Adrenal Fatigue in Women: 7 Signs You’re on The Road to Burnout
Is your day packed from the moment your alarm goes off? Are you already checking emails during breakfast, clamoring to get your kids ready for the day, while taking calls, juggling chores, meal prep, and more?
Being constantly ‘switched on’ can do major damage to immune function, your OAT axis, and your hormones–leaving you drained, exhausted, and unable to even get the rest you need when it’s time to sleep.
Most people will experience the symptoms that lead to burnout at least once in their life, and it’s important to intervene early before burnout progresses.
Burnout: More Than Just a Bad Day
In response to any perceived stress in your environment, your hormones and metabolism kick into survival mode. This means increasing cortisol, deprioritizing immune function, and conserving energy for when you might need it.
Of course, when our bodies developed these biological responses thousands of years ago, our sources of stress were generally short-lived natural disasters such as a predator or storm. After the initial event, our stress response subsided and we continued on with life.
This is remarkably different from our state of constant, chronic stress today. Instead of a quick bout of stress, our bodies must learn to cope with long-term challenges without much relief.
In modern culture, we find ourself taking debts against our wellbeing, eventually pushing our body past its limits when we deprive it of crucial self-care and expose ourselves to damaging behaviors
Things that push your body into ‘survival mode’ include:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Unresolved stress
- Environmental toxins
- Infections, such as SIBO or candida
- Chronic illness
- Poor sleep
- Isolation or loneliness
Often, we experience more than one of these factors at any given time, further increasing our risk of burnout and exhaustion.
Why Does Burnout Feel So Awful?
Burnout isn’t just for high-powered execs and super busy jet-setters. Absolutely anyone can suffer from prolonged, deep fatigue often accompanied by feelings of anxiety and a reduced threshold for coping with stress.
This is because exhaustion, overwork, and stress put our body’s most influential systems into overdrive.
The OAT Axis + Adrenal Fatigue
Your ovarian-adrenal-thyroid axis quite literally controls every single one of the systems we rely on to feel our best, and when one falls out of balance, the other two are sure to feel it.
When perceived stress increases, whether it’s from a natural disaster, pandemic, or your kids causing mom burnout, your adrenal glands are often the first to feel the pressure, and in turn, they affect both your thyroid and your ovaries.
Together, your OAT axis controls metabolism, hormone balance, and energy production, in addition to dictating crucial functions like sleep, cognition, and resiliency.
What results when this system isn’t communicating is a breakdown in our ability to cope and handle daily tasks with ease.
Have you been feeling the pressure lately? Keep reading for 7 signs you might be headed for burnout.
7 Signs You’re on the Road to Burnout
1. You can’t stop hitting the snooze button.
No matter how much sleep you get, you just can’t manage to feel rested. When stress increases, it causes sleep deprivation and fragmented sleep, which means less time spent resting and restoring your body.
To complicate matters, trying to get through your day tired and unmotivated leads to more stress, which further exacerbates the cycle.
If you regularly need 9+ hours of sleep, you may consider reaching out to your integrative doctor to address any underlying problems.
In the meantime, my go-to sleep formula contains three ingredients that are crucial for falling asleep and staying asleep.
2. Little things push you over the edge.
When we’re feeling burnt out, we have less emotional and mental capability to deal with trying situations. This translates to a real, physical inability for your body to properly manage difficulty.
If minor things are overloading your coping skills, or you find yourself having outbursts at things that have previously been mild annoyances, it’s a sign you’re close to reaching your breaking point.
Similarly, if you already struggle with mental health issues, you may notice worsening depressive symptoms or fatigue.
If your stress manifests as anxiety, download the free anxiety guide here.
3. If you’re cycling, your periods knock you out with pain or fatigue.
Or, they’re irregular or not present at all.
When stress goes high, cortisol follows, and this can affect estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone–all the hormones you need to remain balanced for comfortable cycles.
Likewise, if you’re a man, you can still experience changes in testosterone due to stress and cortisol production. If stamina and muscle mass are hard to maintain, you may be edging on hormone imbalance.
4. You’ve gained weight–especially around your middle.
When the demands on our body exceed our ability to cope, we can experience changes in hormones and metabolism that impact where and how we store fat.
An increase in cortisol can make you more likely to store fat around your belly, while a decrease in thyroid hormone may have slowed your metabolism.
Exhausted adrenals can cause low thyroid, leading to weight gain and a slower metabolism (1).
5. You have sugar and caffeine cravings.
Comfort foods earned their name for a reason–our brains ask for certain macronutrient profiles when our body is going through tough times.
One theory is that cravings are likely due to a biological mechanism signaling that calories may be scarce soon, and we should stock up now while we can.
Another explanation for increased cravings is that changes in blood sugar balance due to stress heighten our desire for high carb and high fat foods.
While it’s normal to salivate over a buttery croissant or a lovely latte, if these cravings are constant and you’re having trouble kicking them, it’s best to be intentional about reducing your stress.
During difficult times, it’s beneficial to fuel your body with nutrients that can help you deal–like B vitamins, omega-3s, vitamin D, and deeply-colored fruits and veggies.
6. You’re exhausted at 7 pm, but can’t fall asleep at 11 pm.
Everyone’s circadian rhythm is different, but the daily cycle your body relies on to determine when to be awake and alert, and when to sleep is highly susceptible to changes in your OAT axis.
When life throws us more than we can handle, we can experience hormone changes that can alter our circadian rhythm and really affect our natural sleep cycle.
If your mind races at night, this causes you to feel more alert, even if you’re still tired. This can restrict nighttime hormones like melatonin, and calming neurotransmitters like GABA. Magnolia bark has been shown to activate GABA, and support healthy levels of cortisol at night to help quiet your busy mind.
7. You catch every cold your kids bring home.
You can thank and uptick in cortisol production for a slight depression in your immune function. In short bursts, cortisol can actually boost immune function, but chronic stress can result in immune dysfunction due to the tightly controlled hormone messengers the immune system relies on.
If you’re sick a lot, or spend more time being sick once you get an illness, this is a major sign something is out of balance.
Check out the All Things Immunity section on my website for immune health solutions for every member of your family.
Unwinding in the Age of Burnout
Once you begin to learn the signs and symptoms you’re headed for adrenal trouble, burnout, or OAT axis dysfunction, it becomes easier to pivot your diet and lifestyle to incorporate more self care and stress management before things start to snowball.
Adaptogens and certain vitamins or minerals can help support a healing phase while we navigate difficult situations.
By boosting calming neurotransmitters, promoting hormone balance, and supporting restful sleep, you can get your body back on track quickly.
4 Adaptogens and Adrenal-loving Vitamins
- Magnolia bark and its unique flavonoids have been shown to support the production of melatonin precursor, serotonin, and calming neurotransmitter, GABA, which play a significant role in restorative sleep at the level of the brain (2)(3).
Magnolia bark also promotes sleep by activating the body’s internal endocannabinoid system, which is the network of neurotransmitters responsible for dozens of mechanisms, including mood and relaxation.
- Vitamin B6: In times of stress, B6 is depleted rapidly as it aids in production of stress-modulating hormones, and “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin (5). B6 is also crucial for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen and energy to all parts of the body.
B6 is also critical for the healthy function of the adrenal glands, and for healthy hormone balance.
- Magnesium is a must for any systems that feel tight, cramped, tense, or stressed. Subclinical magnesium deficiency is estimated to affect nearly half the population, and is linked to poor sleep, chronic disease, blood sugar imbalance, and heart disease.
An amino acid chelate, such as you’ll find in Sleep Savior, is an easily digestible form of magnesium that can not only aid in sleep quality, but support other vital metabolic functions as well.
- Rhodiola is an Ayurvedic herb known for its ability to support the body’s response to stress, healthy energy levels, and normal levels of cortisol. One study noted significant improvements in happiness, fatigue, and tension when supplementing with 400 mg daily over several weeks (4).
Support for Adrenal Function + Fatigue
It’s always beneficial to evaluate the stressors present in your life. Many times we bite off more than we can chew trying to maintain the social, career, and family obligations we strive to meet.
In addition to striving to keep stress low, it’s important we have mechanisms in place to deal with difficult times when they happen. And when you know the signs of burnout, you can easier employ your relief tactics to regain your wellbeing sooner.
And to learn how holistic health can help you realize your super powers, join the Taz Tribe for tips, discounts, and exclusive Q&A’s with me!