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Take a Prescription Vacation

July 12, 2016

There are often times I prescribe a vacation for my patients. No, not to the Bahamas or Hawaii, but a vacation from our day-to-day, often overly scheduled lives can do wonders for mental and physical health.

The Science of Stress

I’m sure you have heard of the “fight or flight” response. And if you have not, you have certainly experienced it. The feeling you get when you are abruptly cut off in traffic or trip over something and catch yourself that spikes your heart rates, forces you alert and can causes you to break out into a sweat.

There are chemical communicators in the adrenal glands, small glands that sit atop the kidneys, which cause this “fight of flight” response to occur, mainly by releasing the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. This is a very important response as mentioned above, this response can save our life in traffic and prevent us from falling. But when overused and abused with daily stressors, this leads to over activation and eventually a reduction in the hormones.

Norepinephrine and epinephrine act on every system in the body from the nervous system for mental processing to the cardiovascular system to increase blood flow to the skeletal system to physically move you out of danger.

Cortisol can become easily taxed when overly stressed and often shows up as alterations in circadian rhythm, aka sleep pat-terns. The classic, “I am waking up exhausted,” or “I am tired at night but wake at midnight every night,” often alludes to dysfunction in cortisol.

Overuse of the adrenal hormones can lead to chronic fatigue, brain fog, attention and focus deficits and even increased pain perception. Think of the boy who cried wolf, after so many times saying there was a wolf, the one time he actually needed help, everyone was fatigued from continually going to his aid! The same is true for the hormones from the adrenal glands.

How Can You Support Adrenal Health?

1. Set Boundaries: When you finally are settling into bed, this is often the first time you check in with yourself. This is the time you often notice various pains in the body, your mind can ruminate on stressors of the day prior and upcoming events, this is also the time you remember that one thing you didn’t do and your heart starts racing!

We, as humans, need time to decompress, and allow our nervous system to discharge the stressors of day-to-day life. We are not meant to be on 24/7, although current society does make it feel like we should be. This is a tough pill to swallow when there is one last e-mail to check before bed or one thing to check on social media when waking up. Just as we set boundaries for others not to encroach on our time, we need to be setting these boundaries with ourselves. No more wasting time and energy feeding into stressors, make a plan to check email only 2 times in the day or set aside one time per week to review finances. You will gain more free time and lose extra stress.

2. Make Time for Exercise: Of course we all hear the word exercise and roll our eyes. We KNOW this is a good idea, for so many reasons, but honestly, stress management is high on the reasons why. What I recommend is finding something you like. If you are an outdoors type consider a group hike with friends and family, walking your favorite farmers market for an hour or even gardening can count. If you enjoy dance, consider a Zumba class, if you like meditation consider a yoga class, there are literally endless possibilities to get your body moving in the day. Sometimes there are emotional blocks as to why we are averse to exercise, which can be addressed and overcome; I promise you will feel like a better human!

3. Laughter is the Best Medicine: Laughing can stimulate happy neurotransmitters in the brain, encourage positive mood and outlook and reduce the stress on adrenal hormones. You don’t need to become a stand-up comedian, but planning your free time to include something funny is a great idea. Watching a comedic movie, reading the funnies or watching a short clip of a funny video online midday at work can increase energy and decrease the stress on those adrenal hormones.

4. Be Kind to Others: Practicing empathy and understanding someone else’s situation can make us change our perspective. Science shows that when we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes we are more kind to others and ourselves. Being nice to others will help you too!

Naturopathic Doctors can assist you on your journey to improve adrenal health and better balance the stressors of life. We often employ testing of the adrenal hormones to support the best course of treatment. Additionally, when nutrients are low or inflammation is high our body can continually be pushed out of balance, further stressing the adrenal system. Our goal is to find and address the root cause of adrenal fatigue and avoid band-aids whenever possible. After all, the body is innately wise and is continually telling us what it needs, sometimes it takes a lending ear to help us listen.

Dr. Burkman, ND is part of an integrative health team in Manchester at Connecticut Natural Health Specialists, LLC. All physicians are in network providers for most insurance companies and are accepting new patients. For more information or questions, please call (860) 533-0179. Or visit:

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