Three Phases of Burnout (Adrenal Fatigue)

This is a blog form of the newest KYPO Solocast, The Three Stages of Adrenal Fatigue (Burnout). If you like to learn by listening, listen here!


If you like to read to absorb your education, read on. Most of the time, if you look at what someone speaks often about, you will find what they previously (or currently) struggle through. Most Psychotherapists had their own experiences with the brain. Most Holistic Nutritionists had to heal themselves. Most Addiction Counselors suffered through addiction, etc… In order to truly believe in something, you most likely have experienced it for yourself.


Hence, the topics I speak most often on:

  • Hormonal Health (Had to heal myself from six years of Amenorrhea)

  • Gut Health (Recovered from over 30 “Food Sensitivities” and every GI imbalance under the sun)

  • Food Freedom (fully recovered binge eater and orthorexic)

  • and last but not least: Hustle Culture, stress, burnout, pace. I talk about these because they can single handedly wreck our hormones, our function, and disrupt our mental stability. I talk about them because they are deep in my bones, the worship of productivity is the shiny object that I naturally gravitate towards, and have to place my own boundaries around.

First, what is burnout?



Burnout happens when acute stress turns chronic, your body is pumping out so much cortisol and adrenaline in response to an unsustainable pace that it essentially bankrupts your reserves. Leaving you feeling:


-Anxious

-Incredibly, (seemingly) unreasonably tired. The kind of tired that a good night’s sleep doesn’t seem to fix.

-Lack of drive, creativity, and even purpose. Part of our stress response is a narrowed focus, a heightened awareness of the short term and an inability to look at the long term.

-Emotionally unavailable, numb.

-Cynical, joyless.


If stress is causing this, then stress needs to be understood. There is no stress-free life. Not one that is fulfilling, at least. Stress isn’t a negative thing, it’s simply an internal response to external pressure. Short term stress creates hormonal changes like:

  • Heart Rate increases

  • Blood Pressure increases

  • Pupils dilate

  • Raised blood sugar as liver glycogen is covered to glucose

  • Blood shunts from your vital organs to extremities to allow you to fight or flight

  • Cortisol Spikes


Let's Meet Cortisol: Cortisol is considered our Healer Hormone and STRESS hormone. It is in charge of waking us up with energy in the morning, sustaining that energy throughout the day, and decreasing as the sun goes down, allow melatonin to take the wheel and lull us to sleep. Excess Cortisol is released when your body detects threat, and creates a cascade of changes in the nervous system. For the short term, this is fine, we are WELL prepared to fight short term stress, but when it becomes chronic, we start operating on compensation

When you are stressed out, your body will always function with priority, allocating energy where it is most necessary. Stress plays a huge role in sex hormones, thyroid hormone, and melatonin production. If you are being chased by a tiger, using energy towards digestion or reproduction is just not a priority. This is why your period goes MIA or you are super backed up or bloated when stressed. Stress, amongst other things, depletes the body of vital nutrients like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and niacin. So it’s not just that stress steals energy from healing, keeping your body on high alert, it steals nutrients, too.


When we talk about STRESS, it’s not just a fast paced life.

Stress from food/habits can come from:

  • Low fat diets/ fasting

  • Low salt diets

  • Undersleeping

  • Blood sugar swings

  • Heavy metals

  • Bacteria imbalances

  • Toxin overload


The Three Phases of Adrenal Fatigue:

Phase 1: Arousal- (WIRED)

This is the phase where you are “doing it all!” You don’t need sleep, you don’t need rest, you can do that when you die! We are functioning on elevated cortisol and adrenaline (both of which are giving us tons of energy!) Periodic activation of the sympathetic nervous system, causing cortisol and adrenaline release, breakdown of proteins and muscle tissue, blood sugar dysregulation, decreased production of thyroid and sex hormones, decreased white blood cell production.

  • High blood pressure

  • Anxiety & depression

  • Blood sugar dysregulation (high or low)

  • Poor memory under stress

  • Sleep problems

  • Sugar cravings

  • Frequent cold, flu, infection

  • Decreased production of Thyroid and Sex Hormones

Phase 2: Adaptation- WIRED AND TIRED

This is the phase where Arousal becomes chronic, we shimmy from acute stress to a chronic stress. All of the same symptoms persist, but now we aren’t just wired, we are getting very, very tired. You can notice this in those who put their head on the pillow at night and while their body is exhausted, their mind is still racing, keeping them awake. Wired and Tired.

Phase 3: Exhaustion- TIRED

This is the phase where your cortisol and adrenaline “banks” are completely exhausted. There is no more hormones masking symptoms of adrenal fatigue or keeping you afloat. This is usually when people have to call out of work, take a sabbatical, or make some drastic pace/ value changes. This is where we need to heal.

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Difficulty getting out of bed

  • Poor focus, memory, concentration

  • Low blood pressure

  • Blood sugar dysregulation

  • Dependence on caffeine or stimulants or caffeine and stimulants no longer have an effect on energy

  • Salt cravings

  • Nausea/vomiting/loose stools

  • Sleep issues—can sleep for 12-14 hours and still feel tired, or have insomnia

Now let’s switch to the good part. THIS IS NOT . Even if you are in phase 3, struggling to read this right now.

We need to start with the Non Negotiable Trifecta:


Sleep: you may need 12-14 hours per night for the first week/few weeks. Sleep is regeneration, recovery, healing. All things desperately needed at this point. Less sleep = Decreasing thyroid hormone output, increase in Ghrelin: your hunger hormone and decreased HGH (Human Growth Hormone). In a study done on healthy males, inadequate sleep increased appetite by 45%. Boosting Melatonin can be a great way to do this from natural sources of:


-30 ml of Tart cherry juice (30 mL) Studies show that tart cherry juice can boost melatonin production and keep subjects asleep 90 minutes longer than the control group.

-Handful of Pistachios

-Consistent sleep time

-Blue light blockers (Blue light from screens blocks melatonin production)

-Decrease EMF’s (Electromagnetic Frequencies)

Poop: Addressing hydration and fiber intake to make sure you are pooping 1-3x per day, detoxification is, by definition, removing toxins from the body. This is essential.

Food:

  1. Blood Sugar Balance: Balancing each plate with protein, fiber, and fat is the food focus for this season! Blood sugar swings are huge stressors on the body, distracting our immune system from long term healing. This is a restorative, practical tool that is completely in your control.

  2. Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Rich Foods like Fruits, Vegetables, Healthy Fats like Omega 3’s (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, etc..) & Coconut Oil. Supplementation for vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be beneficial.

  3. Sea Salt: A mineral rich, high quality sea salt can be a great addition to a stressed body at this time. This restores hydration and promotes mineral balance.

From here, we want to practice deep breathing, challenge the pace of your life, and build in mental and physical rest. There are tons of ways to manage stress, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, consider changing your value system. If you keep the same value system on pace and productivity, you will flail through this cycle endlessly. Here’s an excerpt from the Hustle Culture Chapter of my new book:


“You can rewrite your expectations and your norms and your speed. You can grate against the pace, the success, the constant, endless climb that synthetically marks a life worth living. You can stop answering “I’ve been so busy,” every time someone asks you how you are doing. Wearing your unsustainable hustle like a shiny broach, vying for attention. You can settle into the discomfort of slowing down in a fast world. You can have the uncanny, amusing expression of satisfaction in a dissatisfied culture, and you can rewrite your priorities and actually live by them.”

How are you doing with your stress, your pace, and your health? Reach out today if you need support and encouragement for the next steps in your health journey!