MARCH 1, 2014
Earlier this month we heard from Robin Arutt from Full Potential Living on the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue and why we as sensitives tend to fall victim more than most. It was powerful and if you missed it, you can check it out here. In part two of our interview together, we dive deep into the healing process and discuss why redefining our expectations of health through an expanded consciousness is essential to getting to where we want to go.
More deep breathes, here we go….
1. There are so many avenues to healing our adrenals. For me, information was almost detrimental to the healing process. I thought there was something specific I had to do to move beyond it, where what I really needed to do was come out of my head and listen. Can you talk about how ‘headiness’ might get in the way of healing?
As intelligent beings, we strive to understand the “why” of things and put it into a context that makes sense. But this is like asking why one leaf on a full, gorgeous tree is different from the next. Each question leads to more questions, and with each new set of questions, the stress level goes up. Judgment enters the picture. Comparisons, self-doubt and self-criticism all get louder as the frustration levels rise. This, of course, only leads us into more challenges and negative states. The truth is, we are deep, amazing beings. As feelers, when we go deep, it’s easy to get lost in there! Now, this is not to say I’m against going deep; quite the opposite, in fact. But it’s important to go deep as a listener. You mentioned ‘headiness’. The answer is not in our heads it’s in our bodies, our souls to be more specific which speak to us through our bodies. Some of the most powerful work I do with clients is to help them connect very deeply without judgment, to listen. It’s really quite amazing what wisdom and crystal clear information can surface when we learn to do that.
2. Thoughts are so powerful. I constantly hear people labeling their bodies toxic before going on a cleanse and in the declaration of toxicity, the body naturally follows suit. I think the same sort of thought process can be played out for those who have been struggling for years or even decades with their adrenals. Feeling crappy is what we expect. It’s can be all we know. The idea of vibrant health isn’t even in our consciousness. Do you think it’s important to expand consciousness to allow for this idea of full potential health to take fruition?
I truly believe that feeling crappy is not all we know. I believe that we have a deeper connection to our most optimal health and happiness. It may not be conscious, but it’s there, alive in us, and when we’re really struggling, it can feel like a lost memory. That’s often where the longing and comparisons begin. We want to know why we are experiencing life differently from deep, contented happiness (which is our true nature). As far away as it may seem, it’s critical to do exactly as you say, to expand our understanding not only of ourselves but our understanding of what health looks like. We think we know what “toxic” or “heavy” or “lethargic” look like. But even these are our own interpretations, our own embodiments and expressions of these adjectives.
Honestly, I think that there is such a limited, contracted, oppressive portrayal of health in the media that turns off the appeal of health altogether! I mean, who wants give up peace and quiet, calm and tranquility or fantastic food in exchange for incessant exercise, forcing the body to stay 5 pounds underweight, obsessing about calories, etc.? That’s no fun at all. I find that often our own ability to reach vibrant health may not be in our consciousness because we are holding other parts of ourselves so dearly; our comfort, our joy, our peace. When we learn that we can achieve optimal health without having to LOSE these beloved parts of ourselves and our lives, the world truly opens up!
It’s critical that we redefine what health is. Health is feeling amazing, comfortable and confident in our bodies. It’s optimizing our body’s physiology so that we are free of bothersome dysfunction. Health is not a destination in and of itself. Rather, it’s a vehicle that helps us get to the life we want to live, to living our true passion and purpose. When we are living our true passion and purpose, when we are deeply contented, when we are able to connect to others, fully feel, experience, give and receive love, all while we are freed from bothersome physical dysfunction, we are optimally healthy. This, in my opinion, is Full Potential Living. And this can look very different from person to person.
3. Okay now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. You see so many clients who are struggling with their adrenals. Is there some baseline information that you might be able to share to get us on the proper path to healing (knowing that each path will look different)?
First, it’s critical to know what stage of adrenal fatigue you are in. When the adrenals are in early stages of fatigue, they are often pumping hard. We are in a stress response and our cortisol goes up. There is so much information out there about “high cortisol” but this is not always the case. You see, once we’ve been in that state for a while, our adrenals get tired, and our cortisol drops. Clients may have low cortisol all day and then finally have enough to function well by evening. So I use saliva testing with ZRT Laboratories to determine what clients’ cortisol levels are over a 24-hour period. Generally speaking though, we need to feed and nourish our adrenals and this can be done in a number of ways. Adrenal restoring diets are high in clean protein, meaning protein at every meal and low in simple carbohydrates. Refined foods and sugar put the body in a stress response, period. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy sweet things. I help my clients find alternatives they love, like cocoa truffles made with coconut oil and sweetened with stevia, for example! (There are so many ways to enjoy good food. This is often the fun part!) We also need a lot of minerals. This can mean supplementing with high-quality zinc and magnesium, as well as eating a lot of dark, leafy greens. Vitamin C is also highly restorative. I also assure that clients have optimal Vitamin D levels and supplement with a high quality B-complex. These are critical. There are numerous herbal preparations that can be helpful too, but start gradually. No need to shock the body with a lot of new things at once.
As far as teaching the body to step out of a stressed state, the approaches are numerous as well. I can’t speak more highly of deep breathing. We have the best medicine right here with us all the time, and it’s free! Remembering to do it is often the hard part of course, so create reminders that work for you. This can be setting reminders on your phone, using sticky notes or what I call “attaching it”. Attach it to something else that you do regularly. Maybe you take 5 long deep breaths whenever you hang up the phone, or when you park the car before going inside, or when you have some privacy, such as when you are in the bathroom.
I’m a fan of journaling and creative expression as well. This helps us relax, puts the body into a “safe zone” and also facilitates the clearing of blockages, whether those are fears, old wounds or limiting beliefs.
Another big one is sleep. This can be a tough one since adrenal fatigue can affect sleep. It can become a negative feedback loop with each making the other worse so utilizing strategies to optimize sleep is important.
And finally, don’t be afraid to really de-stress. This might mean changing jobs or getting selective about whom you spend your time with. Take breaks and really sink into them. Let that relaxation enter your body, telling your adrenals that you are there, looking out for your well-being and keeping the body safe and taken care of. Finding other people to help us feel safe and cared for is an incredible gift. But ultimately, we are the only ones who are with our bodies 24/7 and we have to learn to be our best, most nurturing, loving caretakers.
4. Once we start healing, we naturally show up in the world in a bigger way. Can you talk a little about the importance of nurturing our adrenals so that we are able to stay out in the world should and when we choose?
You’re right, there are numerous strategies and I use different ones for different people. But one thing that is really important specifically for HSPs, is that we often equate “taking care of ourselves” with escaping. Our downtime and disconnect time is absolutely vital but it doesn’t have to be a reaction to the world. I don’t believe we were put on this incredible Earth so that we could escape it. I believe that we were given our talents, our hobbies, our loves and our passions almost as divine instructions; that we are meant to DO them in the world and that they are needed. We never know what our light will illuminate for others. We are meant to be happy being who we are and to contribute to a collective happiness and helpfulness.
When our adrenals are out of whack, nearly all stimuli feels overwhelming and can even feel physically painful. By nurturing our adrenal health we do several things. We learn to be good caretakers of ourselves, which enables us to better love and care for others. We raise our ability to be out in the world, yet never lose our control over gauging how much is too much. So we can still take our downtime, but our “uptime” is joyous. This feeds our souls as well as those we share that time with.
Finally, it allows the gifts of highly sensitive people to be shared with the world. You know that famous old cartoon showing the “Agoraphobics Anonymous” meeting and no one was there because they couldn’t leave their homes? Now imagine all the beautiful, sensitive souls on the planet able to get out and fully engage with the world; calm, rested, not overwhelmed, fully able to share our gifts. And might I add, the world desperately needs us.
We are not broken. Our care for ourselves can be a loving, restorative practice, one that enables us to more fully be who we are, not take us away from it. Adrenal restoration can help us to more fully be in the world with comfort, joy and generosity without force, without overwhelm. Living in a way that nourishes our bodies and keeps our stress response and the ripple effect of that stress completely in check. Learning how to restore the adrenals means learning to stay tuned into our needs in a way that is proactive, not reactive; in a way that feels less like wound healing and more like actively loving ourselves. And, it can even be fun. Once we learn to incorporate this into our lives, we know exactly what we need to keep our own personal balance, while enjoying deeper connection, giving and receiving.
Robin Arutt, M.Ed., CH, CHC is a Personal Health & Wellness Expert, Clinical Herbalist, Personal Health Coach & Mentor. For her full bio, click HERE.
Robin will be leading a phone-based group coaching course in April, entitled: Holistic Adrenal Restoration: A Body & Soul Approach to Healing Adrenal Fatigue. For more information, visit www.fplhealth.com.
FEBRUARY 4, 2014
Not too long ago I shared a post with you on my bout with adrenal fatigue. There were many resonations and just as many questions that came with that share and I felt compelled to dive deeper into the illness for all of us. I joined forces with the wonderful Robin Arutt from Full Potential Living to explore the syndrome further. We had an interview characterizing the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue buttoned up and ready to release but we both felt it was missing something.
If you have been with me for a while, you know that I am passionate about sensitivity. I am of the belief that becoming more sensitive, feeling more, IS the objective. Becoming more sensitive looks like being able to be present with what we are sensing in any given moment. It looks like responding to that presence from the heart, and not habitually reacting out of self-protection. If our adrenals are worn down, we move away from the heart and closer to self-protection. We become more sensitive, but not in the way that we want. Adrenal fatigue can cause us to develop an inability to manage life. We may retreat, hide, or isolate for every noise becomes sharp, every word feels heavy, and everything is just too damn much to bear.
The emptiness of our first interview stemmed from the fact that although both Robin and I share an understanding and appreciation for the correlations between adrenal strain and high sensitivity, we didn’t really illustrate it in the interview. We hesitated, perhaps due to the similarities between adrenal fatigue “symptoms” and high sensitivity characteristics. Obviously, pathologizing being highly sensitive is not what we’re about. Being highly sensitive is not something to move beyond; rather it’s something to grow with. The same goes for managing our adrenals. According to Robin (and I strongly agree), while we can certainly repair and re-nourish our adrenals, having adrenal fatigue is something that can actually enrich our lives.
We talked again (with figurative light bulbs going on over our heads). Excited, we set out to share with you the ways we can identify adrenal fatigue, its signs and symptoms, methods used to nurture our adrenals and most of all how to enjoy and even USE the many complexities that come with inhabiting a sensitive body to help us more deeply love life as highly sensitive people.
That said, the revised interview felt far more real, far more applicable, when we explored adrenal fatigues’ positive link to high sensitivity. This is not a mushy, fake attempt to “slap a positive on a negative”. Rather, we learn from Robin’s own experience and expertise that a gentle reframe for what we may currently define as ‘struggle’ can be a positive tool for life.
There is a lot to touch on so this will go down in a two-part series. First, a little bit about Robin Arutt (who I know you will grow to love rather quickly):
Robin Arutt, M.Ed., CH, CHC is a Personal Health & Wellness Expert, Clinical Herbalist, Personal Health Coach & Mentor. In her 30′s, a host of health challenges suddenly transformed her life. In a matter of weeks, her life went from that of an athletic, active, professional into a one of deep debilitation, often bedridden, and struggling to get through the day. During a five year fight with her multi-layered illness, she put her holistic health work front and center, researching and learning, while partnering with conventional doctors and a host of holistic practitioners. She finally healed fully by using a truly integrative approach. Now, with over 20 years of health and wellness experience, she has dedicated her life to helping others “feel well so they can live well”; serving clients with chronic conditions and educating other wellness professionals. Her mission is to lead the public toward healthier, happier, Full Potential Living. She is the founder of Full Potential Living, a health and wellness services and advocacy company based in Austin, TX, and works with clients, coaches and practitioners around the world.
Here we go, deep breath…
1. Robin, might you give us a short overview of what adrenal fatigue might look like on a day-to-day basis? I realize each day can feel dramatically different but it would be great to get a better idea of how it surfaces.
Absolutely. One of the tricky things about adrenal fatigue is that many of the symptoms have become either normalized or just widely accepted as being “stressed out”; but there are real symptoms that surface when our adrenals our tired. The most common ones are unrelenting fatigue (even with a full night’s sleep), inability to focus, cravings for salt, feeling easily overwhelmed- by anything from the day’s demands to loud noises to intense people, feeling exhausted all day and then wired at night, feelings of nervousness, anxiety or “shut down” when everyone else seems to switch into high-gear, lack of productivity, lowered libido, unexplained weight gain or loss, becoming easily irritated, depressed, and frequently feeling hungry “even when we know we’re not” are among the most common signs. There are even some specific physical symptoms, such as frequent headaches, stomach upset, lowered immunity (catching colds easily or increase in allergies), dizziness when standing, and more.
It affects millions, but conventional medicine, at least in the US, rarely recognizes it as a syndrome. It’s not until our adrenal function actually breaks down, which shows up on a blood test, that most conventional doctors will attribute these symptoms to adrenal function, and by then it’s a whole different enchilada. Fortunately, many holistic practitioners know better and we can get clients to healing long before this happens.
2. Can you walk us through a day-in-the-life of someone with adrenal fatigue to help ground some of the symptoms (ie waking/sleeping/digestion/etc)?
We can imagine what a day in the life of someone whose energy center is burned out might feel like: Nearly impossible to feel awake prior to 9 or 10am, dragging oneself to school or work, drinking coffee to keep going, increasing stress and frustration with not being able to focus or get things done, snacking regularly in an attempt to gain energy. As the day goes on, pressure mounts because we haven’t gotten done what we needed to. More coffee or perhaps a soda. Personal interactions are extremely taxing, we may even snap at someone at work or at home when we didn’t want to, wondering why we were so reactive. We find ourselves “hiding out” in the bathroom for an extra long time, just to enjoy the stillness, peace and quiet. We cancel our plans for the evening (again), hoping our friends or family understands, and may feel guilty for not being able to do more, be more, or give more to the people we love. Every sound- the phone ring, the ding of a car door, kids whining, feels like a piercing pain in the head. All day we dream about going to bed, so we head home, skip the gym (again), plan to hit the sack early, only to finally feel awake and productive when night comes! The day felt wasted, so we get to work, trying to accomplish things when we are finally feeling “normal”. But this leads to another late night and another day just like this one tomorrow. Now add kids, errands, financial challenges, health issues or socially driven concerns to the picture. When we try to explain how we are feeling, we’re told to get more sleep, or to relax, or to see a doctor. The worst? We’re told, “Hmmm, you don’t look sick.” It’s tough to get through the day, not only physically, but emotionally.
3. I think what is most confusing about this syndrome is the chronic misdiagnosis for other illnesses. What has been your experience in this capacity?
Yes, misdiagnoses happen a lot. By the time I knew what was happening, the years of adrenal imbalance took its toll on my other hormones, including my thyroid and reproductive system. So this compounds the issue in terms of clinical symptoms. But because I didn’t know then what I know now, I would list my problems to doctors and they would ask me if I was depressed from the low energy, offered me medication for anxiety due to the sensory overwhelm, offered medication for ADD due to the foggy thinking and inability to focus, suggested I get help for compulsive eating (I learned later that I was hungry so frequently because I was looking to food for energy, not necessarily for hunger or comfort), and even sent me to a fertility specialist, who told me to just “hang in there” and, if I wanted, I could go “directly into fertility treatment” when I was ready to have a child, as if this was the answer I was looking for. (I was 31 at the time and was simply trying to get through the day, not trying to conceive). Had I not listened to my gut I would have been on multiple medications with multiple diagnoses, not to mention the bills! Unfortunately, this is all too common.
4. Can you share a little more about your story? The first time I heard you tell it, there were so many points of resonation, specifically ‘the crash’ you speak of when your adrenals said ‘no more’. I am certain others will relate to this as well.
Sure. I spent years of my life as a go-getter, an adventurer; someone who took on whatever she was interested in 110%. Over the course of just a few years in my late 20′s, a series of tragic events occurred. This included the loss of my mother, my best friend suffering a traumatic brain injury, my beloved dog I’d had since college dying in a freak accident, 9/11 hitting very close to home, and more. That time period was a doozy. I did a lot of personal work, got into yoga, therapy, and meditation, dove more deeply into my research in natural healing and nutrition. And as I started bouncing back, I started feeling really grateful for being alive. I dove into life, trained in martial arts, had countless adventures, even moved to Mexico for a couple of years. I LIVED. And yes, it was fun and fulfilling in many ways. I grew a ton and worked through a lot of difficult stuff. I felt freed on a profound level, but different, easily affected by things around me, and exhausted.
After spending years resolving a long case of disseminated Lyme disease that attacked, among other things, my thyroid and adrenal glands, I was fed up with having come so far, learned so much, yet with still feeling constantly exhausted, foggy and overwhelmed. My nervous system felt like it was triggered by just about everything, I was tired of wondering why my health was better than it had been in years, yet I was still constantly fatigued, hungry, questioning why I couldn’t keep up, keep plans, or keep pace. But there was constant sensory overwhelm and exhaustion. I remember the predominant desires, pretty much daily, were to either escape the chaos of everyday life via long, luxurious vacation or just wishing to stop the world for awhile so I could rest. Neither of these, of course, was possible.
I had been studying adrenal fatigue and knew that mine were “probably fatigued after all I’d been through”, but I didn’t change my life much. I kept doing the things I had to do to keep going…but finally my adrenals just gave out and I had no choice but to stop and listen. In 2005, I remember having to walk off the mat in the middle of a jiu jitsu class (which I was in love with) and couldn’t even take my new dog for walks. I was in bed, sometimes for days at a time. Thus began the long road to repairing the deeper levels of my health, first and foremost, my adrenals. They had helped to push my body and my life through a ton of challenging events, but they were truly, profoundly fatigued.
Now, many years later, I can honestly say that this “crash” was the greatest gift I could have received at that time in my life. I had to dig deep on a lot of levels, and the trajectory of my life and approach to living were forever changed, for the better! It’s funny how these things can often deliver exactly what you need.
5. Now to get into the link between adrenal health and the sensitive nervous system…might you describe the correlation for us? Why is the sensitive more susceptible to adrenal fatigue than someone with a hardier nervous system?
The adrenals are what carry us through stressful times. They facilitate our body’s ability to respond to any kind of stress, assuring that A) we have the power we need to escape a threatening situation and B) our bodily functions will remain in homeostasis even when we are experiencing stress. We live in stressful, stimulating times. If you imagine a sleeping child- when they get into deep sleep, it takes more to rouse them, but if they are in that “half awake, tossing and turning sleep” any little sound can wake them up again. In this day and age, unless we make it a point to really quiet ourselves and relax, our adrenals rarely have the opportunity to get into deep relaxation. Small stresses can startle the baby, causing a sort of mini-panic response, physiologically. This is for non-HSPs! For those of us who are naturally sensitive; to sound, to stress, to love, to joy, to others’ pain, well, we feel it. We feel it deeply in our bodies and our nervous systems respond when others’ may not. When those nerves are stimulated they tell the adrenals that something’s up. So it’s possible that we are tapping our adrenal energy far more frequently, since we feel things so much.
This doesn’t have to be a negative. And in fact, using that internal response as an “inner barometer” is something I work on with clients.
In a way, we have a gift of how we experience and contribute to the world. When our adrenals are tired, our sensory experiences, instead of being beautiful, can actually be painful, causing us to retreat in order to prevent overwhelm. But what if we could hold onto the sensitivity, onto the depth of experience, without it taxing our bodies in a negative way? When we keep our bodies, including our adrenals, nourished and well taken care of, our sensory experiences can bring love and healing to our lives and, by extension, to the world.
As an interesting aside, the right adrenal is shaped like a triangle and the left is shaped like a crescent. I like to refer to them as “our moon and star”. In the work I do with clients on healing adrenal fatigue, we find that they can truly guide our way.
Click here for part two of our interview together. Robin goes into specific ways to heal our adrenals and why it matters that we do because it really BIG TIME matters that we do.
APRIL 29, 2013
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MARCH 14, 2012
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