You may have noticed that my posts haven’t been exactly chipper this week. For some reason, this just hasn’t been the best week. Nothing bad happened, nothing that really warrants this kind of feeling, but I’ve just been in a funk this week. It’s a familiar feeling.
About a year ago, I found myself in a doctor’s office complaining about this feeling, and after some really fun blood tests, we realized that I was experiencing the classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue. I felt like I was dragging through life, I never felt rested after time off or a good night’s sleep, tiny things seemed like monumental tasks, and I was struggling with depression and anxiety. On top of that, we found out that I was allergic to dairy, that my blood sugar was dangerously low, and I had several nutritional deficiencies that perpetuate and are caused by adrenal insufficiency. All effects of chronic stress.
That was a wake-up call for a major life overhaul, which helped a lot. I felt great last summer. My energy came back, I lost a lot of weight, I reconnected with my creativity, and the anxiety and depression I’d struggled with for years seemed to evaporate.
Now I’m not feeling so hot. It’s nothing like it was last year, mostly because my attitude adjustment and healthier perspective keeps me more or less level headed, but I’m noticing that my energy is dragging again, even if I get a lot of sleep. Seemingly normal tasks often overwhelm me. I’ve been feeling a little of that anxiety and depression lately. My dairy allergy is back and I feel that familiar brain fog that comes with chronically low blood sugar. The weird part is, nothing overly stressful has happened. Sure, we had some financially tight weeks and I went back to work full time, but these things seemed to affect me more than they should have. I’m not guilt tripping myself for being weak or anything, I’m just noticing.
I don’t think that my little glands had sufficient time to heal. This isn’t happening again, but still. I might just be noticing it more because I’ve always had trouble in the winter, and that may be contributing. Either way, my body needs to heal. Adrenal insufficiency can take years to heal, so if I have any hope of functioning at my best in the future, I need to take my self-care seriously. I need time for physical and emotional healing.
I think a lot of us try push ourselves to live harder than what we can handle. We expect so much our ourselves, we cling to deadlines and to-do lists, we try to use our time as efficiently as possible, we fill our schedules with so much good stuff so we can feel like we’re accomplishing something. Then we burn out. We might even try to push through that.
Is pushing toward burnout faster a good use of our time, or would be be better off moving slowly, caring for our bodies and spirits along the way so they’ll last longer? Is everything really so important that we must run ourselves into the ground?
Conserve your energy. Refill your well. Understand that you are a human being who has limits, and that using “logic” to plan your life doesn’t always work, because logic doesn’t anticipate for human needs. We are not machines.
Take time to heal if you need to, and take time to maintain if you are healthy.
I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to push myself, but now I realize that I need to take recovery seriously. This means rest. This means feeding myself well, because this kind of condition tends to suck minerals out of your body. This also requires a serious examination of priorities. This might not be the best time for time-consuming, energy-zapping pursuits or overly ambitious goals.
Right now, the goal is healing. If I have to choose between much needed rest and something that I “should” be doing, I choose rest. I choose to give myself what I truly need and not what I think I should need. It’s ok to let some things go undone.
Do you need some extra care right now?
What a week! I’m finally moved into an apartment that I LOVE, Sam and I have both found jobs and things seem to be coming together. Things will be tight, but we’ll make it. I feel like I can finally breathe. I’ve gotten out of a situation that wasn’t good for me and now I feel like it’s time for some healing for body and spirit.
We often think of health as purely a matter of body, but our emotional state has a profound effect on our bodies, so if we’re stressed, sad, angry, or fearful, expect to feel it in your body. Ever gotten sick during finals week? Yeah, me too. As for me, my chronic stress has run my poor adrenal glands ragged, which in turn messed up my glucose levels, which exacerbates my compulsive eating tendencies which also feed on emotional distress. Though emotional discomfort is not fun on its own, it’s taken a toll on my body.
If you’re experiencing any emotional distress, I urge you to take some time to heal before it damages your precious body. I’ve spent a lot of quiet time with my mind and body lately, paying attention to those tiny nagging pains, the fatigue, the anxiety, and all of my emotions, good and bad. I ask myself, “What do I need to heal my emotions, my tired adrenal glands and my relationship with food?” As yourself what you need, and take the time to find answers. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Emotional safety– Let’s start at the beginning: if you don’t feel safe to feel and express your emotions, they will fester inside of you and wreck all kinds of havoc on your body. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe. If you feel trapped in anything, whether it’s a damaging relationship, a ridiculously stressful job, a less-than-ideal living situation, get out. It’s scary, it’s hard, but it’s the first and biggest step.
- Rest– Our bodies and minds don’t function properly without sufficient sleep and downtime, and if you’re strained you probably need more than most people. The recommended eight hours is just a guideline; if you’re emotionally depleted or fighting off an illness, take more. It’s not excessive, or self-indulgent, it’s what you need. If you need more than twenty minutes of “you time” every day, do whatever you need to take it without feeling guilty. Remember, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
- Nutritional support– Food is more than stuff to keep that nagging growling stomach at bay, or to soothe our emotions. Food is what our bodies use to rebuild themselves and to function, so if you constantly feed it damaged food, you’re going to get a damaged body. Learn to listen to your body, pay attention to how certain foods make you feel so you can feel yourself the right things. Use high-quality supplements to fill in some gaps if necessary, at least a whole food multi and possibly fish oil as well.
- Creative expression– Everyone is creative, even if you don’t paint or write novels or compose symphonies. Return to a creative activity you loved as a child, or try a new one. Visit art galleries, go to plays, read mystery novels and look for little opportunities to be creating, like when you’re making dinner or helping your kids with school project. If you’re a very artistic person whose been blocked for awhile, (like yours truly) this is especially important. Creative constipation is damaging to the spirit. Creativity is part of being human and a huge part of being healthy. Recognize it, cultivate it.
- Grounding rituals– Life is hectic. Duh. A couple soothing rituals can serve as anchors in the midst of all the craziness, whether it’s getting up ten minutes earlier for a cup of herbal tea, taking five minutes to mediate after work, or doing relaxing stretches to prepare for bed. Come back to these rituals a few times every day to root yourself down.
- Meditative movement– The physical and mental benefits of exercise are well-documented, but the spiritual perks are immeasurable. Find a way of moving that connects you to your body and nature. Walking works well for just about everyone, but try dance, yoga, martial arts, biking, or even canoeing. Appreciate what your body can do and use your movement sessions not only to tone your body, but to listen to it and to clear your head.
- A constant positive outlook– Surround yourself with positivity. Plaster your home with sticky notes bearing uplifting messages. Guided mediations are awesome, so get some CDs or podcasts. Carry a journal constantly to write through negative feelings and come back to a positive place. Train yourself to replace your destructive thoughts with healing ones. Spend time with people who think highly of you.
The world is full of books on each of these steps. Some people learn these the hard way and some cultivate these skills early on to avoid learning them the hard way. The key is to listen to your emotions and your body simultaneously. They both speak to you in symphony and it’s amazing what they’ll tell you.
How have your emotions affected your body?