Are You Adrenally Fatigued Or Just Burned Out?

Are you exhausted, aching and overwhelmed all of the time? Has your motivation and mojo gone MIA? Wondering if something deeper is at play?

This is something that I not only see in my clients – I’ve experienced it myself. I would make excuses for how I was feeling… ‘It’s just been a busy week’…..’I went to bed to late last night’…..I even got blood tests done to try to find the reason I was feeling this way!

Some call it burnout, some call it adrenal fatigue, and some call it motherhood! But the effects of chronic stress aren’t all in your head – they are affecting your body too.

What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenal glands have been under severe and/or prolonged stress. The stress hormones produced by the adrenals can become too high, too low, or even fluctuate at the wrong time of day. This can affect the rest of the body, leading to a host of symptoms.
Is adrenal fatigue a real thing?
It really does depend on who you ask. There is a bit of debate over the terminology itself and the mechanisms behind it. But if you break it down into:

  • Can adrenal hormones fluctuate and go out of balance? Yes

  • Can hormonal fluctuations cause symptoms? Yes

  • Does chronic stress lead to long-term poor health and potentially chronic illness? Yes

– then there is a real health concern here, no matter what you choose to label it.
Why is it so common these days?
Simply because we have countless forms of stress – even little bits that add up. It’s not just the occasional bear or tiger that stresses us out! It’s the traffic, the kids not doing their homework when you ask, the boss being in a bad mood, you name it.
We also have less of a sense of community support these days because we don’t live in tight-knit tribes and communities.
The events of 2020 are just another chronic underlying source of stress, particularly for those who had to deal with lockdowns, home-schooling and changes to work.
Signs of adrenal dysfunction
Some of the signs that your adrenal hormones are out of whack include:

  • General feeling of fatigue and exhaustion

  • Insomnia and/or oversleeping

  • Relying on caffeine to get going in the morning

  • 3pm ‘slump’

  • Waking suddenly around 3am

  • Using alcohol to ‘wind down’ your mind at night

  • Digestive issues

  • Low sex drive

  • Low motivation

  • Stubborn weight gain

  • Inability to handle stress

  • Mood swings, anxiety and depression

  • Blood sugar fluctuations and food cravings

  • Changes to appetite

  • Brain fog

As you can see, a lot of them add up to the average mum’s experience!
The symptoms can vary depending on which hormones are out of balance and which way. For example, someone with high cortisol will tend towards anxious, jittery and unable to sleep. Someone with low cortisol might feel sluggish, depressed and have no motivation.
Not everyone will have all of the signs and symptoms. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout, it doesn’t matter how many symptoms you have – it’s time to act.
How you can take care of your adrenals
So how can you support your stress levels and feel better? For some, it can take weeks or even months to feel better simply because they are so run-down. It’s often best to work with a health expert or team to get you on track.
But in the meantime, here are some simple ways to take care of your adrenals.
Eat nutritious food
Just like any other organ, the adrenals require key nutrients to function properly. You also need nutrients to protect against the effects of prolonged stress.
Rather than worrying about fad diets, start to eat plenty of wholefoods. That means filling your plate up with meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains. The more variety you include, the greater variety of nutrients you’re flooding into your system.
You may also find that you need to eat smaller, more frequent meals. This can help to counteract the blood sugar fluctuations that are common with adrenal dysfunction.
Rest frequently
One reason behind chronic stress building up is a lack of rest. This can be literal sleep, but also just taking proper breaks and downtime. So incorporate rest using these steps:

  • Take regular breaks throughout the day

  • Take time to unwind properly at the end of the day

  • Prioritise 7-9 hours of sleep

  • If you are able to and need to, take short naps

Pace your exercise
One tricky aspect of adrenal dysfunction is exercise. On one hand, it is a great way to prevent the build-up of stress and boost your energy levels. But on the other, some may feel worse, particularly with intense exercise.
Find a way to pace and move your body that fits with your symptoms. For example, you might need to wind back the Crossfit or HIIT and work more on gentle forms of movement. If you’re barely able to get out of bed, even a few minutes of stretching can be a good way to show your body some TLC.
Address the underlying cause
Adrenal fatigue doesn’t just pop up one day. There will be one (usually multiple) root causes of why your mind and body have been stressed to the point of exhaustion.

  • Keep saying yes to everyone else? Practice saying no

  • Can’t keep up with everything going on? See if you can delegate some tasks or errands

  • Not taking care of yourself and exhausting yourself in the process? Get back to addressing your pillars of health – even if it’s only baby steps


Once you figure out why you’re burned out, you can start to remove the causes or at least put some steps in to counterbalance that stress.
Seek support
In my experience, the biggest underlying cause of mums being burned out is lack of support. We think we can do it all alone – but that simply isn’t the case. So if you’re not coping, it’s time to get some support.
It might be as simple as having a coffee date with a girlfriend to vent. Or it might be a naturopath, nutritionist, health coach or psychologist to get you back on track. Add someone to your team that makes you feel heard and supported when life gets tough.

Speaking of someone on your team, I often work with my VIP clients on many of the above strategies. We uncover some amazing things and speaking from experience, sometimes it’s just having that person there to talk things through and develop a plan together that can make all the difference. I have one VIP spot opening up in mid March. If you would like to find out how I can help you, book a free chat with me here


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