It’s confirmed. Winter is in full swing. It’s been snowing. Summer is a distant memory. It’s been cold and dark out here for a while now, and a lot of us are feeling the effects of this. Are you exhausted? Are you burnt out? Are you dreaming of the day you arrive on a beach to feel the warm sun melt away all your stress and renew your energy?

The truth is that our society values hard work and wearing exhaustion as a badge of honour. But what if you could still work hard, only without feeling depleted of all energy and life?

Tiredness, fatigue and stress are health epidemics affecting us massively here in the UK. Many of us are suffering from adrenal exhaustion. It’s certainly not uncommon. Nearly everyone will experience adrenal fatigue at some point in their lives due to chronic mental, emotional, physical and chemical stressors we manage in our fast-paced lives.

According to research from Westfield Health, over one in ten working Brits have purposefully taken a nap at work, and over a third say their mental wellbeing is reduced to tiredness and fatigue.

Here are some other findings from the study:

- Men were more likely (14%) than women (9%) to take a nap at work

- 16 – 24-year-olds were the age group most likely to take a nap at work

- 37% admitted to making errors and being forgetful

- 30% admitted to being short-tempered with colleagues

- 22% admitted to drifting to sleep

- 13% admitted to drifting off whilst driving

- 86% believe that their colleagues don’t understand the potential consequences of fatigue and lack of sleep

- Only 9% said that their workplace would accept tiredness or fatigue as a genuine reason to call in sick

Fatigue can be miserable, sometimes taking a very long time to heal from. Persistent tiredness can be debilitating to all areas of your life, including work, family, health and social life.

Adrenal fatigue is a result of adrenals getting burnt out after consistently producing too much cortisol for a long period of time. When we’re overwhelmed by chronic stress for a long period of time, our natural cortisol level becomes irregular. This leads to producing too much cortisol, and sometimes not enough. It can mess up our production of other hormones too.

If you find yourself feeling an ongoing tiredness and a lot of brain fog, amongst other symptoms, it’s a possibility that your adrenals are exhausted. Other potential symptoms include muscle weakness, depression and irritability, anxiety, a reduction in the ability to cope with stress, trouble sleeping (a wired but tired feeling at night), trouble waking up, low energy levels, mood swings, weight loss or weight gain and low blood pressure. Seeing a Doctor or health practitioner is recommended if you’re having these symptoms.

Finding strategies to manage stress better and improve your quality of sleep are only two ways to start the process of healing your body, but sometimes achieving these lifestyle habits are much easier said that done. They can be done though!

Here are some practical ways to support healing from adrenal exhaustion and start boosting your energy levels now:

- Cut back or cut out sugar. When our adrenals become exhausted, we crave sugary and salty foods, but this is a viscous cycle because it leads to feeling even worse. We experience more mental fog, anxiety, mood swings and energy crashes. Studies have been conducted to suggest that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, so this can be incredibly hard to cut back on or give up, especially if you’re an emotional eater. All that can be said is that the less sugar you consume, the better you will start to feel in yourself, and the easier it will be to cut back on, as you will crave it less.

- Take a magnesium supplement. A lack of magnesium can result in fatigue and depression and it’s known that a magnesium deficiency is linked to insomnia and poor sleep quality with more frequent awakenings. Getting enough magnesium can manufacture energy, regulate sleep and reduce cortisol levels. When taken at night, magnesium relaxes the body for a deeper, better quality of sleep. By regulating both neurotransmitters and melatonin, magnesium can help regulate your sleep-wake cycles. Take your supplement at the same time every day to help your body get into the routine of effortlessly falling asleep at the same time each night. Have a relaxing bedtime routine you practice after taking your supplement to lull your mind and body into sleep.

- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This gets your body and brain into a routine where your sleep-wake cycle will start to run naturally like clockwork.

- Take a good B-Complex vitamin and try to get these nutrients from your food too. B vitamins are anti-stress nutrients, needed to assist your body in manufacturing energy. Upon awaking, exhausted adrenals need nutrition to create energy that isn’t already there to wake your body up so that it can start the day. Adrenal fatigue can mean that the production of cortisol is too low in the morning when it is naturally supposed to be higher so that you have the energy to do all the things you want to do in the day. At night, it’s supposed to be lower to help your body wind down in preparation for sleep.

- Get your dose of sunlight in the morning. This is important to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and to naturally boost your energy in the morning, so that it can start to diminish at night. It can be hard to get your sunlight in the winter, especially in colder countries. SAD light boxes and bulbs could be the solution to this, created to help give your body the light it needs to wake up in the darker, colder weather that can leave us feeling sluggish and down.

- Practice deep, mindful breathing. Taking time to optimise your breathing and make space for more calm in your life can drastically make you feel less frazzles whilst introducing you to more peace and a greater ability to manage stress. Meditation has been proven in countless studies to be beneficial too. These practices of calm can lower your cortisol levels and preventing the stress flight or fight response, which will continue to exhaust your adrenals so that tiredness is your daily reality. Making sure you practice this mindful, slow breathing from the diaphragm (not short, shallow breathing from the chest) could be an empowering tool and resource in your life to help manage all that life throws at you.

- Limit your caffeine intake. Seriously! A lot of us need several cups of coffee a day to stay awake, but this is exhausting your adrenals even further. It’s fine to enjoy your favourite cup of tea or coffee, but don’t go crazy boiling the kettle every other hour, unless it’s for caffeine-free herbal tea (lots of beautiful caffeine-free herbal options out there). Many of these caffeine-free options will be packed full of goodness to even support your adrenals! On the other hand, relying on a constant drip of caffeine to get you through the day will end up being a vicious cycle you can never get out of.

- Make use of mother nature’s essential oils. Diffusing essential oils in your home can help give you energy in the day and have relaxing properties for winding down your body and mind at night. They can also be uplifting for low moods often associated with feeling tired all the time! Some great options to boost energy are eucalyptus, geranium, grapefruit and lemon. Lavender, chamomile and frankincense or great for diffusing at night for a relaxing effect on the body.

We hope these tips have been interesting and helpful. Most importantly, we hope that we have given you hope surrounding a condition that is invisible and sometimes not considered to exist, so that one day soon you can feel better. It’s easy to feel that you will be perpetually tired and feel awful for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t have to be this way. And sometimes when we reach rock bottom with our health, it forces us to research and find ways to heal ourselves where we can then reach the best health of our lives!

Written by Jess Burman

Wellbeing Writer

BA (Honours) in Writing