably been feeling like it's engaged in a precarious game of Jenga. Imagine how happy your thyroid will be once it has a solid adrenal foundation again.
Make these habit shifts and experience a natural energy surge once again. I know it's a challenge, so feel free to hit me up on social media if you need a little extra push. Let's exhale those stress-buffering sighs of relief together!