Achieving balance and avoiding adrenal exhaustion
Are you someone who keeps on going even when you’re exhausted? Are you getting messages to slow down but are not listening to them? Are you addicted to stress? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be heading for adrenal exhaustion — if you’re not experiencing it already.
It’s important to start paying attention to the signals your body may be giving you. These can include a change in sleep habits, energy blockages, digestive difficulties, hormonal changes, chronic fatigue, illness, changes in attitude, lack of motivation, loss of patience, anxiety, irritation, changes in eating habits, depression and so on. Other signs may be reduced concentration levels, memory loss and a feeling of disconnection spiritually.
So the question is: What can you do to make sure you don’t end up with adrenal exhaustion, and what can you do if you’re already at that stage? Having experienced adrenal exhaustion firsthand, I’d like to share some of the self-help techniques that have helped me, and others, to regain good health and to maintain it.
For me, adrenal exhaustion had been coming on for many years. As a healer I knew my body quite well, but I refused to stop and make the changes that would help support my nervous system, adrenal glands and organs. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to alleviate other people’s pain and help them feel better, and so I focused on giving healing energy and love out to others and didn’t make myself a priority; in turn, my energy became depleted. My mind had been programmed to think I could do it all and I could handle it just fine. I guess deep down I was addicted to stress and to pushing myself beyond my limits.
At 47 years old, I find myself newly married and going through many hormonal, emotional and bodily changes, and I certainly feel that the prolonged periods of stress have affected me on every level. On top of that, I’ve started menopause, although it’s difficult to say if this has had anything to do with the stress on my adrenal and thyroid glands, as some people would say that 47 is not too early for menopause. However, I know that I pushed myself past exhaustion too many times and this may be one of the results.
The adrenals, which are two endocrine glands covering the superior surface of each kidney, produce and secrete the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is important for carbohydrate metabolism and for regulating the body’s response to stress. When you experience prolonged periods of stress, the adrenals are overstimulated to produce cortisol and eventually become exhausted to the point where they cannot produce enough in response to the ongoing hyperstimulation. This can lead to illness, chronic fatigue, depression and extreme changes in the body.
In my case, it has affected my body’s metabolism and energy levels, and I believe it has caused my body to react in such a way that the health of my thyroid and parathyroid glands has become a source of concern. A positive outcome of experiencing adrenal exhaustion is that it has forced me to change my stress patterns. I am also learning how to make myself a priority. Old patterns can sometimes be hard to break, but with practice and awareness they can be changed.
For me, the warning signs of adrenal exhaustion began emotionally, with feelings of depression, disrupted sleep patterns and mood swings. I did everything I knew to move through the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I then began to experience frequent urination, especially during the night, and heaviness after urinating. The adrenal exhaustion had also led to headaches, a sluggish digestive system and low energy levels. I didn’t realise that my endocrine system was out of balance until I had some blood work done and it was all there in black and white. This was an eye-opener for me, and the following 10 strategies have helped me feel more balanced and cope better on all levels. They can also help you change your stress habits, prevent adrenal exhaustion or help if you are experiencing any type of imbalance.
- Cultivate breath awareness
Practise breathing more deeply; your breath is your life force. Because breathing is one of our most unconscious functions, you first need to be more aware of your breathing patterns in order to improve them. I’ve found that many people breathe very shallowly. This puts a lot more stress on the body, including the adrenals, and can create more tension, tightness and pain in the body.
Begin to be aware of how you breathe and especially how you breathe when you’re under pressure or concentrating on something. Breathe fully into your belly, and then bring the breath up into your chest as if you were blowing up two balloons. Hold your breath in for a count of two, and then breathe it out fully. You can imagine breathing in all the good things and breathing out the stress. Continue several times and do this as often during the day as you can. You may need to write notes to yourself as a reminder to really breathe.
- Acu-tap your stress away
My acu-tapping technique will help you release stress and tension, feel more alive and alert, and keep your energy moving. It’s quick and easy to do and it stimulates the organs and blood flow, allowing the digestive and lymphatic systems, organs and glands to work more effectively. Acu-tapping is great to do at any time, especially when you first get up in the morning or in the shower, where it will really wake you up. If you’re feeling tired during the day or after work, spend approximately five minutes doing a full-body energy tap to help you re-energise and let go of the pressures of the day. As you do the tapping, send healing energy into your body and remember to breathe fully. Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, try acu-tapping.
- Make sure you’re in a standing position (it works better than sitting).
- Use the fleshy parts of your fingertips (not the nails).
- Imagine sending loving, healing energy and light to your body as you tap. Notice which spots are sore or tight and breathe more deeply into those areas.
- Begin to tap down one arm, front and back.
- Move to the other arm and do your hands.
- Move up and tap across your chest and diaphragm.
- Move down and tap all across your belly.
- Move down and tap your pelvis, hips and buttocks.
- Move down your legs, tapping both sides and the feet and toes (you’ll need to bend or sit to support your lower back when you do this).
- Move up and tap your lower back; then move up your back (if you have someone with you, get them to tap on either side of your spine where you can’t reach).
- Move up to tap your shoulders and neck. Finish by tapping your head and face.
- Stand for a moment after you finish, close your eyes and notice how you are feeling. Can you feel your body tingling? Do you feel more awake and alert? This is the blood and energy circulating through your body.
How to practise acu-tapping
Along with acu-tapping, do some sort of exercise for at least 15 to 20 minutes every day. This can be anything from walking, stretching, yoga or sport to jogging, swimming or bike riding. Make sure it’s something you enjoy and feel motivated by. Having someone else do it with you can help you get more enjoyment out of exercise.
- Nurture your spirituality
Create a daily spiritual practice. This could include going to church/temple or whatever you do that reconnects you with your spirit on a regular basis. Take the time to tune in daily to yourself. Start to build a relationship and rapport with your body by asking it on a daily basis what it needs from you, and take the time to be still and listen. Bless, thank and send healing and loving energy to each part of your body on a regular basis. Take the time to meditate, pray and slow down your mind. Give thanks every day for what you have in your life.
- Ensure your emotional health
Your emotional wellbeing directly affects your physical health. Take care of your emotional wellbeing by recognising and expressing how you are feeling and by shifting negative emotions. You can express your feelings in many ways: write them out, speak them out, dance them out, exercise them out, sing them out and so on.
- Be conscious of self-talk
Your mental health directly affects your physical wellbeing. Stop trying to be perfect! Make sure you spend time laughing, doing the things you enjoy and being creative. Don’t take things too seriously — lighten up more and worry less! Watch your thoughts and stay conscious around your self-talk; if your thoughts are not supporting you positively, change them right away. This helps to lessen your stress levels and tension and brings about more peace and balance in your life. Become aware of self-criticism and self-judgement; what you focus your attention on is what will manifest. One of the things to ask yourself is: “Am I loving myself by having this thought or taking this action?” If the answer is no, then do or say something that is loving towards yourself.
- Nourish and cleanse your body
What foods are you putting in your body? Become more aware and disciplined about the foods you are eating. Spend more time making sure you feed yourself healthy, fresh, organic and nourishing foods. Avoid fast food and eating on the run as much as possible. Eat and chew more slowly for better digestion. Whether you’re at a home or a restaurant, bless your food before you eat it — either silently or out loud, whichever you prefer.
Keep your body hydrated. Make sure you drink at least four to six glasses of purified water every day. No other liquids can take the place of water. Cut back on coffee and other sources of caffeine.
- Maintain a healthy home and workplace
Keep your home and work environments free from clutter and spend the time making sure these environments support your health and wellbeing. Be more aware of the radiation and chemicals you use and have around your home. These can certainly affect your nervous system and overall health, and they can cause illness.
- Minimise exposure to radio wave radiation
Radio wave radiation can affect cells in the nervous system. Sources include X-rays, mobile phones and microwaves. If you have a mobile phone, use an earpiece with it so that the phone is not directly against your head; putting some distance between yourself and the handset will decrease your exposure to the radio wave emissions.
- Rejuvenate daily
Rest, rejuvenate and renew on a daily basis. Get plenty of fresh air daily. Don’t wait to do this until you’re on a holiday — do it today! Have a regular massage or healing session to help your body and mind relax and to let go of stress.
- Balance body, mind and spirit
I’ve been doing the following balance exercise and teaching it to others since 1987. I find it has helped me to get more in touch with my own inner strength, to feel more balanced, to release stress and to get more in touch with myself. When you do the exercise, you may see different colours, or various emotions may rise to the surface. Whatever happens, it’s important to be gentle and loving with yourself.
This exercise is good to do before meditating and before work or bed. Based on acupressure points and the chakras (energy centres of the body), it works with all the glands, opens up the chakras and balances body, mind and spirit. It is very beneficial for stress release. Hold each position for at least one to two minutes, or longer if you prefer.
- Get into a comfortable position, preferably lying down Make sure you won’t be disturbed.
- Take several deep breaths and let go of any tension in your body and mind.
- Notice any blockages, colours or sensations present. Imagine a divine energy of light and love coming from the universe. You may want to picture it like a fountain of light pouring into the top of your head. Allow this energy to move down into your feet, into the earth and then back up into your feet again. Use this image as you move to the other points.
- Place your index or third finger on the top of your head (crown) and a finger from your other hand on the hollow area at the base of the back of the head.
- Keeping your finger at the top of your head, move your other hand to the point between your eyebrows, also known as the third eye. Expand your awareness into this area, as opening it up will help you to get in touch with your intuition and calm your mind.
- Still keeping your finger at the top of your head, move your other hand from the point between your eyebrows to your throat. Touch your throat gently, breathe in and allow any restriction to be released. Opening up this energy centre helps you to express yourself more easily.
- Keeping your finger at the top of your head, place a finger from your other hand on your sternum (above the breast in the upper chest area), which I refer to as the heart centre. Feel a sense of love and expansion as you hold these two points. This hold is helpful for getting in touch with your feelings.
- Still holding your heart, move your other finger from the top of your head to the centre of your diaphragm, or solar plexus. Breathe in and release any tension or pain in these two areas. Feel your inner strength and your ability to give and receive love grow.
- Keep one finger on your heart and move the other to just below your navel. Connect with your ability to balance your emotions and sexual energy.
- With one finger still on your heart, press gently on the top of your pubic bone with the other finger. Breathe in energy and vitality and allow any fears to be released as you exhale.
- Sit on the floor and keep one finger on your pubic bone. With your other hand, hold both big toes. This last hold finishes off the balance and will help to ground you so you can go on with your day. (If you are going to sleep, finish with the hold on the heart centre and pubic bone and disregard this last step.)
You are worth taking care of, so remember to love and nurture yourself every day — you can’t take care of others unless you are taking care of yourself first. Make yourself a priority and take the time daily to replenish and recharge your body, mind, emotions and spirit. Don’t wait until adrenal exhaustion sets in before you listen to your body and take action to do something good for yourself.
Laurie Leah Levine is a Sydney-based healer and the developer of Emotional Release Point Therapy. She is the author of Spiritual Medicine and The God Diet. W: www.laurielevine.com, E: email@example.com