Shh.. don’t say the”S” word or you might get stressed about it. The human body is designed to handle the type of stress where our immediate life is in danger.
We can, do exceptional things when our life is being threatened, or even the life of someone we love is being threatened. People have been known to survive under very stressful conditions because of the amazing capability of the human body to survive.
However, it is not often that our life is threatened, or we find ourselves starving or more than five miles from the nearest supermarket, so this wiring to stress that is innate in everyone, is not often used as it should be. Conversely, wild animals use it for survival on a daily basis.
The vultures fighting over the roadkill, the bear cub struggling to stay alive without its mother or the great migration of flocks and herds and schools of animals and fish to warmer areas plentiful with food; these are truly stressful times, and amazingly these animals can and do not only survive under these conditions but often thrive.
Perhaps you were sure that parking spot was yours, or you were due for a promotion at work that you did not get, or even feel the anxiety mounting over the coffee shop being out of your favorite drink.
Why do we get so wound up over things that are not “literally” life and death? So many stressors in our life are nothing more than our reaction to
everyday occurrences that we have a choice how we handle. We either take it in stride, or we let it eat us up on the inside.
Robert M. Sapolsky wrote a brilliant book talking about the “S” word. In his work entitled Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Sapolsky says that the human body, like that of an animal, is designed for short term crisis that we either prevail over or are doomed. Unfortunately, the kind of stress that we stew over like problems with relationships, jobs, kids, a burnt pizza, you name it… puts tremendous pressure on the system meant for short term stress resistance.
The bottom line is that a burnt pizza does not require the same response as hanging from a cliff does but we push, and push the body into this constant state of low-level alarm that we can actually wear out our mechanisms for dealing with acute stress. This is often referred to as adrenal failure, adrenal exhaustion or adrenal burnout.
What are the Adrenals?
Adrenal glands are disc-shaped glands that are about 4 inches across. There is one located on top of each kidney just above where your ribs end. Some people actually feel pressure in this area when they are stressed.
The adrenal glands are essential for our survival. They have the highly important job of secreting a number of hormones that get our body geared up for stress including adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol and cortisone. These same little glands also produce aldosterone, testosterone, estrogens, progesterone, pregnenolone and DHEA.
Adrenalin and cortisol are the two hormones that control what is known as our “fight” or “flight” response. When something threatens us, our adrenal glands are kicked into gear by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.
When we live hurried lives, stressing over everything that comes our way, depriving ourselves of sound nutrition, adequate sleep and regular physical exercise, the adrenals go into overdrive. Getting your child to ballet class in time should not be cause for the adrenals to overwork but, once again, we get so wound up over these occurrences in our life.
Adrenal exhaustion and even burnout occurs when the adrenals can no longer function as they are intended. It is essentially a breakdown in the body’s energy system. Causes of adrenal exhaustion include excessive stress, chemical toxicity, nutritional deficiencies, chronic infection and stimulant use. Adrenal burnout affects every area of one’s life and is quite a common, yet remarkably serious condition.
Symptoms of adrenal burnout include fatigue, depression, joint pain, lowered immunity, low blood pressure, poor circulation, low back pain and cravings for sweets. Unfortunately, conventional medicine has not yet recognized adrenal burnout as a true “condition.”
However, natural health practitioners will run a series of tests to determine what is going on. These may include a hair analysis and urine and saliva hormone tests. These tests will help to address the nutrient deficiencies and develop a course of treatment to restore the adrenals to proper function.
Getting a Grip on Stress
One of the most important factors in dealing with adrenal burnout is to get a grip on how we handle stress. It is imperative to make time every day to be still and let the mind and body rest. Developing proactive ways of dealing with stress and its triggers is necessary if we are to keep pressure off of our adrenals.
Although we may not be face with a lion at our backdoor, we want to keep our adrenals as healthy as possible. They have too many important jobs in the body to perform. Mistreatment of the adrenals results in long term health complications and a reduced quality of life.
So, now that you know that your going to make it through the day, give your adrenals a break. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and take time to enjoy time and all it has to offer.
– The Alternative Daily