I’d never heard of it until my doctor took me through a long questionnaire about my feelings of lethargy and exhaustion which I described as “being tired of life”.
I believed that stress and depression were the most likely causes of my recurring periods of fatigue which were not alleviated by sleep or long periods of staring at the walls when my brain went blank. To shake myself awake I drank lots of caffeine loaded drinks but that made me worse. I’d lost connection with the fun side of life ever since a series of family traumas piled in one on top of the other since 1992. After a forced retirement, I wrote a book a year, completed several courses with exams, moved house twice, and suffered long periods of isolation and loneliness. All that in itself was exhausting.
The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce essential hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Like any over used part of the body, they are liable to malfunctioning. However, some medics say there is no science to support Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome as a condition. That said, it still plays havoc with day to day living. Some poor folk can’t get out of bed for more than a few hours a day and I have to admit to falling asleep 7pm most nights.
So what’s the underlying cause? Chronic stress. According to the experts, metabolic changes occur in major organs at a biochemical and cellular level to compensate for the reduction in hormones secreted by the adrenal glands.
These fly to the rescue to meet the demands of stress which means all kinds of physical and emotional pressures and events: divorce, death, losses of all kinds, illness and overwork. A major change in lifestyle is called for before things get more complex and serious. This is how I tackled it.
- Cleaned up my diet – no junk food, no caffeine, no sugar, plenty of water, fresh vegetables, and the usual ingredients that make up a healthy diet.
- Meditation for ten minutes in the morning and before bed.
- Brisk walk for 30 minutes every day. Ten minutes of Hatha yoga
- Improved vitamin intake.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
- Landscape painting for fun
I firmly believe that the best treatment for these “exhaustion” conditions is good stress management and creating space for yourself to simply breathe. Trees are my favourite stress busters. Observing them, breathing in the scent of the wood and feeling the texture of the leaves, and when I feel like it, sketching an acorn or a clump of berries. Woodland, forests, or a line of poplar trees in someone’s garden bring me instant relaxation.
If you feel you’re all burnt out with no reserves to draw on, d0n’t think it will pass in a few days or that a holiday will sort it out. Like me, you’ll need a physical and mental reset and if that means letting go of somethings or delegating tasks, then do it.
Stress isn’t always linked to doing too much. Having little to do can be worse. Unemployment, the empty nest, little neighbourhood interaction brings a different set of problems – how to fill those long stretches of time.
We must work towards balance in all things. ‘You can’t burn the candle at both ends,’ as my mother used to say.