Burnout: Part 2: Bye-Bye Health

Hello again:

Here we continue the discussion about burnout, which is essentially our bodies response to prolonged and elevated stress. Whenever stress of ANY kind hits us, our brain signals our adrenal glands to pour out adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin gives us the energy rush to overcome the stress, and cortisol supports the stress response through multiple functions:

  • Increases blood glucose by decreasing insulin release,
  • Promotes gluconeogenesis by liver,
  • Increases protein and lipid synthesis for energy,
  • Acts with glucagon and epinephrine to produce a greater response,
  • Anti-inflammatory effects.

That is great, unless the stress response becomes turned on too much and for too long, which is when we have the negative effects of stress hormones such as:

  • Weight gain mainly in the face, chest and abdomen contrasted with slender arms and legs
  • Insomnia and not feeling rested upon awakening
  • A flushed face that later can become rounded
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation and pain
  • Blood sugar problems, such as insulin resistance
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin changes (bruises and purple stretch marks)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Mood swings, which show as anxiety, depressionor irritability
  • Increased thirst and frequency of urination.
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of libido
  • Loss of menstrual cycle or irregularities
  • Memory loss
  • Increases in allergies
  • Increases in infections
  • Digestive problems

BOTTOM LINE: The above list of symptoms is pretty much what burnout adds up to, that is, it is not just a mental or emotional state of exhaustion, it is a whole-body reaction. And if this goes on for too long, we can actually develop adrenal insufficiency where laboratory tests reveal low cortisol. You should also know that there is a term called eustress, which is beneficial stress, such as exercise and things like that which can help buffer or reduce the negative aspects of chronic stress.

In the next newsletters, we will go over diagnosis methods (cortisol too high or low, abnormal cortisol diurnal rhythm), brain-based exercises to lower fight/flight responses, exercise, nutritional considerations, some supplements as well as mentioning self-assessment for sources of stress.

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