What a time to start having insomnia! I was in my second year of post graduate school and it was the beginning of final exams. Not being able to sleep at night only added to my stress levels. That of course made relaxing enough to get a good nights rest almost impossible.
Fortunately, I made it through my exams with passing marks in each course. But little did I know at the time, that what had happened to me was a part of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome.
What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?
Adrenal fatigue syndrome (aka adrenal gland fatigue, or adrenal exhaustion) is a serious health problem that can disrupt your ability to cope and function properly. It's the result of overworked and over stressed adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are two small triangular shaped glands that sit on top of each of our kidneys. They help our bodies to cope with all kinds of stress - mental, emotional, physical, psychological, etc. We need them to work properly to be at a level where we can cope well with the stressful events that are part of our lives.
A long and stressful school year weakened my adrenal glands, and when the additional stress of final exams came, they were not able to function at full capacity. This is known as hypoadrenia.
Dr. James L. Wilson, author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome refers to adrenal fatigue as an "invisible epidemic." It's not talked about very much by the mainstream medical community even though it IS a real health concern.
He estimates that up to 80% of adult Americans suffer from some form of adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives. That is serious! Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is becoming more and more common in our stressed out modern day society.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
The main symptom of adrenal fatigue syndrome is not surprisingly, fatigue. But fatigue is just one of many things that can happen. Here are some others:
The number and severity of symptoms a person will experience all depends on just how depleted those poor adrenal glands are. These symptoms are all too common these days and common in other health conditions.
Dr. James L. Wilson says that if you've got 3 or more of these adrenal fatigue symptoms, then your adrenals may be exhausted. He's got a a comprehensive adrenal fatigue questionnaire in the book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. The book also contains some simple self-help tests that confirmed my adrenal fatigue.
For me, that was enough. But for anyone who wants a lab test comfirmation, there is a list of some tests a medical doctor can order.
If you've got any symptoms of adrenal fatigue, why not start doing something about it now? Please don't be like me and allow yourself to get burned out again and again. It can take years to recover if you let it go. But if you do something about it early, it's easier to reverse.
Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
Our adrenal glands were designed to help us cope with stress. In response to stress, they secrete adrenalin and other hormones that allow our bodies to respond and cope.
If we experience an extreme amount of stress that exceeds the capacity of our adrenal glands to cope and respond they can become fatigued. The extreme stress can be in the form of a major traumatic life event. Or it can be a series of one stressful event after another. It can even be ongoing stress that never seems to end.
Here are some other things that can lead to the development of adrenal fatigue syndrome.
In my case, it had been a very heavy and stressful school year. I really liked the program I was in, but there were two areas in it that conflicted with my religious convictions. So on top of the study time involved, I was faced that year with a major decision about whether to continue or not.
With all of that continued stress, my adrenal glands got overloaded and depleted. They were not able to secrete their normal levels of adrenal hormones, especially cortisol. My adrenals did not get a chance to recover and by exam time they were exhausted.
We all have different tolerance levels for stress. Some people can handle large amounts of stress and still thrive. Others can only take stress in small doses. We're all different and that's perfectly okay.
It's important for us to be aware of our ability to handle stress and to keep that in mind when making future plans or when people ask us to take on projects.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If any of this sounds familiar, it's time to do something about it.
Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to start feeling better and even better, to prevent adrenal fatigue in the first place.
In part two, I will talk about the natural remedies I am using to recover my adrenal glands and live life more fully.
For more detailed information about Adrenal Fatigue, the book I mentioned in the beginning of this article - Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson is a good one to read.
Follow my journey as I return to the original plan for living and eating...