Holistic psychologist Dr. Ellen Vora says there are two different kinds of anxiety: true anxiety and false anxiety. It’s not that false anxiety is invalid—(it is very valid)—but avoidable. For example, false anxiety is anxiety that’s preventable by correcting states of physiological imbalance, such as inflammation, sleep deprivation, a blood sugar crash, a magnesium or B12 deficiency or caffeine rush. True anxiety is anxiety that tells us that if we aren’t on the right path. It’s our truth north—a call to action from deep within telling us: slow down, pay attention, something is not right here. When we take steps to address this, Dr. Vora says, the feeling of anxiety transmutes into a feeling of purpose. I love these differentiations.
Unfortunately, anxiety is becoming more and more common. One of the reasons for this is modern society, the constant stressors of life, the need for caffeine first thing in the morning, fast and processed foods, not hanging out with the right friend group, family issues, love issues, and so on. And then, of course, there is another reason why it seems that more and more people are experiencing it, and that is because more people are talking about it. More people are sharing their stories of dealing with anxiety, and healing anxiety. I love this part. It helps us not to feel alone, and it allows us to see the possibility for a different life.
As someone who has dealt with adrenal fatigue, I am no stranger to anxiety. Adrenal fatigue and anxiety are intrinsically linked. Anxiety is one of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety (not to mention one of the most difficult symptoms to deal with). It’s a topic I’m passionate about. And today, in this article, we are talking about the connection between adrenal fatigue and anxiety. I’ll share some nutrition and lifestyle habits to help deal and heal with adrenal fatigue and anxiety. Let’s begin.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is most commonly characterized as a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It is a physiological response in the body (both true and false)—and not just “all in your head” like most doctors would like to tell you.
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or un-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentration
- Being irritable
- Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty or staying asleep
Sometimes anxiety can come from out of nowhere—or at least that’s what you think. If your anxiety is caused by something like false anxiety i.e. too much caffeine, then you know how to fix it: stop drinking caffeine. Some other times it can be caused by thoughts, which secrete hormones, which cause a physiological reaction: tummy ache, digestive issues, sweaty palms, shivers, hot head, faster heart rate, etc. Regardless, both forms of anxiety have physiological effects and when extended over a long period of time, can cause other issues (like adrenal fatigue).
Usually the hormones involved in adrenal glands are cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are secreted when you begin to feel anxious, and it sends the body into fight, flight, or freeze mode—sending the nervous system haywire.
Let’s stick with our caffeine example for a second. Black coffee on an empty stomach in the morning has the same effect on the adrenals that a perceiving high stress situation has. And this is where the adrenal fatigue part comes into play. If you continue to drink black coffee without breakfast first thing in the morning, you feel anxious and your body goes into fight or flight mode, then we will eventually reach a point of adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Now the name adrenal fatigue isn’t a by-definition name, if you will. And while it doesn’t mean that your adrenals are “fatigued,” it does mean that they have been overworked. Your adrenals can heal and secrete the proper hormones if addressed early on.
If left unaddressed, your adrenals will potentially and eventually be unable to produce hormones properly. This is called adrenal insufficiency.
There are two types of adrenal insufficiency: primary adrenal insufficiency also known as Addison’s disease and secondary adrenal insufficiency, diseases in the hypothalamus and pituitary.
The major difference between adrenal insufficiency and adrenal fatigue is that adrenal fatigue is an early stage of adrenal insufficiency. That is why it is so crucial to address adrenal fatigue as soon as possible to avoid getting to that palace.
Adrenal insufficiency is characterized by low levels of adrenal hormones. The problem with having “normal” or “less than optimal” adrenal hormones is that we are often left dismissed at doctors’ appointments, just to come back in years to have reached a worse stage.
So if we want to avoid getting worse, we need to look at the real root cause of adrenal fatigue and address it there: HPA axis dysregulation.
A better, more-suited name for AF is HPA axis dysfunction. One of the root issues of HPA axis dysfunction is chronic perceived stress. Chronic stress causes cortisol and other adrenal hormone levels to go haywire.
With chronic stress comes anxiety—it’s inevitable. Stress about the future, stress about tomorrow, your job, your family life. Anything that deals with the future can be anxiety. Beyond anxiety, adrenal fatigue has other common symptoms.
- Chronic stress
- Chronic fatigue
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, sadness, hopelessness
- Brain fog
- Dependency on stimulants
- Salty food cravings
- Afternoon slump
- Skin issues
- Period issues/increased PMS issues
- Slow healing time
- Hair loss
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Low blood pressure
- Poor emotional resilience
- Frequent urination
- Back pain
- Poor circulation
- Numbness in the hands and feet
Adrenal fatigue and anxiety
You may come to guess that anxiety is both the cause and effect of adrenal fatigue. To heal from adrenal fatigue, we need to address anxiety. This means that we need to look at what is causing our anxiety and heal there.
If the way you are eating or consuming caffeine is causing anxiety, we need to make lifestyle and nutrition changes there.
- No black coffee first thing in the morning. Only after breakfast, if at all
- No processed sugars
- Always consume a healthy fat, complex carb, fiber, and high-quality protein together to help balance blood sugar
- Limit or eliminate alcohol
- Eat gut-healthy foods
- Get a gut healthy supplement like collagen
- Foods to balance hormones
- Major hydration! I can’t stop drinking this Hydration Superfood Energy powder
- Consuming a variety of greens to help with immunity, detox, and nourishment! Try our Organic Immunity Greens for this.
Another thing that can throw off your cortisol level is poor lifestyle habits. Think about not getting to bed on time or using screens before bed that disrupt your circadian rhythm. It could be saying yes to too many commitments, having poor communication with your partner, or refusing to take care of yourself first. Here are some lifestyle habits that can help relieve anxiety and heal adrenal fatigue.
Lifestyle Habits for Anxiety and Adrenal Fatigue
- Setting boundaries with friends and family who make you uneasy
- Saying no to overbooking your schedule
- Saying yes to more creative projects
- Practicing meditation, grounding breathwork, and yoga
- Dancing and movement to increase happy chemicals and detox
- Taking a hot bath
- Dry brushing
- Prioritizing your sleep schedule
I hope this article has helped you understand the connection between adrenal fatigue and anxiety. Listen, I’ve been where you are, and I know that it’s possible to heal. These are the tools I’ve used, I hope they can help you too.