Dealing with adrenal fatigue symptoms can be a particularly rough time in the health journey of your life. Some days and moments can feel absolutely debilitating. I know how hard this can be, I was there in the throws of severe adrenal fatigue a few years back.
Adrenal fatigue can be a double edged sword at times. It starts with the stress in your body creating one or more symptoms and the effects of those symptoms in turn creating further stress on your body, creating a vicious cycle.
Symptoms can affect sleep, which makes sleep tougher.
I remember many nights going to bed with severe hay fever symptoms, struggling to get to sleep, then waking up early in the morning with more hay fever symptoms. I would miss out on chunks of sleep time, causing more stress on my system, which resulted in the release of more cortisol, making it harder to sleep, and oh boy it was like being on a merry go round at times.
If I had known what I know now from both my experience of going through severe adrenal fatigue and the research I subsequently undertook, I would have spent a lot more time practising getting into a state of very deep relaxation when I felt at my worst.
The thing is when your body is extremely stressed, there is the likelihood that the quantity and severity of your symptoms will increase.
In those moments when you feel at your worst, when you feel really debilitated by severe symptoms, I would suggest 4 main ideas:
1. Focus on breathing in a way that supports your adrenal glands and brings more energy into your body.
Dr Lam in his book “Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome” talks about this idea of adrenal breathing. He explains that adrenal breathing exercises can help to rebalance the autonomic nervous system. This in turn delivers more oxygen to the body in a way that allows a natural increase of energy that doesn’t over stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. Proper adrenal breathing instead stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Dr Lam suggests that you do this in a sitting position with a straight back or if you are really tired to then do it lying down. He explains the technique as follows:
“Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose.
Start at 50 percent of capacity in a smooth and rhythmic fashion. (Working yourself up to 80-90 percent of capacity depends on how well you can perform this breathing).
The chest wall does not move significantly, but the abdominal muscles must be completely free and relaxed.
Do not hold your breath intentionally at the end of the inhalation or exhalation.
Maintain a smooth rhythmic transition from inhalation to exhalation and from exhalation to inhalation.”
If you would like more specific audio instructions on how to do this, you can get a copy of Dr Lam’s Adrenal Breathing CD here. He has a very calming voice on this audio and it will help you to get a more specific feel for this style of breathing that he is wanting you to develop.
Many yoga styles use breathing patterns that also stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (which is good in a healthy body), but in the case of adrenal fatigue it is very important that this part of the nervous system is not over activated. This is the main focus of Dr Lam’s adrenal breathing technique, to train you to breathe in a way that activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
2. Focus on bringing your system into a very quiet place.
Put some calming and soothing music on. If it’s daytime bring the lights down, close your eyes, and sit or lie quietly. If you are in bed trying to get to sleep, keep yourself very still, and as you breathe out let the tension that you are holding on to, fall away.
In the time I mentioned above having horrendous hay fever symptoms while trying to get to sleep, I also remembered that some nights I would practice breathing very calmly while these symptoms were going on, and most often within a period of 10-20 minutes I could feel my system beginning to settle back down and the symptoms beginning to calm.
In his book “Destressifying” Davidji talks about breathing as quietly as you can as you are trying to get to sleep, so quietly that you can hardly hear yourself.
I have tried this technique many times myself and found it very helpful for settling any uncomfortable symptoms while trying to fall asleep. This simple act helps you to move your focus away from what you are feeling and this helps to bring about a much greater sense of ease inside of you.
This approach has some similarities to Dr Lam’s style above in that both breathing styles are ones that will activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s important to remember that not all breathing styles and practices are created equally.
3. Place your hands on any area on your body that may feel sore or uncomfortable.
Breathe and focus on any sore or uncomfortable areas in your body and imagine a white light surrounding that location. If you feel a general unwellness, place your hands anywhere that feels comfortable. I often find that placing my hands on my heart is a very soothing location.
In fact, Kundalini Yoga has a beautiful meditation for a calm heart and this can be especially helpful if your symptoms are causing you to feel anxious. You can find the meditation here, courtesy of Anne Novak, Kundalini Yoga Teacher.
4. Practice the art of Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique).
This is now a practise I use regularly, and it was this particular technique that helped me to get a much more permanent relief from the debilitating hay fever symptoms I experienced for a number of years. You can read more about this technique here.
Tapping is also a process that will activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It calms down the amygdala part of the brain and helps avert the pattern of the stress response. Nick Ortner’s teachings on Tapping are wonderful and you can get his book or check out this video to get a sense of what this is all about.
The point of the above four practices is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Any of these above practices will settle you. They will help to calm the raging, random and chaotic thoughts that you may be having about how you are feeling.
If you are out or at work when some symptoms worsen or start up, use any of these techniques within the situation that you are in. Quietening yourself in any way that you are able to manage will make a difference no matter where you are.
Always keep in mind that the body does its healing work from being in a state of a relaxation response (ie from having activated this parasympathetic nervous system), and not in a state of the stress response (an overactivated sympathetic nervous system).
The Choice is Always Yours
You can choose to lay slumped on the couch watching a violent movie and feeling terrible or you can choose to create an internal and external environment that supports you.
You can choose to carry on with old habits that you know have never served you or you can choose to empower yourself, doing what you can to support your body.
Recovering from adrenal fatigue asks you to change your lifestyle.
Step up and claim a new way of dealing with tough physical symptoms.
Remind yourself that your body knows how to heal.
Do your part by creating the environment that supports it to do so.
With practice and commitment to your adrenal fatigue recovery you will become more in tune with what you can do to soothe yourself and restore balance to your system in any given moment.