By Joelle Mintzberg, CNP, EPC


The end of a relaxing summer is hard enough to face without stressing about your kids’ return to the classroom. Often times, we get so wrapped up & exhausted in the back-to-school routine that we deplete our adrenals. How can we heal adrenal fatigue with young, busy kids at home? The strategies listed below will help to keep you and your family calm and ready to tackle the new school year.

Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal gland (located on top of our kidneys) is strained by mental, emotional, or physical stress. When this occurs the gland is unable to produce hormones such as cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. If you have a healthy stress response, the amount of cortisol circulating in your body will increase as the demands on you increase. Cortisol levels have a daily rhythm, with morning levels typically higher sand evening levels typically lower. When the adrenal gland is depleted, it is unable to produce cortisol to match situational demands and in some situations, the secretion of cortisol can become dysfunctional with morning levels being low and evening levels being high. You may experience this as insomnia, poor sleep, exhaustion, low stress tolerance, mood swings, poor concentration, weight gain, cravings (especially salt), thyroid dysfunction, and hormonal imbalance.

If you have an impaired stress response or adrenal fatigue, recognize that parenting, although rewarding, can be even more demanding and that back to school time may add some additional challenges. During the back-to-school rush, take time to do these things that support you and your ability to handle stress:

Make S L E E P a priority. Getting too little sleep can disrupt the normal cortisol rhythm and impair your ability to manage stress. The number one cause of adrenal fatigue is lack of sleep.

Good sleep is the foundation of physical and mental health. Without it, your children (and you) may have problems with behaviour, alertness, irritability, sadness and/or anger. And that’s just in the short term. Twelve hours per night of sleep for pre-schoolers and then ten hours for kids in their teen years is optimal. Eight hours per night is optimal for adults. Although it is easier said than done, starting kids on their school sleep routine at least a week before school starts is a great way to help transition to a back-to-school routine. Follow these 4 tips on how to have a sound sleep.

Eat N U T R I T I O U S foods and avoid the temptation to seek extra energy from sugar or processed fat. Good sleep is a good start, but a good diet, drinking enough water and exercising can also significantly reduce stress. Breakfast is especially important, with studies showing that the students who eat breakfast do better in school. This balanced smoothie is a perfect back-to-school breakfast that the whole family can enjoy. Fish oil, probiotics and protein are also highly recommended in order to help balance adrenals and enhance optimal health for you and your family.

Use S U P P L E M E N T S designed to support your adrenals/stress response system and your immune system. Adaptogens are great herbal remedies that are used for restoring, balancing and protecting the body. Adaptogens are a unique group of herbal ingredients used to improve the health of your adrenal system, the system that’s in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress. They help strengthen the body’s response to stress and enhance its ability to cope with anxiety and fight fatigue slowly and gently, without jolts or crashes. Herbs such as rhodiola, eleuthro, ashwaganda, ginseng, and holy basil are great for healing adrenals.

B R E A T H E. Even though it may feel like it, most stressful matters aren’t life or death. When confronted with a challenging situation, take a breath, put the situation in perspective, and deal with it accordingly. Our receptors in our lungs, when they are expanded fully, send a message to our brain that we’re OK. You can also teach your children deep, controlled breathing as an important tool to reduce stress, one that can be done in any life situation.

Set a P O S I T I V E optimistic tone. Bringing a tone of optimism and excitement to the beginning of school, will help your children (and in turn, you) to have a positive focus on learning, and making new friends and will therefore contribute to a seamless transition to school. Humans respond to their environment so if the environment is stressful then they will pick up that stress but if the environment is positive and optimistic, they will have a more positive experience.

Sources:

Hyman, Mark. Push the Pause Button on Adrenal Burnout. http://drhyman.com; November 2013.

Kang, Shimi. Back-t0-school Stress: The Warning Signs and What To Do. http://www.cbc.ca; September 2014.

Metcalf, Eric. Adrenal Fatigue: Is It Real? WebMD Feature. WebMD; April 2010.