The “fight or flight” syndrome – you’ve heard of it, right? Usually it’s accompanied with the image of a saber-toothed tiger dashing after a hunter, getting ready to attack.
We’re not literally in that frantic position anymore but our bodies are often reacting as if we were. Which means our adrenal glands are forced to work overtime in an effort to deal with stress from all sources: injury, disease, work, family, finances, environment, etc.
It’s hard to imagine these small endocrine glands (essentially the size of a walnut at the top of your kidneys) are responsible for the manufacture and secretion of vital hormones such as cortisol, oestrogen and testosterone.
Cortisol production is crucial for the body to combat stress.
Whereas thousands of years ago the stress was felt for a finite amount of time – you either outran the predator and survived or you were eaten – now stress seems to be a common state of being for so many of us as we rush around trying to keep up with our busy lives.
Here’s the problem: chronic stress can overload the adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion.
For some of us, the fatigue will become overwhelming and the adrenals will no longer function properly to provide the energy and resources our bodies need on a day-to-day basis. Then you start to feel more stressed because you’re tired and exhausted all the time, making it harder to deal with the stress of your everyday life – a vicious circle.
When you’re exhausted the obvious thing is more sleep, but that’s not always easy with adrenal problems, because insomnia is a common symptom.
When you feel refreshed it’s easier to deal with everyday stress. Here are a few simple steps you can take to prepare yourself for a better night’s sleep, one of the best ways to refresh and rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit.
Go to bed at the same time every night – ideally no later than 10-10:30pm.
Set up a bedtime routine (yes, just like you do for kids!). Setting up a routine and sticking to it every night will train your body to anticipate sleep at that time.
Get ready for bed earlier in the evening — washing up, putting on pyjamas and unwinding with restful activities will help put the body into a state of calm.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol in late afternoon/evening (or remove them completely from your diet to avoid any rollercoaster-like blood sugar surges). Alcohol may help you to sleep initially, but it will backfire after a few hours!
Exercising at least four hours before sleep time can help you to feel naturally tired at the end of the day, and to fall asleep faster. Exercising in the morning will kickstart your day and free up time in the evening.
Set a time in the evening to power off your phone – those emails and messages can wait until the next day.
Lie in bed and read – choose a book that isn’t going to use too much brain power. I love cheesy romances, handsome heroes rescuing maidens in distress!
Do you toss and turn or wake at 2am thinking about all the things you still need to do? Set aside some time in the evening to create a to-do list, check and update your calendar and write down any thoughts that are causing you worry. Also write down at least one thing that you were grateful for during your day – the sunset, a beautiful morning or even just the fact you didn’t slap anyone today!