Avoiding Burnout & Adaptogen Debt
Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Adaptogens are on the rise! It makes sense in this demanding society that people would need help “adapting” to stress. In case you are not familiar with them, adaptogen herbs work with the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis in regulating stress hormones like cortisol. In other words, when the body recognizes stress (via hypothalamus) it signals the pituitary gland and then the adrenal glands to release stress hormones. When we are chronically stressed, our HPA axis is constantly engaged and the body is flooded with an unhealthy amount of stress hormones. This is when we begin to feel the physical symptoms of stress: adrenal fatigue, insomnia, fatigue, chest tightness, GI upset, etc. The great thing about adaptogens is that they help balance stress hormones and keep them at a healthy level, thus creating a healthier stress response. Some adaptogenic herbs even mimic the energizing/stimulating effects of coffee, but without the caffeine.
One thing we need to watch out for with chronic stress is sympathetic dominance. This is when the HPA axis is constantly engaged, we enter a state of continuous “fight or flight”. This adrenaline/stress fueled state can then become dominant. For example, simple stressors like misplacing your keys can become major triggers for the physiological reactions mentioned before. This is why figuring out a way to deal with or adapt to stress is so important! We want to take a step back from sympathetic dominance and enter into a parasympathetic way of living. In this state, the body is focused on restoring itself (or rest & digest as most people know it).
The main point that I want to get across is that adaptogens are not always the answer. They are a great way to manage stress, but in the case of burnout, they can actually dig you into a deeper hole. For example, when we feel burnt-out, depleted, drained, we do not need to extend ourselves even further by use of adaptogens or caffeine. We all have those days when we are “so tired of being tired”. If you listen, the body is trying to tell us that it is drained of its resources. What we really need in times like these are replenishing herbs & these can even be paired with adaptogens (like in my “De-Stress” tincture).
A few examples of these herbs would be chamomile, skullcap, & Passionflower, although there are SO much more! All of these herbs are considered nervine herbs, meaning they work to nourish and support the nervous system. Chamomile is great for those who experience stress or anxiety through their gut. You might feel like your stomach is in knots or have some form of GI upset. Skullcap, on the other hand, is great for those who feel physical and mental exhaustion; this herb will bring you back to balance! Last but not least, Passionflower! This herb is very gentle and actually promotes nutrition uptake at a cellular level; meaning it will restore debilitated nerve centers. This herb is also great for quieting circular thoughts and is widely used for insomnia. With the use of nervines, we can give our body what it is so desperately asking for. For more info on these amazing herbs, check out the "About the Herbs" section of my "De-Stress" tincture!
Until next time...
Calm the heart & quiet the spirit.
Skullcap Chamomile Passionflower