Women at work

Note: This article was originally published on Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/our-cultures-hidden-plague_us_57854ab3e4b0e7c8734efec0 .

All over the world, women are falling prey to the plague of the 21st century: unrelenting stress, sleep deprivation, adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction.

Part of the problem is addressed in Arianna Huffington’s new book Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. Her book reflects her own personal crisis and recovery. It is raising awareness of the sleep deprivation problem.

In my own senior executive role, I was “on” 24/7 and was constantly checking email, putting out fires, multi-tasking and dealing with difficult personalities. I was on top of my game! I was a mover and shaker! But then, the sleep problems started. A little at first: later a lot. First, I had trouble going to sleep then I had trouble staying asleep. Every night I would wake up after a few hours sleep. I couldn’t understand why this was happening.

The Adrenal Factor

The fact is I was on an adrenaline high. To keep up with the modern pace, my adrenal glands were working 24/7. These organs were pumping out stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol) at alarming rates. Normally, they support our bodies in healthy ways including our “fight or flight” response, which is necessary until it’s happening all the time.

My stress hormones (especially cortisol) were working overtime to keep up with the load. They even continued during the night and when they hit a peak, they would wake me up again. Later, I discovered that many people, and especially women, are experiencing this same interrupted sleep phenomenon.

The Right Doctor

Luckily, I found a medical doctor that recognized my symptoms as thyroid dysfunction and “adrenal fatigue.” Dr. Douglas Brooks is a family doctor that researches and understands this phenomenon. After some time working with Dr. Brooks, I’m happy to say that I now sleep the night through. It has changed my life. As Arianna points out, sleep is critical to everything we think and do.

In a similar case, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. She spent years having low energy and much of the time in bed. It was ruining her life and everyone’s around her. Finally, she found a doctor that knew how to recognize the symptoms and, more importantly how to treat them. She has made remarkable progress and is steadily getting her life back.

Unrelenting stress, sleep deprivation, adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction are often related.
If you also have possible adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue symptoms seek out a medical doctor that knows how to recognize and test for this hidden plague. Many in the medical community don’t recognize or treat this condition. A good place to start is your local compounding pharmacist. They often know which medical doctors understand this health problem and can often give you a reference to one of them. Look up your local compounding pharmacy online.

Healthy Choices

I recognized that my lifestyle choices were contributing to my problem (e.g., never getting off the gerbil wheel). But we all have to live with stress. It is a part of life. So the answer isn’t to eliminate stress ~ that wouldn’t be any fun anyway. Rather, in addition to getting help from a doctor who specializes in this problem, we need to embed some simple everyday practices that can help us cope.

Here are some practices that I find particularly helpful:

  • Unplug & Rest ~ Build in periods of being “unplugged” ~ turn off all your e-devices.
  • Experience Pure Joy ~ Do something each day that brings you pure joy.
  • Develop a Sleep Ritual ~ Arianna recommends developing a personal sleep ritual that powers down your brain and gets you ready for sleep. In addition to turning off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed, she personally includes a hot bath, reading a book, or meditating.
  • Practice Meditation ~ Try the practice of meditation or “letting go.” It’s as simple as: get in a quiet place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, clear your mind, recognize thoughts when they come, and then practice letting them go ~ like a balloon into the air. This essentially activates our bodies’ “relaxation response.”

Recognize what your body needs and make healthy recharge choices. You are too great a resource to waste ~ the world needs you to reach your potential. Take care and rest well.

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