By Dr. Nicole Sundene
When you are under stress do you go into fight, flight, or fright?
Fight, flight and fright are all normal responses to stress. Everyone generally has an anxiety pattern of what they lean towards or have a combination of a few. I am personally not a fighter so I tend to like to ride my bike when I am stressed or wrap up in a ball in bed in fright.
Understanding how we respond to stress is critical to addressing adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, and burn out. Every time we are triggered by mental or physical stress our adrenal glands respond by zapping us with adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. In nature, the purpose of this is so that we can “Run From a Bear" as I explain in my last hormone blog.
But these adrenal gland stress hormones don't help our anxiety one bit and can make us feel even more anxious. One easy way to burn off high cortisol and adrenaline is to go running or do some type of endurance event for at least 45 minutes. Most long distance athletes end up with burnt out adrenal glands because long distance exercise generally depletes adrenal hormones over time. But if you need to blow off some steam and the stress is becoming too much make sure you exercise. As it is obviously the best choice in my picture above.
Conversely, those with severe adrenal fatigue that end up with low adrenal hormones and low cortisol should not do long distance running or cycling but anabolic activities that build hormones such as weight lifting.
Many women have PTSD from traumatic events and it is difficult to return PTSD patients with panic attacks back to baseline without addressing the adrenal response. When I volunteered as a Naturopathic Doctor for vets with PTSD I learned very quickly how important adrenal support herbs were in addition to counseling and medications. Once we addressed the adrenal glands my vets reported less random episodes of panic attacks and began sleeping better through the night.
Psychological worry will trigger the adrenal glands to create stress hormones just like running from a bear. Your body does not know the difference. This is why it is important to do a butterfly hug and gently tap your shoulders or tap your heart to trick your body into thinking it is receiving a hug so it thinks everything is okay. This releases Oxytocin the "Love Hormone" that helps us feel calm and like everything is okay.
If there is nothing you can do about the psychological stress I recommend visualizing a stop sign and telling your brain to stop thinking about it. Worrying about matters beyond our control is the #1 scenario I see as a Naturopathic Doctor causing adrenal fatigue.
With high cortisol and adrenaline surging in our systems, many of us are guilty of going into FIGHT MODE...and we should be doing much more flight and fright than spreading more anger and rage. Try excessive kindness rather than acting in anger as I discuss the mental health benefits of kindness vs gratitude.
Evaluate the activities and people that make you angry and put you into fight mode and try to eliminate and minimize them. Instead of starting the next fight...head out on a flight. You can go for a run, swim, bike, ski, walk or just drive outside to a beautiful lookout area and sit and enjoy the magic of nature.
Nature will heal and restore you!
When fighting happens too much in households it's important you give each other a break and get out of the house at different times. If you are struggling with your hormones and dealing with PMS, Postpartum Depression, Hypothyroidism, Hashimotos, Perimenopause or Menopause its time to work with a Hormone Doctor on balancing your hormones! Imbalanced hormones can cause depression and anxiety as I discuss in my "Hypothyroidism Causes Depression?" blog.
Make sure you work with a Holistic Hormone Doctor as most MD's are not trained in adrenal testing, don't know which tests to order, and won't know how to treat your adrenals even if they order some testing because there are very few medications that address the adrenals. Herbal medicine and nutrition are needed to repair this condition along with stress management and counseling.
Getting your hormones tested and balanced is the first step to healing from adrenal fatigue. Many different herbs are used for the three different stages of adrenal fatigue or "Maladaptive Stress Syndrome" and using cortisol lowering herbs when cortisol is already low or cortisol boosting herbs when cortisol is running high can result in a worse outcome. It is important to work with a skilled holistic hormone doctor that specializes in Holistic Psychiatry when battling anxiety, stress, and adrenal fatigue.
Amidst this ongoing mental health crisis, please send this important article on stress management to any friends or family members that can benefit from learning about their adrenal glands!
Dr. Nicole Sundene
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology , Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 22 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones she presents to women the best integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 27 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones and Naturopathy!