We all experience stress at one point or another in life. Sometimes, stress is just fine. But sometimes, it builds up, and starts to take a toll on your body. Stress can affect many parts of the body, but one area that always feels it is your adrenals.
Your adrenals are the glands that produce different stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. When you’re under stress, you might start producing too much cortisol, making you feel ‘wired but tired’. If stress continues for too long, you might stop producing enough, leaving you exhausted and in burnout.
I’ve learned this lesson all too well recently. I thought that I could do all of the things, as long as they were all things I was passionate about. Choo-choo! Sam was on the express train to burnout. Blood and saliva testing showed that my adrenal hormones were struggling to keep up, and my sex hormones were all out of whack. So these are the things I did to support my adrenals back to health. As I’m a holistic practitioner, I covered three aspects of wellbeing: my nutrition, my lifestyle and my mindset.
10 Top Tips For Happy Healthy Adrenals
1) Schedule a break
This one falls outside of the three areas because it is the key action for reviving your adrenals. Even if you can’t take more than a day or even a few hours off at once, schedule breaks in and STICK TO THEM. If you’re reading this the week I published it, I am actually on break for this very reason.
Now let’s get into tips that are specific to the pillars of wellness.
Nutrition for Adrenals
2) Eat regularly (and enough!)
When you’re under massive amounts of stress is the worst time to skip meals and diet. Your body is churning through nutrients, so the more you can get in, the better. Eating regularly will also regulate your blood sugar levels, which can fluctuate a lot when the adrenals are struggling. I had to up my intake to over 2000 calories per day to hit my maintenance intake, which meant big meals and regular snacks. And that was a struggle, because I also needed to…
3) Focus on wholefoods
Processed foods will only put your body under more stress. You want 95% of your food to come from fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, quality protein and unprocessed carbohydrate sources. These are the foods that are packed full of adrenal-nourishing nutrients like zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C. When your adrenals are under siege, your immune system will often be dwindling, so these foods can also help stave off infection.
4) Pass the salt, but hold the coffee
Salt craving when stressed can often be a sign of – shock horror – salt deficiency. When we produce a lot of adrenal hormones, we also influence the hormones that regulate salt excretion through the kidneys. So grab some high-quality salt and season your wholefood-based meals to taste.
The one thing that does need to go on hold is coffee. I know, I’m as unhappy about it as you are! But coffee can spike stress hormones – if yours are already skyrocketing or even depleted, drinking it will only make you feel worse long-term. If you truly can’t live without caffeine, go for green tea instead – it has stress-reducing properties.
Lifestyle for Adrenals
5) Skip the Crossfit and F45
Extreme or intense exercise of any kind is best put on hold for now, as it will continue to stimulate stress hormone production. Your best bet for exercise is gentle movement like walking your dog or practicing yoga. At my lowest point, even a walk around the block – 13 minutes long – would exhaust me. So start slowly and build your way back up.
Easier said than done, I know! But the reason that so many people are under stress nowadays is not work or family – it’s that we are ‘switched on’ 24/7. If you don’t switch your phone or laptop off occasionally, you will constantly be under the demands of other people.
Start small with this one – turn your phone onto airplane mode overnight. I promise the Facebook notifications can wait. Build your way up til you have a tech-free day every few weeks.
7) Go to bed
Sleep is the time where the body and mind get to reset. The brain is flushed of toxins and other ickies, and the body works on repairing any tissues that were damaged throughout the day. This is the time when your adrenals get a mini reboot.
Honestly, if you are truly burned out, the more high-quality sleep, the better. I already head to bed around 8.30-9 because of Nick’s morning alarm. But I’ve also been sleeping in until 7 as much as I can to give myself some extra rest. Aim for a minimum of 7 hours sleep, but ideally 8 or 9.
Mindset for Adrenals
8) Get your om on
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while now, you might be getting the hint that I love me some meditation. And when it comes to reviving drained adrenals, it’s a must. Meditation calms the nervous system and gives you perspective – a two-for-one deal when it comes to stress.
9) Review your life
I’m pretty sure no one has ever gone into adulthood hoping to get a job, work too many hours, barely see their family and feel guilty about flaking out on their friends. We all want different things from life, and it’s important to look back on what it is that we do want.
A lot of stress can come from prioritising things that aren’t actually important over the things that are. Have a think about what you want your life to look like, and how much time you want to spend on the things you love. Then see where you can shift out some of the less important things. For me, this meant reducing my work hours (ever the workaholic) and spending more time with my partner and my doggo.
10) Look for joy
Finally, take some time to appreciate the little things and look for what brings you joy. When we’re stressed, it’s easy to overlook these things, so be mindful where you can. When I first implemented these tips, I took a few minutes every work day to appreciate the rosellas playing in the olive tree outside my office. I sunk into good cuddles with my partner. I took my dog for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful flowers along the way.
Find what makes you happy, and do more of that.
There were other steps that I took – using adaptogens, supplements and herbal teas tailored to my situation – but these 10 tips got me well on the way back to having happy adrenals again. If you’re feeling stressed, I think they could be a great help for you too.