Psychological Strategies to Relieve Adrenal Fatigue - June 2015
By Dr. Ilze Grobler (Clinical Psychologist)
BA(Hons), MA(CounsPsy)CertHypnosis,PhD, MAPS
We live in a society with ever increasing demands. We often find ourselves continuously striving to keep ‘on top of things’ and even anticipating and planning for the next demand that will land on our plate unexpectedly. Research into the neurophysiology of emotion suggests that psychological strategies can assist greatly in helping clients understand and better regulate the interaction between the (1) threat/protection system, (2) the drive/excitement system and the (3) soothing / contentment system. Every part of us is important and serves a specific purpose, however when the threat/protection system is never switched off it may increase the risk of adrenal fatigue.
How would you best describe yourself?
• “The racehorse” – feeling energized all day, fuelled by high levels of stress hormones that keep you alert.
• “The workhorse” – exhausted in the morning and throughout the day, using caffeine to keep going and rarely enjoying restful sleep.
• “The flatliner” – trying hard to meet everyone’s needs, but barely have enough energy and can’t get restful sleep.
How can psychology help?
Adrenal fatigue occurs in all groups, regardless of occupation (it can even occur on low-stress jobs), income, educational level or age. It represents a mind-body condition where the stress-controlling centre of the body is breaking down due to stress. Adrenal fatigue has both a physical dysfunction and a psychological component, both of which are biochemically mediated through hormones. Therefore recovery needs to incorporate a multi-disciplinary holistic approach.
• Compassion-focused therapy acknowledges that heightened sensitivity and overactivity of the threat/protective system is a common problem in people with high shame and self-criticism. People who struggle with adrenal fatigue often find it difficult to feel content or safe within themselves and in interpersonal relationships. Through the process of therapy you can learn to regulate the drive and threat systems; to tolerate and feel safe with what is explored in therapeutic conversations; recognise unhelpful behavioural patterns; and to replace self-criticism with self-kindness.
• Mindfulness Meditation and group therapy programs – psychologists at Tyack Health facilitate a number of group therapy programs and workshops throughout the year aimed at supporting clients with developing mindfulness and self-compassion practices in their everyday life. The 7-week Mindfulness Meditation For Beginners group therapy program introduces clients to seven attitudes of mindfulness through psycho-education and practical meditation skills. Clients may be eligible for a group therapy referral to this program. We also offer a Self-Compassion Masterclass particularly aimed at learning about self-compassion and the brain and how to relieve adrenal fatigue.
• Multi-disciplinary caring approach – psychologists also work closely with other health professionals including GP’s, homeopathy/naturopathy, remedial massage, exercise physiology to name but a few, as part of a holistic approach to relieve adrenal fatigue and assist clients in achieving full recovery.
Gilbert, P. (2009). Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in psychiatric treatment, vol. 15, 199-208.