For NAD Pastors
Tired All the Time: Adrenal Fatigue
By Lynell LaMountain
Have trouble falling asleep at bedtime? Feel tired or groggy in the morning? Fatigued? If so, you might be suffering from adrenal dysfunction (great, one more dysfunction to add to the list).
A Popular Theory
We learned a new term back in 1998 that has become increasingly popular: Adrenal Fatigue, introduced by Dr. James L. Wilson. In theory, people can experience low adrenal function when exposed to chronic stress.
A Grim Reality/Illusion
Proponents of this theory claim that when we subject ourselves to extreme, ongoing stress we overwork our adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion, eventually leading to adrenal fatigue.
They say people with adrenal fatigue feel exhausted, and crave caffeine and sugary snacks to boost energy levels. They feel trapped in a world of unrelenting stress, and reach a point where they can no longer function normally at home or work.
Although much has been written about adrenal fatigue, it’s not a proven medical condition.[i] Some experts are convinced it exists while others, well, not so much.
Ministry takes a toll emotionally and physically; one can reach the point where he or she feels depleted and burned out.
It’s easy to fall into the unhealthy habit of using vast stores of nervous energy to “survive” the sustained onslaught of interpersonal ministerial responsibilities and demands whether you’re a pastor, teacher or administrator.
Living in a heightened nervous state, and being exposed to chronic, sustained stress, is unhealthy. (Can you spell, a-n-t-i-d-e-p-r-e-s-s-a-n-t?)
Stress & Doctors
Seventy-five to ninety percent of all doctor visits are for stress-related pain(s) and complaints[ii].
Where is all this stress coming from?
From at least two places: 1) How we manage our approach to daily life, and 2) Hormones secreted by the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are two tiny pyramid-shaped pieces of tissue situated right above each kidney; they make hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol.
Cortisol’s primary job is to help us deal with stressful situations. But too much is unhealthy because it stresses the mind and body.
Breaking-Free From Insanity
We’re in the same boat – Everyday we do our best to serve God and others while still having a life. Some will say (work-a-holics), with a self-righteousness tone, “That IS life.”
No, it is not.
Don’t get me wrong. A surrendered, Christ-centered life IS true life. But religious busyness is not. And there are some who replace the latter for the former. But I’m here to tell you that when you have those priorities mixed up, you’re in for a world of pain in the form of chronic stress and fatigue.
We were not created to be a cog in the “divine” machinery of ceaseless activity. Jesus gave us passions and interests, and a heart for service.
Decide right now to break-free from the insane lifestyle of surviving and coping.
What We Can Do
Here’s what I’ve done: I’ve made an appointment with my physician for my annual physical. You should do the same if you haven’t already just in case we have a medical condition that needs attention. Although rare, Addison’s disease causes adrenal insufficiency. Or diabetes or pre-diabetes could be an issue. Maybe it’s nothing and our brain is just playing tricks on us! Either way, we need information to take appropriate action.
Additionally, I’ve enlisted the expertise of an endocrinologist to check my hormones. Hormonal issues can leave a person feeling weak, overwhelmed, exhausted, and fatigued.
Finally, symptoms of fatigue can be lifestyle related. Here are some lifestyle habits I try to follow to boost and maintain healthy energy levels:
1) Eat a low-glycemic breakfast.
Fueling our body with healthy carbohydrates helps to maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the morning and rest of the day.
2) Eat protein and healthy fats.
We all know that healthy protein and fats are essential for maintaining our best health. But for me they’re also a tool to slow sugar absorption.
(If I sound crazy about controlling sugar levels it’s because I am. Diabetes runs in my family. I’ve observed it leaving my loved ones feeling tired and worn out, among other things; so I’ve decided not going to get it :-)
3) Eat complex carbohydrates.
Wholesome, complex carbohydrates fuel the brain with its primary energy source: Glucose.
4) Keep daily sugar intake to 25 grams or less[iii].
The World Health Organization recommends that sugar intake not exceed more than 5 percent of our daily caloric intake, which is about 25 grams of sugar a day for adults with a normal body mass index.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories a day of sugar for women, about 6 teaspoons, and no more than 150 calories of sugar a day for men, about 9 teaspoons. [iv]
Speaking from personal experience, when I manage my sugar in-take effectively, I’m stronger, more energetic, and have better moods.
5) Eliminate stimulants.
Caffeine stimulates the adrenals, only giving the illusion of energy. Truth is, caffeine depletes our energy stores, leaving us feeling more tired[v].
A great way to boost energy is physical activity. A short walk in the fresh air and sunshine is a legitimate energy-producing activity.
6) Take full, deep breaths throughout the day.
Oxygenating our body with full deep breaths is a great stress-management tactic, and is something we can do anywhere.
7) Look up.
Jesus promises to give us rest and peace. All we have to do when things look down is look up.[vi]
Life is more than counting minutes on a clock or years until retirement. Jesus wants us to be and feel fully alive right now![vii].
We can feel more alive and vibrant.
We can awaken in the morning with passion ready to meet the day.
We can have the stamina we need to play with our kids and love ones – to live!
So please don’t wait until tomorrow to start living life to the fullest.
Lynell LaMountain is health ministries director for the Southern Union Conference
[vi] Matthew 11:28; Philippians 4:7
[vii] John 10:10
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