Burnt Out & Unmotivated? Adrenal Fatigue Could Be The Cause

Have you lost the motivation and drive you used to have? Do you feel a lot more tired than usual? Have you had a more stressful period of time that you didn’t bounce back from the same way? Adrenal fatigue could be the cause.

Let me explain, from my own experience.

Since running HEAL full time, I’ve definitely found myself in bouts of burnout, where I know I’ve pushed myself too hard. If that happens I’m sluggish and find the things that used to excite and motivate me, just don’t as much. It usually happens in March (though this year I managed it a lot better!), right after a crazy season of wellness challenges and everyone wanting to make a health change in the new year. 

The first time this happened I just couldn’t figure out why I felt so unmotivated and why the things that would usually excite me about work, or life, just weren’t. After a chat with one of my mentors, it became really obvious that I had to treat myself like my own client. What would I say to myself if I was feeling burnt out and less motivated than usual?

I’d tell them to look into adrenal fatigue.

What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue, better described as HPA axis dysfunction is a collection of symptoms (you may have just one or many):

  • Waking up tired
  • Lowered ability to handle stress
  • Reduced or low motivation
  • Brain fog, trouble concentrating or decreased cognitive ability
  • Dizziness when standing up quickly
  • Low sex drive
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • And more…

When you experience stress, your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis in the brain becomes activated and a number of hormonal changes occur to result in the release of cortisol - a hormone that will help you handle stress (in the short term). If that stress is just short term, negative feedback in the brain stops the release of cortisol. This is how things should work.

The problem occurs when the triggers stressing you out don’t ever really stop, and they aren’t just the obvious stressors of work or financial stress. For example:

  • Not sleeping enough (<7 hours) is enough to elevate cortisol levels (source)
  • Eating a breakfast that is too starch or sugar heavy that results in low blood sugar, which tells your body to release cortisol (the stress hormone) to bring it back up
  • Sitting in traffic and becoming more and more frustrated that it’s taking you so long to get home (cue cortisol again!)
  • Being on your phone at night when a work email comes through that makes you start thinking about something stressful happening at work
  • Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, both of which impact your sleep
  • Or, in my case, not taking the steps to shut off my brain (even if I wasn’t working, I was thinking about it all the time).

How Adrenal Fatigue Impacts Your Energy, Your Brain and Your Motivation

Excessive stress can damage the brain and can actually make you more prone to depression too. Whenever depression kicks in, motivation tends to be low. Research shows that those who have been through periods of long term stress also have decreased attention.

Most importantly when your ‘stress’ levels (and remember stress can come in many different forms, per above) are chronically high, certain nutrients get depleted, which can cause you to feel tired. I think we all know that fatigue equals less motivation!

What You Can Do

Pay attention to eating foods high in vitamin C, the B vitamins and magnesium as adequate quantities of these nutrients is critical to feel better.

These include:

  • leafy greens
  • nuts & seeds
  • berries
  • beans & legumes
  • clean sources of protein

Adaptogenic herbs can also help. I am not going to give specific adaptogenic herb recommendations here as they are a bit like trying on a pair of shoes: what works for one person may not work for the next.

You can also test your hormone levels to understand if that’s playing a part in your low energy, motivation or general demeanour. This is something I offer my clients by the way and is ah-mazing to see if you are struggling with burnout, brain fog, adrenal fatigue or any of the above symptoms (you can click here to book a complimentary session to understand where your levels are at).

Play The Long Game

It can be really easy to only think short term and focus on today, tomorrow or this week only, telling yourself that future you will get to the self care later. The problem with that is it’s a ticket to burnout. It is SO easy to tell yourself you don’t have time for something like exercise or meditation because you’re busy with work. I know because I’ve done it.

The antidote to hard work, being busy or feeling stressed is PLAY, relaxation, exercise and unwinding and if you know you’re in something for the long game, you have to schedule in the self care like it’s a job.

Regarding exercise, I treat my exercise differently depending on how busy or intense the rest of my life is at that moment. If I’m doing 4 corporate talks in one week (which is SUPER energy consuming), I will be doing more recovery exercise like yoga or brisk walking. If I’ve got a quieter week work wise, I’ll up my exercise game and do something more intense like a spin class or a bootcamp type class.

The Bottom Line

I definitely don’t profess to have this whole self care game down, but I am pretty sure over the last few years I’ve definitely improved at it. It is almost like a job in that you always have to be working at it and remembering it.

The more you focus on that self care and increasing your adrenal nutrients (and possibly doing hormone testing and adding in some adaptogenic herbs to help), the more that energy and motivation will return! I promise!

If your motivation is low or you’re feeling burnt out, click here to book a complimentary nutrition. Adrenal fatigue is a very individual condition in which treatment is never the same for two people.

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