Prevent Adrenal Fatigue – Stop Beating Yourself Up!



Did you know that 91% of us are dissatisfied with our bodies? That 97% of women have at least one “I hate my body thought” every day?

In my online course Herbal Medicine for Women we take a deep dive into our own behaviors so we can help our clients/patients, and ourselves treat ourselves with more understanding and compassion. The value of practicing radical self-acceptance to improve health is vastly undervalued in conventional medicine and in how most of us were raised. More likely, we were raised to be hard on ourselves and to feel we’re never doing enough or doing it “quite right.”

Just yesterday, Dianna, one of my Herbal Medicine for Women students, shared the following in the process of understanding her own self-judgment:

I’m in the process of becoming a certified yoga teacher. As one of the older class members, a pregnant mom of two toddlers, I’m easily fatigued in class. I’m not as strong and flexible as some of my classmates. I find myself repeatedly frustrated – even angry – at the end of a difficult class. I tell myself that I should already be able to do certain poses or I shouldn’t have to rest. I realize that I often harshly criticize myself – I judge myself as a mom, parent, and wife. I actually feel constant pressure to be better/stronger/more…more…more.

Sound familiar?

You might not be training to be a yoga teacher and you might not be pregnant or have toddlers, but I bet you can relate to being too hard on yourself!

Dianna is not alone. Nor are you. I get literally hundreds of such homework responses from my students pouring out their own version of how they beat themselves up for not being enough in their lives. My patients tell me they experience this inner pressure too. Sometimes almost constantly. It comes out in a million ways, from the “I hate my body” thoughts they have each day to binging on chips, cookies, or other sweet, fatty, or salty foods that momentarily give them a feeling of relief from the overwhelming, fatiguing, striving to always be better at something – their diet, their work, their exercise plan, as a mom, wife, you name it.

I’ve discovered that if there’s anything we women have in common other than vaginas, it’s self-blame, self-criticism, and sometimes, even self-loathing. The self-health movement, pushing us to always be more spiritual, healthier, cleaner, and thinner, and the attachment momma movement that makes some mommas feel that any time away from baby is a crime, just adds to the problem for so many women.

Many women feel a constant pressure to BE BETTER, LOOK BETTER, and DO MORE. It’s exhausting them. So is the negative self-talk. Not only is it exhausting, it’s harmful. It keeps us in overdrive and overwhelm – stuck in the on position. We feel we’re never able to do enough, do it all, or take downtime, yet we say yes to doing more, we exercise harder,  stay up later to get more done, all in compensation for feeling we’re not enough just with who we are and where we are and what we’re doing right now.

Being in a constant self-push can drive you right into adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is dangerous. It can disrupt your sleep, hormones, weight, immunity, and memory and concentration. It causes us to have cravings for fat, sugar, and salt. It makes us insulin resistant, and gives us weight around our bellies that causes inflammation and is really hard to take off. It makes us irritable, moody, anxious, and depressed.

Enough is Enough

I’m calling it. Enough is enough.

You’re enough, I’m enough. And enough to all of the messages that tell us we’re not enough – the media, the too skinny models, the self-help gurus and weight loss celebrity doctors always pushing the next diet or cleanse – and to our own inner voice that hammers us with that message.

It’s time to become our own best friends. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to lose weight if we need to, get our yoga teacher certifications, or set goals for high achievement. Our goals just have to start from a place of self respect and inner validation. We’re doing it because we want to, not because we’re not good enough without it.

Be Your Own Best Friend

None of us would ever talk to or push our best friends the way we push and judge ourselves. No, we’d bathe them with love and we’d tell them they are enough! Being your own best friend is a comforting and encouraging way to be in the world. It’s also powerful. It’s about talking to ourselves and treating ourselves they way we would someone we really love. It can also spare your adrenals from being in overdrive and help you to resolve many adrenal-fatigue related symptoms as a side effect!

1. Interrupt and talk back to yourself

When you hear the chatter (or full on holler!) of negative self-talk telling you you’re not enough, that you’ve got to do or be more, talk back – do battle with the negative inner dialogue! You have permission to interrupt with a new message, because …

  • You are so worth taking amazing care of.
  • You are gorgeous, delicious, and lovable.
  • You, lady, have arrived and have everything you need.
  • You, honey, are enough. And then some!
  • You belong.
  • You deserve to feel the way you want to feel.

2. Send yourself love letters

I write letters to myself in my journal as if I’m writing to a dear friend. I remind myself to be kind to myself; I give myself advice and solutions to my problems. I tell myself I’m awesome when I need to hear it. I’ve taught my students to do this in the women’s herbal medicine course. They LOVE it. It has transformed some of their lives.

If you don’t keep a journal, leave yourself love notes and reminders on stickie notes, write in eyeliner on your bathroom mirror, pop a note onto your dashboard, or write one special reminder word right on the palm of your hand for the day! If you can’t think of something good to say about yourself at first, do a trade with a girlfriend and write out love notes to each other to use and trade.

3. Set SMART goals for yourself

A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Emphasis on the realistic, because it’s often super high achieving women who are most likely to be the hardest on ourselves. We take on too much, end up feeling overwhelmed, and then the self-flagellation starts. Pare back on what you’re taking on at any one time by sitting down and asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. What do I really HAVE to do right now? (i.e., taxes may fall into this category)
  2. What do I really WANT to do/take on right now?
  3. What can I realistically get done in a set amount of time?

For items that must get done, knock them off first, especially if they’re things that you don’t really want to do (like taxes) but must – or see if you can hire out some or all of the job. When you decide what you really want to do, then decide how much time it will realistically take you – then add 30% more time to that, because as humans we have a trait that makes all of us underestimate the time it takes to complete tasks and projects. Then prioritize all of the things you really want to do. Pick 1-3 that you can realistically get done in a reasonable amount of time, i.e., a day, week, month, or 3 months. Put the rest aside and take on only those when your top priorities are done. By the way, when you are reflecting on what you really want to do – ask yourself why. If your reasons for doing it are internally motivated, then that’s a great project, but if you’re doing it to impress others, because you feel inadequate without this or that degree, or some other less than clear reason, consider whether that’s a healthy project, or whether it’s part of the “beating yourself up for not being enough” pattern.

4. Count your daily wins and give yourself a regular pat on the back

As women, we tend to be hardwired to think of all the things we didn’t get done, rather than giving ourselves credit for the things we have accomplished – small or big. Make it a practice each evening before dinner or before you go to bed to recount at least one thing you did that day that made you feel really good about yourself – whether that was holding a door open for an elderly person at a grocery store, saying something kind to someone, or checking some things off of your to-do list that have been nagging at you. Get used to giving yourself a pat on the back for jobs well done. We all deserve praise, and who better to get it from than our own best friend!

5. Treat yourself to some self-care and give yourself Permission to Pause™

Have you ever gotten a massage and during it cried because it had been so long since you fully relaxed or did anything nurturing for yourself? If so, then you are in need or more self-care! Take yourself out for a regular spa date, a yoga class, a luxurious slow afternoon with a book at a cafe sipping tea, take yourself to a movie – or at least create a special bath time with bubbles and oils and candles. Loving your beautiful self from head to toe regularly is a surefire way to tell that nasty self-talk gremlin that she’s not welcome! Also, there’s nothing like a regular dose of self-love to keep you on your game. High-performance athletes and business people know this and make time for recharging and rejuvenating, getting massages, hitting the spa, or getting outdoors to unwind, clear their heads, and decompress.

6. Get toxic people out of your life

I once had a “friend” who would always say things like, “You look so much better than when I ran into you last,” or “It’s amazing how much you can get done with little kids at home; I would never be a working mom.” Though I’d have been feeling great when I’d run into her, I always walked away with self-doubt. “Do I look tired?” “Am I not a good enough mom?” Eventually I realized that though she was pushing my self-doubt buttons, the negativity was her stuff, and I didn’t enjoy being around her and I had no reason that I had to. Sometimes releasing a toxic relationship helps you to clear out the negativity clutter in your own thoughts.

7. Cut yourself some slack – practice radical self-compassion

There are a million little things that come up in life that can make us judge ourselves. We fail at something new we try, we hurt someone’s feelings, we fall off the wagon on a diet or exercise plan we really wanted to stick to, we aren’t where we wanted to be at this time in our lives, we see someone achieving something we want and feel incapable of…

Radical self-compassion means that we talk to ourselves with kindness, encouragement, care, love, softness, gentleness, acceptance, and forgiveness. It’s how we’d talk to a best friend who was going through a setback.

While loving yourself may seem to have little to do with achieving your goals, whatever they are, interestingly, practicing radical self-compassion has been shown to be the quickest way to get back on track with our plans and goals whereas beating ourselves up only perpetuates falling deeper into a rut, and off the path we really want to be on. So have at it. You deserve it!

Want to learn more about adrenal fatigue, self-care, and natural medicine? Stay tuned for the Herbal Medicine for Women Summer Sale, starting June 20th!

More information to come in your email inbox next week. 

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Laure Lampe

Great article, one question though: how do we square that with necessary self improvement? I know I am too selfish, resentful and otherwise imperfect, so wouldn't be so kind to myself make me slack in those areas?

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    aviva

    Actually, studies show that self-compassion and self-forgiveness make us better able to change the habits we want to change -- so if those are traits you're working on, starting by giving yourself some love for your imperfections might help you to gently make the shifts in behavior you want to make. Great question!

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      Jennifer M

      I think this is a really good question. When I have something I know I need to change, I usually try to change it with constant internal reminders. If that doesn't work, I make them louder. At the point when I'm genuinely frustrated with myself because I keep telling myself what to do and I keep not doing it, I almost want to throw my hands up with myself and say, "That's it. Ugh. I keep trying, but I'll never change," along with all sorts of other disappointed things about my character and my willpower. It's at this point that I've discovered I need to realize the pattern I'm in and take a step back. (Going on a nice walk outside really helps me with this.) I do a mental exercise with my journal in front of me, where I imagine myself split into multiple parts--usually the teller, the doer, and the mediator, although I've divided them differently at different times--and have them all talk to each other and explain what's going on. The teller usually starts, because she's been loudest for a while and already has all the words to say. She points out all the things I've been thinking to myself about what I *should* be doing and how frustrating it is that I'm *not*. When she's run out of things to say, I (acting as mediator) turn to the doer and ask her, "what's going on? Why aren't you listening to the teller?" This "why" question usually opens up the floodgates to a ton of feelings I haven't been paying any attention to. The doer isn't as vocal and often takes a while to open up, so I often have to do several meditation/journal sessions to understand what her problems are. She usually starts with, "I'm sorry," and "I know I should," and, "I'm trying, but..." What follows the "but" often sounds like an excuse, which the teller will never accept, so I have to shush the teller again and coax the doer out further. It usually turns out that "my" (the teller's) perception of the problem is that the doer isn't listening to me, is selfish and lazy and inconsistent and generally has failed "my" trust. But the doer's perspective is almost always, "I *am* listening. I *am* trying, but it's harder than it should be--and I don't know why." Taking that "why" question seriously is so crucial to regaining self-trust, to learning to talk to myself with compassion, and to finding a hopeful path for progress out of the rut I'm in. The doer usually gives an emotional reason for things being harder than they should be. We have to go into the "why" behind that, too. Usually what the doer wants to happen isn't exactly what needs to happen in order for the obstacles to progress to be removed, but it's usually a good clue to get me/us on the right track. And if we find the real source of the difficulty, the doer recognizes it as the more accurate solution to the problem and the teller can accept it as well. This all sounds pretty abstract, maybe even a little weird. Maybe it would help if I gave an example. In college, I had a friend who was really struggling with loneliness, and he eventually decided his master's degree wasn't worth it to him anymore and dropped out. I'd known he was discouraged and I had wanted to be there for him, but despite how often we talked, I never could manage to let the conversation get into deep or important waters. I even talked myself through the pauses and questions that I thought would let him open up, but in the moment, I consistently avoided them. I was upset with myself for a long time afterward, thinking about the way I could have helped him and didn't and I blamed myself for my selfishness. It was while talking with a mutual friend, expressing my regrets, that he asked me that "why" question--in a trusting, uncritical sort of way, as though expecting me to have a sensible and valid reason, which was a very different tone than I'd used to ask myself that question before. This time, instead of "because I'm selfish" coming out, I thought about it and this came out: "We hung out a lot in martial arts, which I invited him to, because I knew he missed his years of taekwondo. I think I was unprepared for HOW experienced he was. He blew me and just about everyone else away in sparring. I love my dojo and I love it when people I care about love the things I do. But I didn't get any particularly enthusiastic vibes and so I deflated a bit. We got to a point where he'd kept coming back enough that I figured I could assume that he really did enjoy it, even if he still missed his old dojo. But I still felt like I couldn't do anything at his level and kind of incompetent. And feeling this way led me to talk about things on the surface level, so that I could trivialize them or mock them a bit." My friend nodded wisely. "We all do things like that. I regret stuff like that too. Its really things like that which bother me the most. The only thing we can do is try not to let our own insecurities get in the way next time." "Yeah. Exactly. It's good to know why it happened." It changed my self-image to realize that I'd messed up because I cared, not because I didn't. Insecurity, fatigue, discomfort, I can work with. Selfishness just makes me upset at myself. I moved out of state and wanted to be able to get to the root of a problem even if I didn't have friends nearby whom I could count on to ask me the right questions. So I started using those "why" and "how" questions on myself, pretending like someone else was asking them. That's more or less how the whole self-mediation technique got started, and if it sounds a little insane...well, I can only say that I think I'm saner than when I started. ;-)

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    Ingrid Arna

    I don't have to force or push yourself into healing and becoming a better person. You must allow it into being by practicing self- love and compassion as Aviva has said. That's the only way to truly heal and transform. When you trust self love and awareness over beration of any kind you stimlate the relaxation response and the body heals. U can't stress yourself into your best highest version of u. We've been conditioned to believe that and it's a lie. Let that go. With love, ingrid Arna

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Cindy

Hi Aviva, What would you say to a woman who has had 5 babies in 9 years, homeschool, cooks/ eats real food and lives at the poverty line? My daughter has had a TOUGH decade, and is def in adrenal fatigue. She is on antidepressants, and that only b/c she felt that or....sigh. Survival. She reads all these blogs but can't afford a-the supplements b-often the foods she knows are best but just doesn't have the money c-other than myself, she has few resources for child care help so she can take time to just 'be', much less focus on restoring her heart/mind/body. ( and I am a full-time midwifery student and traveling out of state this year a LOT. it hurts my heart to not be here for her in her deepest need). She is a strong, authentic woman of faith and incredible character and has a wonderful, loving, respectful and supportive marriage. Life is just so hard right now for them. What would you do first? What would be the Main Things? I can't provide all she needs but can help with some things, we just don't want to waste our money! Your life, love and work are so valued. Thank you for reading this if you get to. Warmly, Cindy

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Ankita

What an amazing article! Thank you sooo much for sharing. I'll try to work on myself with your guidance.

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Rosalee de la Forêt

Hi Aviva, Imagine what a happier and healthier world we would live in if we moved towards practicing radical self-compassion! Thank you for taking the time to write about this important topic.

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Beck

Soooo helpful! Thank you! I really needed this pep talk today. All last month I blogged single parent these kinds of "survival tips" to help other single parents. I love your tips!

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Steph

I could definitely see myself getting adrenal fatigue if I kept trying to push my blog/website forward while trying to deal with family issues. Thankfully, I realized that it was just too much to try to create a site and blog at this time. I have a ton of ideas that pop into my head but right now is not the time for it to bloom. My family (hubby and three lil ones) needs me more than ever right now. I don't want to be a stressed out unhappy mommy all for the sake of bringing people to my website. I do enough already. I am enough :)

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Pam

I recently completed a class, Infinite Possibilities, that delivered the same message. Thank you for reiterating it here. How we treat ourselves is so important.

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Heather

Hi Aviva, I really liked your article. Such good reminders! However, number 6 about toxic people left me perplexed because the toxic people in my life are my family members...not so easy to cut them out of my life. Any suggestions? P.S. They would not respond well to me asking them to be less negative or confronting their behavior/attitudes.

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    aviva

    Sometimes I think we have to just find inner peace, compassion, and the path of least resistance!

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Vanessa

Thanks for this article, Aviva! Self-care is something that is really lacking in our society, especially for women, yet it is incredibly important for our health and the health of our families.

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Louisa

I was tuned into your webinar about adrenal overload last night (as was my mother and some girlfriends around the country) and immediately thought of so many other woman in my life who would benefit from your words. I will share this article with them but am also wondering if you will post the webinar for other to see when they have a moment in their day?

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Sarah Rodgers

Wow!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am currently out of work on disability because of extreme adrenal fatigue...I am the oldest child of 5 and have always been the responsible one and have had the constant pressure that I need to succeed, do everything perfect and have a wonderful life along with being a wife and kick butt corporate executive. All of the pressure has finally caught up with me! I am working to figure out who I am and how to be truly myself without the pressure from friends, family, culture, society, etc. Working on my thoughts as to how I can help women avoid where I have been and support them going forward! I think I see a career change in my future! Sarah

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    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Sarah, This is Megan from Dr. Aviva's team and I just wanted to say thank you for your post! It sounds like you know EXACTLY what you (and your body) need. Just in case you didn't see it, another blog post that Aviva wrote that honestly empowered me to make some HUGE changes in my life was this one. http://avivaromm.wpengine.com/get-rid-negative-thoughts Check it out if you have yet to read it! Megan- Dr. Aviva Romm Nutritionist

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Hannah

Very well said. Although I wouldn't limit this to just women. Men often have the same self hatred issues women do. They just don't talk about it as much.

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    Megan Liebmann

    So true! I have my husband read all of Dr. Aviva's posts and he has greatly benefited from her wisdom as well. :) -Megan, Dr. Aviva Romm Nutritionist

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Jami

Once we've reached adrenal fatigue, aside from your suggestions on the mental and emotional repair, what supplements can you suggest that will aid in reviving those little guys?

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    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Jami, This is Megan from Dr. Aviva's team. I wanted to link you directly to a blog that Dr. Aviva wrote on the specifics of working with herbs for stress and adrenal fatigue. I hope this helps! http://avivaromm.wpengine.com/adaptogens-beating-stress Megan- Dr. Aviva Romm Nutritionist

    Reply
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