One of my instructors at nutrition school, Dr. Mark Hyman, said something that really resonated. He said that most people don't know how bad they feel until they start feeling good. Now the idea of working in wellness obviously isn't to put everyone into a panic that they, unknowingly, feel awful (though I have seen that tactic used to my horror). What is clear as day is that many people settle for an abysmal state of "health".
Working with type-A urban professionals, I see that while most people will do just about anything to feel better if they're unwell, those same people can't seem to motivate themselves to budge much in the name of prevention. Or even in the name of improvement, perhaps because such a vibrant state of well-being is so foreign that it's unimaginable.
This curious epidemic is especially notable given the relatively recent rise in adrenal fatigue, also called adrenal burnout. Once relegated to the hippie alternative column in the minds of medical practitioners and prospective patients, this health issue is gaining traction because its identification and treatment really works.
Scott Davis, co-owner and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner at Toronto's Octopus Garden Yoga Centre, cites adrenal fatigue as one of the most common issues he sees in his busy clinic. Six years ago, he treated me for this very condition.
According to Davis, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are things that the busy professional might just take for granted as part of life: chronic back and muscle pain, constant fatigue even after caffeine or a full night of sleep, frequent colds and flu, low libido, inflammation and anxiety. A combination of these symptoms may be an indication that your adrenal glands, responsible for helping your body respond to stress by producing adrenaline and cortisol, are out of juice.
The stress that used to fire you up to work harder or faster or better simply stops having that effect, because the physiology of constant stress without recovery has worn out the mechanism that gives you your "adrenaline edge".
What's a skeptical adrenaline junkie to do? Davis offers three "free therapies" that complement TCM treatment, helping to "close the hole in the bucket" so that you can start restoring your energy in a sustainable way.
1. Exercise regularly, and in a way that honours your natural expansion and contraction from a state of exertion to a state of relaxation. Yoga is ideal. If you run, try alternating sprinting and walking instead of maintaining a steady pace.
2. Subtly change the way you eat -- not so much what you eat, but how you eat. Make eating the primary activity at mealtime, rather than multitasking. An easy way to remember to do this is to take a moment at the start of a meal to say thanks.
3. Practice deep relaxation, like meditation or restorative yoga, regularly. Your body can re-learn how to unwind, shifting from "fight or flight" into "rest and digest", and this is a terrific way to practice.
None of these are rocket science, and while they might take trying something new, they are all practical and easy to incorporate into even a busy life. The question is, are you ready to start feeling better yet?