Category Archives: Mental Health

Helping out a very stressed little one… as naturally as possible…

Sorry for the gap in posts again.  I am afraid it is going to happen with more regularity, as the big news from us is that we have FINALLY been approved to adopt a little boy.  We have met him, we have been in front of a panel of people and they agreed we would be a good match, and we have even planned the introduction process.

Adoption

But over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about our prospective little boy, and how confused and upset he is likely to feel when he leaves his foster carers and their home, the only home he has ever known and comes to our home, the home he will be in for the rest of his life.  The only word I can use to describe what he will feel is trauma.

 

Now, we will of course do our utmost to ensure that the little guy is as comfortable as possible with the transition, but I am expecting some upsets.  Despite the best will in the world, his routine is going to be disturbed and upset, and that is unsettling for anyone.  Plus, you know, we are strangers to him at the moment and that has to be unnerving.   I have done some research into what I can do herbally to help him recover though, and I think it is advice I might be taking for hubby and I as well.

support

The first major thing in getting over any trauma at all, is to get support while you are going through it.  Obviously, we will be supporting our little boy, and luckily we have a wide and diverse network out there to support us.  I have no doubt we will be availing ourselves… be it with help with the ironing, to walking the dog duties, to being at the end of a telephone in case things get a bit much for us and we need to bounce ideas off of them.  We are blessed to have so many people ready and willing to help us out.

toddler sleeping

The next important thing is rest.  I am sure that our little one will sleep a lot.  He is at the age where he is making a lot of brain leaps anyway, and add into the mix the trauma of changing families, and he is going to be sleeping quite a bit more… on these occasions, sleep is great.  It rejuvenates, it helps the body to reinvigorate, and it restores the nervous system.  Sleep even brings greater resistance to stress.    Even if the night time sleep is patchy, there are always naps.  Naps are awesome and I have every intention of taking advantage of them as and when I can.

vegetables

Optimal nutrition is going to play a huge part in the recovery for our little guy.  We are lucky because the foster carers have done an amazing job with him, and he has a healthy appetite.  He eats everything that is put in front of him.  Except peas.  Well, that is okay, I don’t suppose I was wild about peas at his age either.  I am going to be keeping food simple, cooked from fresh and low on sugar and wheat.  He will get some wheat, because my readers will know I do not hold with cutting out major food groups just for the sake of it.  Sugar, of course, we all know is the enemy our modern age.  Fruit sugar… no problem.  Added sugar?  Not on your life!

 

The big thing though is going to be how he processes the trauma.  For adults there are myriad talking therapies, but for a little guy… well, we are kind of at a loss. We have made an introduction book for him which will be important to read with him again and again, and we can sit and quietly read books to him and tell him stories.  I think the major thing will be to create a calm atmosphere, maintain that calm atmosphere and be understanding when the meltdowns inevitably happen.

calm

 

But one thing I am definitely going to have in my arsenal is Bach Rescue Remedy.  I have seen it turn a hysterically crying child who is in shock after falling down and hurting themselves into a biddable quiet child again in very short order indeed.  I am even going to pack some in our baby bag (you know, the pantechnicon which is carried EVERYWHERE with you and is packed with everything you might possibly need!).  You never when you might need it… and not just for the baby!

 

I have no idea when I am going to be able to get back to this page… but I am sure you understand that my priorities lie elsewhere just at the moment.  In 1 months time, I will be a full time Mum to a nearly 14 month old.  Wow.  That takes some computing!

 

 

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Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that we possess…

I have been thinking about happiness a lot recently, especially this past week.  Everywhere I have looked there have been articles and posters about how gratitude is the successful attitude, about how happiness is essential for stress free living, all sorts of things like that.  And today, on my Flipboard App on my phone, there was an amazing article about the 5 skills you need to increase your happiness.  Okay, thought I, I am giving in to the signals I am being sent.  Here is a blog post all about happiness and getting more of it.

happiness 2

So, according to this article that I read this morning, the first skill you need in order to increase your grin quotient is the ability to savour things.  If you savour a meal, you take your time over it, you enjoy the flavours, the textures, the time and energy which it has taken to prepare and cook the food.   You linger, you prolong the experience and you intensify your enjoyment of the moment, making it last for as long as possible.   You should do the same in your everyday life.  You can savour the past, by reminiscing.  You can savour the future with positive anticipation of what might happen.  You can also savour the present moment – by using that often trotted out modern phrase, mindfulness.  Apparently, savouring life boosts optimism, reduces stress and gets rid of a whole lot of negative emotions, making you happier, more optimistic and more satisfied with life.   And the more you recognise the good stuff, the more good stuff you see.

thank you

The second skill which is required to increase happiness is to say thank you.  This is the attitude of gratitude writ large. If you can identify and appreciate the things people do for you, and the things themselves, and then say thank you… well, the result is sheer magic.  Not only does it increase your optimism and self confidence, but it has also been shown to dampen your desire for more “stuff” all the time (well, why do you need the newest and latest gadget when you are really thankful for the one you have in front of you?  Makes sense to me!).  Of course being sincerely thankful for the people in your life as well means that you can have a deeper relationship with them.  That is always worth it.  According to research, it can also give you longer and better quality sleep.  I am soooo up for some of that!!

goal quote

The third skill we need is to aspire.  This is a bit trickier – but basically it boils down to having a reason for being, a sense of purpose and to be hopeful.  It enable you to be optimistic about the future.  People who have created meaning in their lives are generally happier and more satisfied.  If you have ever experienced genuine (and not forced and false) optimism, you will know that you are drawn to them like a moth to a flame.  It is a magnet almost.  When you have that sense of purpose and a goal to aim towards, it makes goals seem attainable and challenges are easier to overcome.  You will feel more successful, and you will be more successful!  Also, if you use the skills you have in every day life, all the time, you will increase your self esteem, curb stress and increase your vitality.  So, if you have a skill, show it off!  And smile about it!

giving

The fourth thing to do to increase you happiness, and arguably, it is the one which ought to come first in this list, is giving.  Of course the person you are giving to will reap a reward, but did you know that the giver gets one too?  This is one of the reasons that every major faith has an aspect of charity to it.  Habitual givers have less stress, less isolation and less anger.  When you see what your gift can do for someone else, that makes you happier, more connected to the world and more open to new experiences.

compassion

Finally, happiness can be increased with the use of empathy.  Empathy is the ability to care about others.  If you can imagine and understand the thoughts, behaviours or ideas of other people, then congratulations, you are empathetic.  It is easier for some people than it is for others, but the good news is that compassion can be taught.  Empathy means that you will feel less judgemental, less frustrated, less angry and less disappointed about people.  Apparently it helps you to develop patience (Umm… I am very empathetic… I am just extremely impatient as well!).  Empathy also helps to solidify bonds between human beings, which is essential to the building and maintaining happy and healthy relationships.  This compassion needn’t just be for others though.  You need to be compassionate to yourself as well – the old “cut yourself some slack” argument.

I am definitely going to take up these five practices to increase the happiness in my life.  I could do with the extra boost, and especially if there is an upswing in the amount of patience that I might have.  To finish, I want to leave you with a quote from Terry Prince which I found on my Facebook timeline this morning…

“Your life is your Garden,

Your thoughts are the seeds,

If your life isn’t awesome,

You’ve been watering the weeds”

Here’s to happiness folks!

How waiting might be good for you… and how to survive it.

Fundamentally, I am a very impatient person.  I do not like to wait for things, and I have an extremely low tolerance for long queues, disorganisation and bad service.  In fact, it has been muttered by those close to me, that I have no tolerance for those things at all.  Unfortunately, my life had abounded in opportunities for me to learn how to be patient and how to wait.  Despite the extensive practice I have had, I am not doing very well at mastering the skill.

impatience

Yes, I do think that waiting calmly is a skill that needs to be developed.  I have a theory (and it is only a theory) that patience is not a virtue… it’s genetic, and that particular gene skipped me over entirely.  It would certainly explain a lot!

I am not saying that I can’t wait.  I can.  I have to.  I am not so petulant as to believe that everything I desire needs to be delivered to me right now.  (Well, okay, I sometimes think that, but I know that real life doesn’t work that way, and sometimes you have to suck it up and just go with it).  The thing that I can’t do is to wait patiently, to wait with grace, and to believe that it will happen (whatever it is) when the time is right.  I really, really struggle with this.

waiting

Luckily, I have a faith.  I really do not know how I would cope without one.  If I can tell myself that what I am hoping for will happen in God’s time, then I find it helps me to control the impatience I feel.  I still get annoyed that I HAVE to wait, but at least, I have the belief that it will happen when God decides it is the right time.  I am thinking particularly here of the “being a Mother” thing which seems to preoccupy the majority of my thoughts at the moment.  I have waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I have moved things along, I have endeavoured to be proactive, we have enquired after children all without success.  On the bad days I begin to wonder if it is all worth it, and I am close to packing it all in and giving up.  On the good days I remind myself that God will provide, if it is the right course of action in the first place, when the right child is available for us.  I will admit that just at the moment, the bad days are outweighing the good ones.

patience prayer

Now, reading around this topic, most of the the good stuff associated with waiting is about delayed gratification.  Certainly, when/if the time comes and I have a small person calling me “Mummy”, I will have the delight of hearing that.  I am also looking forward to all the problems and issues that come with being a parent.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I look forward to them, because it will be proof that I have become a parent, which is my dearly held wish.  Waiting and wanting for so long certainly puts a different perspective on everything.  I think the fact I have HAD to be patient, will mean that I will be profoundly grateful for whatever hits my plate. The good, the bad, the profoundly busy, the obstacles, every last bit of it.  It strikes me that those who never have to wait for anything at all; perhaps they do not actually appreciate what they have?

patient

As for surviving the waiting –  I don’t really know.  Sometimes it feels like I have managed it (usually by keeping myself so busy I haven’t got the time to turn around, or by counting my existing blessings and being fervently grateful for them).  But there are also times when I feel so far from coping it is frightening.  I suspect this is common for everyone.  I read that meditating and trying to attain peace is a good way of keeping things together as well, although very difficult to do.

If you are waiting for something, then join the club.  How do you get through it?  Any suggestions, gratefully received!

The benefits of journalling…

I will bet most of the people who are reading this post either had or have a journal or diary.  Depending on how you use it, all sorts of things might be written down in it.  In my diary, I mostly keep my appointments and important things I need to do.  But my journal?  Oh well, I keep all sorts of things there.

packed journals

In the past few weeks, my journalling has tailed off.  I can really feel the difference.  I mean, I have been really busy and it is understandable that stuff falls under the radar now and again.  But I have noticed a change in my mood, and not for the better.  I had a lot of stress and resentment simmering under the surface and where I would usually resolve it by writing it all out in my journal, I had instead been rolling it over and over in my mind and getting more and more stressed about it.  How interesting!

Anyway, I was at a big stationer’s shop this morning with my Mum who was buying a new typing chair.  I took the opportunity to take a good look around and found some excellent journals and diaries at bargain prices, along with some really cool coloured pens (a particular weakness of mine) and somehow they all leapt into a basket and were checked out by me.  I love the feeling of new pens and pencils.  I think it might be the accountant in me, still trying to get out.

So when I came home, lo and behold, in the front of one of my little journals it has some information about why journalling is good for you.  I thought it would be a good subject to blog about, and share this information with you.

journal

Journalling is a great way to organise your thoughts.  It is used quite often in self help and life coaching methodologies, and I find it personally a great way of getting some strong emotions out, safely.  It also reduces your mental clutter.  This is great for those times when you are struggling to sleep.  If it is because your brain is going three thousand miles and hour, journalling might be a way to get those pesky thoughts out of the brain so you can sleep.  In addition, sometimes, you can get great insights into who you are and how you operate.  I always find it interesting to see how things looked in the past when I re-read my journals, when I can face doing so.

Studies have shows that it can also improve your mental and physical health, counteract stress and boost immunity.  Considering I have been feeling less than well for the last few days, and I have somehow found the energy to clean my house, do the laundry and get some niggling little jobs done since I journalled again late this morning, I am minded to pay attention to that a little more in future.  of course, the fact that writing helps your cognitive function generally also helps.

love paper

In addition, there are benefits to writing in a paper journal (as opposed to on a screen) also helps keep your inner critic at bay.  Word processors make it all too easy to constantly edit as you type.  Writing without that critic is apparently quite liberating, but I am not entirely sure I am ever going to achieve that.  But it is worth practising.

So what can you use journalling for?  You can use it to set goals, explore ideas, reflect on books or films you find interesting, clarify an unresolved situation, work out emotionally challenging experiences, write about your travel experiences, or even just keep track of your diet and exercise.

What ever you use journalling for, know that it is doing you the power of good to do it.  I am planning on making it a morning thing for me to do some, and do bits throughout the day so I can keep on top of the stressful occurrences which seem to be part and parcel of life at the moment.

Emotional First Aid…

One way or another, this past 7 days has been one hell of a roller coaster.  There have been some highs, and corresponding lows and frankly, I am feeling a little travel sick with the change from one to the other.  I feel like I have been run over by a steam roller, both physically and emotionally.

roller coaster

Some days I have coped better than others, but as I progressed through the week, a few things became very apparent.  I am a very emotional person.  I deal with stuff with my emotions leading first, and then I can process the emotion and keep going.  Some people might feel (and clearly, from their reactions, some people do feel) that this is a disadvantage.  I don’t.  I think it is a strength, which I hope will serve me well come the point when I have children to look after.  If I can express my emotion and deal with it, then hopefully I can help a damaged child do the same.

Another thing which became apparent, the adoption process is emotionally one of the most bruising things you can ever undertake.  I am not about to give up now… but on several occasions this week I was really close to throwing in the towel and going to adopt another dog and some chickens.  If it wasn’t for the people close to us who have been so invested in the process with us, I would have resigned myself to being childless forever and got on with being an urban homesteader and craftaholic.

1st aid

With these two things at the forefront of my mind… it became clear that an essential in the toolkit of survival is to have an emotional first aid kit to hand.  You might be thinking “What on earth is she wittering on about?” but bear with me.

Do you remember when we were little, we all wanted to be grown ups?  Yeah… that was really dumb, wasn’t it!  Adult life comes with stress, hurt and more stress on top.  Some people can totally cope with that and keep on gliding through life unaffected.  But some of us really can’t.  Each bump and scrape we suffer emotionally and mentally leaves a scar.  If you did something to yourself physically, you wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a first aid kit to get a band aid… so why don’t we do the same thing for our mental health?  I think it is too important for people to ignore.  You must look after your mental strength in equal proportion to your physical well being.  Or else bits of psyche will fall off and make a mess.

feel

The first thing you need in this first aid kit is to pay attention to the emotional pain that you feel.  Recognise it when it happens and work to treat it before it feels like it is all encompassing and you get that drowning feeling.  For example, on Saturday, at the Adoption Activity Day we attended, we fell in love with a pair of children.  They were delightful and we could have happily become their Mummy and Daddy.  Unfortunately… it wasn’t possible due to geographical constraints on their adoption.  I was heartbroken.  It would have been easier to shrug off and say “Oh well.  I only met them for a little time, it isn’t right, move on”.  15 years ago, that is exactly what I would have done.  But instead, I acknowledged the raw, painful realisation that it was a loss, an actual emotional wrench for them to say no (again) to us becoming parents, and I dealt with it.  It felt overwhelming for the first few days after… but I am still standing now.

change your perspective

The second skill for your emotional first aid kit is the ability to redirect your gut feeling when you fail.  This is something I am really, really bad at.  I set myself really, really high standards, and if I do not reach them, I will beat myself up something awful.  Of course, when you set your standard at perfection, and perfection doesn’t exist, then you will always be disappointed, won’t you?  So, I learnt a lesson from the wonderful FlyLady (www.flylady.net) – It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be done.  I tell you, that phrase has revolutionised my life.  When I am cleaning the house, when I am gardening, when I am doing a craft project – it doesn’t need to be perfect.  It can have faults lying about.  That is okay.  That is normal.  That is life.  Redirecting the guilt I feel at not being perfect, means I actually give myself permission to be a normal human being.  That is really quite freeing.

inner critic

Of course, if you are a recovering perfectionist, you will often find your inner critic doing a good job of making your life miserable.  In order to tell my inner critic to sit down and shut up, I find myself thinking about what I would say to a friend who was dissing her/himself.  I would tell them to stop it and be compassionate to themselves.  Cut themselves some slack. It is important that you monitor and protect your self esteem and don’t let your own inner gremlins get you thinking that you are not worthy.  This is the next little trick to have in your arsenal.  Of course, that compassion needs to take a positive form – unfortunately, I seem to have developed a bit of “self medicate with junk food” habit, so I am trying to break that by giving myself the chance to knit, sew and cross stitch when I need to.

negative to positive

How many of us have a negative thought soundtrack going around in their head?  I do.  It is only in the past few years that I have made a conscious effort to stop being a negative Nelly and look at the positive of life.  I posted something on my personal facebook timeline the other day about how God only gives you what you can cope with, and that apparently God thinks I am a bad ass.  That was my way of taking the positive out of a really bad day on Wednesday.  It doesn’t matter how you do it… but finding the silver lining in every cloud is a fabulous way to cope.

loss

Sometimes, we have to make a really hard decision and you need to come to terms with loss.  I am doing this all the time with the children we have been enquiring about re potential matches (25+ now) and it does not get easier.  So, I have started to try and find a meaning in the losses.  It is easier on some occasions than it is on others.  I have a lot of internal conversations with myself about the needs of the children that we have not pursued and how it is probably the right thing that we have stepped away from the match.  Sometimes I even manage to convince myself!!  Sometimes, I really don’t.  On the latter occasions, I fall back on my faith.  God has a plan.  There is a reason why we haven’t found our match yet.  We just don’t know what it is.

confessional

The next emotional first aid skill is something that, as a cradle Catholic, I totally SUCK at.  That is to not let excessive guilt linger.  Now, if I were a better Catholic I would go to confession a lot more regularly than I do, and actually I suspect if I did, I would have a convenient valve to allow the guilt to escape.  Hmmm.  Easter is coming up.  I need to make some time to head to the confessional and unburden myself.  I hope the priest has an armchair and some popcorn!

emotional wounds

The final item in our emotional first aid kit is personal knowledge.  Learn what treatments for emotional wounds work for you.  This is as individual as you are.  Although my go-to treatment is junk food, that has some seriously negative consequences, so I need to think of better ways to make myself feel better.  Naps have often helped me, so does being creative in some way.  I like to sit in a room with some classical music and a really good book. Sitting on the garden bench and looking at the garden, being out in the garden doing some work, a decent old movie and a cup of hot tea also works.  Whatever it is… make sure you know what work for you and do it regularly.

You really are worth taking care of.

12 rules to be more assertive…

Have you ever felt that you are the doormat for the world?  That everyone is demanding a piece of you and there are just no more pieces to be given?  Are you desperate to ask for help but feel guilty at the thought of doing so?  You are a) not alone, b) resoundingly normal and c) need to be a bit more assertive.

Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, demanding or rude.  It is simply having the confidence and the self respect to tell others how you feel, what you need, what you want and that you do not want to go along with something if it is not right for you.  That last one is the kicker.  It is saying no.  Two letters, one syllable and saying it regularly can absolutely change your life for the better.

No

This takes practice though.  A lot of us have been brought up to be yes people.  We believe that we can do it all, have it all, be the fabulous multi-tasker who can get through massive lists in a single bound.  Some of us might be.  Most of us aren’t.  We may also have been raised with the belief that we should do anything for everyone else, but neglect ourselves.  We do this at our own peril.  I am not saying that you should be selfish and self absorbed, not at all.  But sometimes, if you know you are overwhelmed, you need to say no.  “No, I can’t make it today” or “No, that really is not convenient for me” or “No, you can’t have that candy which will make you bounce of all of the walls and mean you won’t sleep for the next week and a half”.  No.  Practice it.  Say it calmly and firmly.  I promise you, it will work wonders.

According to a book I have been reading, there are 12 rules for assertiveness.  I thought it would be useful to run through them and see if there are any we can apply to our own lives.

self respect

The first rule is that you have the right to have respect for yourself, who you are, what you do and what you are trying to achieve, be that raising children, becoming a high court judge, writing a novel, finishing a study project.  What you are doing is not something to be shy or embarrassed about.  If you have passion about it, if you want to do it, then you can be assertive about it.

needs

Second thing to do is that you have the right to recognise your own needs as an individual.  That is not what your roles are in life – I am a daughter, a friend, a wife, a housekeeper, a student, a gardener, a Christian.  These roles govern my life to a large extent.  This is instead about what I need to do as me. For example, I need to write, I need to create things, I need to grow things, I need to be able to prioritise my health and fitness.  Understanding these needs will mean that you can be assertive about how to use your time so it is works out the best for you, and not for anyone else.  If that means I get up at 6am to get to the pool to do 100 lengths, then that is what I will do, and amend the expectations of the rest of the roles in relation to this requirement.

The third rule of assertiveness is to that you have the right to make clear “I” statements when you are talking about how your feel or what you think.  For example “I feel annoyed that you are out with your buddies and I am in the laundry room folding and putting away all the clothes again”,  That is being assertive.  “How dare you go out with your buddies again when I am slaving away doing the chores!!  It’s not fair!”  That is being a whiny nag.  You are communicating the same frustration, but in very different ways.

mistakes

The fourth rule is that you have the right to allow yourself to make mistakes.  We are all human, and we all make mistakes.  It is absolutely fine if you take a night off from cooking and have a microwave meal, despite being on another diet.  It is okay if you get to the end of your tether and have a wee sob in the corner.  Do what you have to do.  Mistakes mean that you will learn what works and what doesn’t.

change your mind

The fifth rule is that you have the right to change our mind if you choose to.  I am not talking about that second pair of cute shoes (but hell, if you can afford it…), I am rather talking about the big stuff.  I no longer want to be a housewife, I will go back to the world of work – absolutely your right.  I do not want to structure my day in this way, I am going to change it so I can fit in more exercise – again, absolutely your right.

thinking time

The sixth rule is that you have the right to ask for thinking about it time.  If people are demanding that you do something, and that something is not what you want to do, you are perfectly within your rights to say “I would like to think that over and I will get back to you by the end of the week”.  You then really need to get back to them by the end of the week, because otherwise that would be rude, but you are within your rights to say thanks but no thanks.

celebrate success

The seventh rule of assertiveness is that you have the right to enjoy your successes.  If you are proud of yourself for something, then tell people.  It is absolutely fine.  When I have reached my weight loss goal, you can believe that I will be shouting from the highest rooftops and sharing with everyone I know!  I also know that most of the people I know and love with be celebrating with me!

ask

The eighth rule is that you have the right to ask for what you want.  This is absolutely key.  If you really need some help with keeping the garden up to scratch, then ask for the help.  If you need someone to tame the laundry monster for you, then ask for the help.  You must ask though, because it maybe that the people around you will not see that you need the assistance.  You can’t guarantee that the people around you will know precisely what you need all the time – they aren’t mind readers.

responsibility

The ninth rule of assertiveness is that you have the right to recognise that your responsibility is not for the behaviour of other adults.  It is only for your own behaviour.  Nor are you responsible for pleasing other adults all the time.  If they are “disappointed” in you for whatever reason, then that is their problem, not yours.  If they have a hard time getting library books back on time and keep incurring fines, when it is their problem not yours.  I will confess, this is the hardest rule for me to keep.

The tenth rule is that you have the right (actually it is more of an obligation) to respect other people and their right to be assertive.  If you do that for them, then with any luck, they will do the same for you.  Life is essentially about compromise, so if you are being all assertive about your needs, remember that the other people who live with you also need to be assertive about their needs.  Be prepared for some give and take.

understand

The eleventh rule is that you have the right to say “I don’t understand”.  This is particularly useful if you get a poor reaction to some of your assertiveness.  Someone goes off in a huff because you have said you can’t make the girly spa afternoon, because it clashes with your children’s school play, then you need to get them to explain why they are upset.  Sometimes it is just a matter of clearly explaining that the children needs to come first.  In the final analysis if people are unwilling or unable to communicate in that way, then do you really need them in your life?  Probably not.

approval

Finally, the twelfth rule of assertiveness is that you have the right to deal with others without depending on them for approval.  I am not going to lie; this one is tough.  You obviously want your nearest and dearest to support you in your ideas and plans.  But in the final analysis, the only person you need approval from is yourself.  It really doesn’t matter if you haven’t got any underwear left in the drawer and it is then that you holler for help with the laundry.  All the disapproving tuts in the world are not going to help matters are they?  Or the house is at risk of a health inspection and that is when you call in the troops for a declutter and clean out.  Yes, you let it get to that state, but that is okay.  You did your best, now you need your help.  Yes, I do understand how hard that is to do!

I hope you feel that these rules will be helpful to you.  I have certainly picked up a couple of tips.

Some ideas to help deal with Adrenal Fatigue, naturally

Adrenal what?

Yeah, I know, you may not have heard about it before, and if you haven’t well, lucky you.  I have noticed a distinct upswing in the number of people I know who are dealing with it recently.  That could be the people I am hanging out with (a lot of us have fertility issues and adrenal fatigue can be a contributing factor),  but after doing some research about it, I think adrenal fatigue is being caused by our modern lifestyles as well.

adrenal fatigue

What is it?  Effectively, it is the body burning out.  Adrenal fatigue is characterised by a disruption of your adrenal glands ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right time in response to stress.  Basically, it is your flight or fight response, and because it has been used soooo much, your body just can’t deal with it all any more.  Your adrenal glands (on top of your kidneys) are kicking out cortisol all the time, and it becomes background music in your chemical composition.  Your body can’t tell if it a sabre toothed tiger or that mountain of paperwork you need to run away from.  The adrenals keep pumping out the cortisol but the rest of the body pays it no attention.   So, why is it a problem?  Well, the adrenal glands are the bodies hormonal powerhouse.  They form the nexus of the feedback loops in the body co-ordinating the production of nearly every hormone in the body.  If they are overworked, then the hormonal balance in the body is going to be out of whack, pure and simple.

exhaustion

According to my research, there are three levels of adrenal fatigue.  The first level is the wired and tired stage.  It is characterised by high cortisol levels especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain.  Often sufferers feel energised but in an edgy and wired sort of way.  The second level is the stressed and tired stage.  The sufferer will wake up early, like 3 am early, and then no be able to fall back to sleep.  Later in the day stressors kick in and they feel more awake.  According to the medics, in this stage, the cortisol level peaks early, then flattens out but there is generally a rise midday or in the early evening.  The third, and most serious, stage is burnout.  This is characterised by exhaustion, regardless of hours slept, a completely flat cortisol curve and in some cases low DHEA (a hormone which acts as a neurosteriod, among many other things) and thyroid hormone levels.  It is a dangerous place to be, not just because you feel mentally woolly and unable to think straight, but it is also associated with a higher risk of autoimmune disease.

lightbulb

Personally, I think I have been in each of these three stages at least once in my life, and quite possible more than that.  The disruptive sleep patterns and hormonal imbalances ring very, very true for me, not to mention the insulin resistance and the abdominal weight gain.   Every time I go to the doctor and they take their barrage of blood tests, they always come back telling me that everything is in balance… but I have been diagnosed with asymptomatic Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome – which is also characterised by insulin resistance and a real difficulty in losing weight.  Hmmm.  I know self diagnosis is risky, but this is ticking some serious boxes for me.

vegetables

What can I do to turn this adrenal fatigue around?  Well, a change of diet is essential.  My research reveals that eating a diet high in brightly coloured vegetables, lean and clean protein and whole grain carbs will really, really help the levels of inflammation in the body.  If there are food you know you are sensitive to, but are still eating, then get them out of the diet as well.  One item it was interesting to find was that if you cut carbs entirely, then it will actually exacerbate adrenal fatigue, and not fix it.  Well… that explains my reaction to the Atkins diet and its variants that I have been on over the years!

You should also go to bed early… and by early I mean before 11pm.  Ideally before 10pm if you can manage it.  I have been trying to manage it since I began living on my own nearly 20 years ago… and so far I have not managed it.  You need to have lots of B vitamins in your diet.  If you are not getting it from your diet (green leafies and lean proteins), then by all means take a supplement.  B vitamins are food for the adrenals.  You need to cool inflammation in the body – you can do that by making sure that you get Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet along with lots of vitamin C and curcumin as well.  All these are known to lower systemic inflammation.  You need to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs.  Vitamin D, Selenium, magnesium, zinc are all incredibly important for thyroid and adrenal function.

water drop

Everyone knows you need to stay hydrated.  This is even more important in adrenal fatigue.  Adding some lemon juice to your glasses of water might help matters as well.  Plus it makes it taste a bit more interesting into the bargain.  You might want to consider using Adaptogenic herbs.  Herbs like ginseng, liquorice root and Astralgus are really good at counteracting the effects of excessive cortisol.  My research also suggests that you need to build rests into your day.  I am really bad at this.  I keep going until either I am at the end of my to do list, or I am nearly dead… whichever happens first.  One thing you should steer clear of though, is a lot of high impact and high energy exercise.  It is not going to help.  Exercise needs to be stretching and calming.  Restful.  A nice stroll in the spring sunshine, yoga, or tai chi sounds just the ticket.

change your perspective

And finally?  The best way to start treating your adrenal fatigue is to change your perspective.  It is actually possible that your definition of success might be killing you.  In modern times it is easy to compare your own life to the edited highlights of every one elses life, and you can sometimes feel that it is so important for you to do things better, harder, faster than everyone else.  Hello cortisol overload.  Changing how you define success might be the quickest and easiest way to start to revolutionise your life.