BURNOUT, ADRENAL FATIGUE AND DEPRESSION

BURNOUT, ADRENAL FATIGUE AND DEPRESSION

Our light diminishes into a blanket of darkness, an all encompassing heavy fatigue that obscures. When we accept this phase of life, it brings with it the most profound wisdom and understanding of our human experiences and way of living. With the right knowledge and tools we enkindle the beauty that is us once more.

Burnout, Adrenal Fatigue and Depression

For many of us chronic burnout is often misdiagnosed as depression. Yes, it looks and feels similar. The levels of anxiety we experience during burnout; physiological adrenal dysregulation and fatigue, can be so overwhelming we shut down emotionally and mentally to prevent further exhaustion. 

Long-term fatigue and the accompanying changing physiological symptoms, affect every level of our being, and leads to feelings of unhappiness, guilt and worthlessness. Unhappiness culturally seen as a sign of failure. And unkindly dismissed as wallowing in our own self-pity, also leaves us isolated. Further dysregulating our system from healing and restoration and connection. 

Accompanying symptoms
  • Slow in the morning, fatigue in the afternoon, second wind in the evening
  • Fatigue and disturbed sleep
  • Listless and feeling physically heavy
  • Crave salty and sugary foods
  • Dizziness and blood sugar issues
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Moodiness, brain fog
  • Afternoon headaches
  • Chronic inflammation, low immunity to infections, digestive issues
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Low libido
  • Dark skin around eyes and skin discoloration
  • Hair loss and brittle hair
  • Weak nails 

So we walk into the doctor’s office looking for answers, for a way back to our old self, or something resembling that state. Only to walk away with the distinct message that it’s all in our head and our only option is to swallow a pill that further disempowers and dis-associates us from our self and health. 

Burnout is highest amongst health care professions, teachers, single parents, traders, managers, bankers and entrepreneurs. Studies show women are 20-60% more likely to suffer from burnout. Women report suffering from emotional exhaustion, while men often suffer from depersonalization. And people who’ve experienced trauma at some point are more likely to experience burnout,[1] because their resilience to stress is lower.

Is Burnout Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue leads to chronically elevated cortisol, causing adrenalin, noradrenalin and DHEA dysregulation. This has a cascade effect on all our other endocrine glands; pineal, pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, thymus, pancreas, ovaries and testes. Affecting their respective hormones and the cycles they regulate within our body systems.

Our cycles of sleep and waking, digestion, restoration and healing, get up and go and allowing ourselves to relax, are all thrown off track. This plays out as mood and energy fluctuations, metabolic imbalance, sleep disturbances, fatigue and boosts of energy at unwanted and unnatural times. Common derangements of adrenal fatigue are hypoglycaemic symptoms; low blood sugar, chronic fatigue syndrome.[2]

Adrenal fatigue isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis[3] as a disease, rather reffered to as adrenal insufficiency. But if we would realise imbalance leads to dis-ease, and burnout a protective mechanism; trying to forewarn us to slow down and make certain vital changes to our lifestyle, or disease will develop, we can prevent much suffering and shame.

Adrenal Fatigue Research Facts

Burnout studies are under-researched. One meta study; which most other burnout research articles refer to; used the data of 25 studies done on individuals with burnout and 33 studies on healthy subjects! This study states because there’s a lack of substantial evidence due to inconsistency in analysis and data research[4], we can’t call it adrenal fatigue. All 58 studies focused on cortisol levels, not taking into account other hormones, nor DHEA, which lowers cortisol levels. 

Not forgetting that study subjects are often only caucasian men of 70kg of body weight, between the ages of 25-35 years of age, leaves a lot to be desired when we’re in our 40’s, women, and overwhelmed by our many roles, responsibilities and tasks. Setting these studies up for insufficient evidence.

What Excacerbates Burnout?

Burnout is further impacted by work-related stressors; perfectionism, workload, work hours, increased responsibilities and tasks, lack of autonomy or control, financial stress, career stage, loss of meaning and joy in work, having children at home, work-life integration, decreased support, real or perceived lack of fairness in promotion and compensation, gender bias, discrimination and sexual harassment. Both an organisational and a personal problem, a one size fits all approach isn’t enough when dealing with something as complex as our endocrine system.

Other Causes & Contributing Factors 

Therefore, knowledge and owning the part that is ours to reclaim; our physical, physiological, emotional and psychological needs, we see what disrupts our health, what we need to remove from our lives to move into living well. Knowing that adrenal fatigue is a physiological imbalance, we can support ourselves through physical, physiological, emotional, mental and psychological changes with tools.

Overcoming Burnout

Physical Needs

Get tests done- at a functional medical doctor see what causes physical and biological imbalance. 

Healthy fats- olive oil, coconut oil, ghee and avocados

Supplements & Herbs- Zinc, vit D, C, chamomile, ashwagandha, liquorice, rhadiola 

Physiological Needs

Eat protein rich foods- adrenals need protein to convert into hormones aiding healthy endocrine function, relieving anxiety, insomnia and mental fatigue.

Decrease inflammation- depression strongly correlates with systemic inflammation, addressing our physiological imbalance through food; curcuma, bitter and astringent foods bring down the acidity, caused by excess sweet, sour and salty foods, can relieve any inflammation cuased by biology. Leafy greens for HPA axis health.

Mental Needs 

Strengthen mindfulness– Meditation 10-20 mins a day, Sama vritti; breathing in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5 for 2-5 minutes, Bumble Bee breath, with an exhale hum in a low tone, allow the in breath to come naturally, repeat 10 rounds.

Emotional and Psychological Needs 

Minimise stress– see which cause most mental and psychological stress on a scale from one to ten- work, family, home, personal. Create a schedule to minimize stress and find more rest in each of those areas. This PDF with tools will help you get clarity, set boundaries and find more space in your day to day living.

Because knowledge, self-acceptance and these tools allow us to listen to our body’s natural wisdom and urgings, we can let that tiny flame within us become a healthy fire once more. One that gives light and glows with wisdom. 

Much Love,

Shira.


[1] https://barendspsychology.com/burnout-facts/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15058215/

[3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27557747/