2014 was the end of a decade for me. When I think back I completely understand where my journey to depletion began. I come from a family of competitive high achievers, or perhaps better described as deniers, by that I mean we think we can do anything whatever age. I grew up being told by my father that my grandfather did such and such on his 50th birthday, like swim 100 lengths non-stop. On his 60th he completed some other feat of similar impressiveness. My father inherited this same gene and did similar things while I was a kid and even after leaving home was told what had been achieved on certain milestone birthdays. One being jumping off the Sky tower at 60 if my memory serves me right.
My point being this determination to do big things on the year of a significant birthday has once again been passed down to me and I didn’t even realise I was doing it. Being in the fitness industry I just did the things I loved to keep fit and entered a few competitions or events to top off a large training volume to get to the start line.
The pictures above show 2014 events in chronological order. Swimming in the King of the Bays, 2.9k swim. Running Tough Mudder 18k + 18 obstacles in the first one in NZ. Then winning Tough Guy Tough Gal for my age group, and topping that off with the Auckland Marathon in early November in 3.36. As I’ve alluded to it wasn’t so much the event but the training, and of course it had to be done properly or not at all! Add into the mix a job that requires early starts, long days on my feet with nowhere near enough down time to give my body the rest and recovery it truly needed.
Enter: Adrenal Fatigue, or as it should be referred to; HPA Axis dysfunction. The H stands for Hypothalamus, the P is the Pituitary and A is Adrenal.
At the end of 2014, I didn’t realise just how much I had punished my body. We had planned to meet family from the UK on a ‘halfway’ holiday. When I think back I remember thinking the opposite to everyone moaning about the 14 hour flight from Brisbane to Dubai. All I could think was, I cannot wait to sit still and not have to do anything.
I had burnt the candle into obliteration….I had no reserves. I was fatigued. I was not refreshed by a solid night’s sleep. I had had a massive year but was looking for more.
Early 2015 I found a mentor who specialised in a very holistic approach to client treatment. This involved looking at our own health – we had to hold the mirror up first. I didn’t like what I saw.
I took the test that measures your cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones. It’s very important for fight or flight mode. (Which I had been in almost the whole of 2014!) Its job is mainly as an anti-inflammatory. To mop up the damage we do to our bodies. I had beaten myself up a lot with over exercising and under resting. The second part being the more important. I thought I was invincible and if I was doing all this stuff I was setting a good example right?
I knew that if I had elevated cortisol levels I was in trouble. I got my results and the graph showed a line along the bottom of the graph – YES, I was low not high!
I had my consult which brought pretty scary news. I had been high and now because I jad been high for so long my body could no longer sustain the output required and had stopped producing cortisol in the required amounts. CRAP – it was worse than being high. I was in phase 3 – EXHAUSTION.
|This graph gives you a good idea of how the levels of cortisol should be in our body. Green is good, yellow is getting up there, Orange is slipping down the other side and red is phase 3, exhaustion. The importance of taking 4 samples during my test is to track the pattern over the day. We are supposed to wake with highish levels of cortisol and over the day it should slowly drop and be quite low by bed time so we can sleep well and start all over again. However, this was completely disrupted for me. |
Here are my results. My total cortisol should ideally have been between 23 and 42. I scored a 10.3. This gave me lots of answers as to why I had no energy. Even on waking I was only hitting a 5.6 when it should have been between 13 and 24. Flat as a pancake as they say!
|At my consult I was trying to listen to the advice but really all I was thinking is how did I get to this point. How was I so depleted? Many medical professions do not recognise this predicament. Unless you are so sick that you have Addison’s disease then you are not sick!! There are more broad minded well-read and widely experienced and experienced professionals who do acknowledge this situation even though it may not have a medical definition. That was me and up to 70% of people tested in my industry. We are givers and often do not make enough time for ourselves.|
I have learnt the hard and slow way what to do and what not to do in terms of how to manage this condition, particularly as I couldn’t just stop working and rest. In fact I often resented what I did as I felt it was responsible for getting me into this condition in the first place. I got over myself found a way out and today my cortisol levels are back to a healthier 33.5. Still a bit bumpy but certainly almost where it should be on the graph.
|My way out was sleeping better for longer when possible. Eating even better than I was. Feeding the hormones I had depleted with healthy fats and protein. Eating foods that weren’t sprayed with chemicals, which case stress on the body. Finding time in my weeks for extra time out. I did some yoga. This gave me time out and let someone else direct my health regime for a little while. As you can see from the numbers I bounced back. I have more energy. I still have low energy days but those are outnumbered by the normal energy days. I don’t resent the work I do. I love it still and can now help other people with their own energy challenges.|
The steps you need to take can be varied and different from person to person as your stress can come from different places but once you get a handle on these things you can then focus in on a pathway to recover your energy.
In the same way someone who has been over weight shed that weight and now helps others discover their path to a healthy weight I can do the same from an energy point of point, from an HPA axis point of view!
If you are feeling stressed, out of control, unsettled, unhappy make contact today or have a read of more useful information on my website at www.f4l.co.nz look forward to hearing from you.