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No one will forget March 2020 and what it looked like to navigate the COVID world. No one will ever be the same. We are seeing more exhaustion coming through the doors than ever before.
There is a very high chance 2020 will have left many of us with chronic fatigue/adrenal fatigue, which can lead to inflammation, thyroid dysfunction, sometimes autoimmunity and even cardiac issues.
Not only are we still in a pandemic, but we had to navigate the Great 2021 Freeze, many of us are stressfully homeschooling, the racial tension is palpable and all the social media anger…ugh. It’s all just too much. Meanwhile, we are socially distanced, masked and continually the most hyperconnected to information yet disconnected from humanity and nature the planet has ever seen. It’s a perfect storm for chronic fatigue/burn out!
These events are leading to a terrible situation for our physiology. Human physiology is designed to adapt to stress for short times and then return to homeostasis (normal). Think running from a tiger or bear. We are not built for this. Not 14 months of missing your friends, your community, your people. Not 14 months of watching the world hate one another. 14 months of the unknown: Will I get sick? What if I get laid off? Will my business thrive? Will I get to travel this year and see family? This is leaving us in fight-or-flight for hours, days, weeks and months instead of minutes.
The problem with our world as we know it is that we were never far away from stress as it was. Insert 2020 and it all intensifies the fight-or-flight response and burns out our adrenals.
This level of stress, for this amount of time, leads everyone (not an overstatement. Everyone) to be overly stressed or, to put it another way, adrenally fatigued. We see it every day in almost every patient right now. The exhaustion in their eyes, the worry, the stress.
In practice right now, most people walking in the door have some adrenal fatigue, not a medical-level condition of adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease yet. But we are seeing adrenal exhaustion, causing all kinds of other imbalances.
Here are the signs and symptoms of chronic fatigue:
- Feeling tired/struggling to wake up in the morning
- Low thyroid
- GI issues (when you are in flight/flight, you can’t rest and digest)
- Irregular periods
- Low sex hormones
- Low motivation
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up at night
- A midafternoon slump (falling asleep at 3 p.m.)
- Anxiety or feeling on edge
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Autoimmune issues
- Brain fog
- Body aches
- Hair loss
- Lightheadedness (especially when going from lying to standing)
- Adjustments don’t hold
- Slow healing time
- Potential decrease in immune function
What can you do right away to pull out of it and get your energy under control?
Diet – Avoid refined sugars/carbs, cut out bread and most things that use wheat or grain flours. Eat smaller meals a bit more often to keep your blood sugar stable. There is much debate on this one, but you have to keep cortisol down to help the adrenals balance themselves.
Exercise – If you are more exhausted after exercise, then you are doing too much. You may need to switch to a lower intensity like walking or hatha yoga.
Meditation – This has been crucial for me and is possibly the only reason I am still upright. I like the Calm app, but there is also Headspace and other meditation apps out there.
Breath work – This will renew motivation, boost mood and calm your anxiety. I am a big fan of Nadi Shodhana or “alternate nostril breathing.“
Support – This is based on your individual needs, but a good start is methylated B-complex, vitamin C and apoptogenic herbs. Minerals like magnesium, or GABA, are good if you have a lot of anxiety. But really, we need to dig in and figure out what is best for you. To do that, you can book your appointment to discuss your specific problem set and what would be the right one for you.
We will get through this; I am certain of it! But it’s up to each of us how well or unwell we come out of it on the other side. We would love to help you come out well!
Stay healthy, safe, calm and sane!
Dr. Lauren Sanchez