Stress management for women with chronic fatigue

Stress management tips usually apply to anyone. But our body and its response to stress is not the same as the next person’s. In this post I’d like to give some tips to people who live with chronic fatigue and low energy most of the time.

Find out your stress management type

First, what is your body’s stress type? Our hormonal system and our nervous system behaves differently, mostly as a result of our personal history. I made this little chart to help you find out what is your type. The chart is based on a great book, So stressed – The Ultimate Stress-Relief Plan for Women, by Stephanie McClellan, M.D. and Beth Hamilton, M.D.

Artboard 2-100

Today’s post is aimed to women who are on the right side of this diagram, the low-energy types. Their common characteristic is that they have low level of cortisol which leaves them feeling sluggish and tired a lot.

Detailed symptoms of low cortisol stress types

Again, this list is coming from the So stressed book mentioned before:

  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sensitivity to stress
  • Increased susceptibility to inflammation
  • Late to bed and often feel tired when waking up
  • Weight gain around hips and thighs
  • Digestive issues
  • Blood pressure fluctuations (Always tired type)
  • Slow heart rate, faints easily (No motivation type)
  • Boredom, withdrawal from people (No motivation type)
  • Aches and pains (Always tired type)
  • Severe PMS (Always tired type)

Tips to manage your body’s reaction to stress

Nutrition

Part of our stress-management toolbox is what we eat.

Vitamins for low-cortisol body types

  • B complex
  • A D and E if you have inflammatory bowel problems as this condition makes it difficult to absorb fat-soluble vitamins
  • Zink to support immune function

Meals

Low-cortisol types need food to stimulate the production of cortisol throughout their day. It will help to balance the nervous system and lessen pains and fatigue. Eat high protein meals three times a day, consistently about the same time every day.

If prone to PMS pay attention to eat foods high in fiber and low in salt. Within months this simple change helped me to significantly lower my PMS symptoms like water retention or irritability and mood swings.

Avoid beverages that contain sugar and drink plenty of water.

Snacks

For healthy comfort foods, dark chocolate and high fiber snacks are recommended. Read the ‘Superfood Snacks’ book on healthy and very yummy snack recipes. Most of them require no fuss, we just put everything in the food processor. 🙂

Anti-inflammatory diet

As this type has increased vulnerability to inflammation, they can benefit from anti-inflammatory diet. This diet recommends eating avoiding high glycemic index foods, fructose and trans fat and damaged fats from margarine, refined oils, and grilled and fried foods. They recommend eating inflammation-fighting foods like turmeric, ginger,  leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and berries.

Inflammation-Fighting-Foods-Infographic
Source: http://www.fitneass.com

Relaxation

Relaxation techniques help you to calm down your strong stress-reaction. Also helps you to deal with the pains and discomforts that often accompany the ‘Always tired’ type by their forties.

Basic relaxation

The goal of basic relaxation to calm the mind and the body, and dissolve anxiety and revved-up state of mind. It is extremely important to the Always tired type, as they are very sensitive to stressful events.

Incorporate any of these methods into your daily routine, much like brushing your teeth. Think about it as mental hygiene. 🙂 Try:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Autogenic training

For how-to and detailed description on these, please turn to YouTube.

Gratefulness and other positive emotions

Research shows that positive emotions like gratitude, curiosity, love, hope or inspiration are closely related to happiness. One way to add it to your everyday life is to consciously spend a few minutes each day on listing 5 things you are grateful for, and appreciating the love and beauty around you.

Gratitude-Graphic
Source: JairekRobbins.com

I can personally attest that it is an amazing habit that can turn dark mood and low motivation around, even during not so happy times in our lives. I use the 6 phase meditation every morning that includes gratitude and it helps to start my day well.

Sleep

Low-energy types are usually night owls. If you are like them, you easily stay up after midnight and have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. But most of us need about 7-8 hours of sleep every night to stay healthy. What can be done to re-set your circadian rhythm to a more reasonable bedtime?

  • Avoid caffeine after 3 pm
  • Dim the light in the evening in the house
  • Expose yourself to bright morning light for an hour (I know, it is impossible during winter. Try artificial sunlight lamps.)
  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier in every 2-3 days until you readjust your bedtime
  • Get regular exercise but not within a few hours of bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before bedtime

Exercise

Women who belong to these low-energy types often suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or arthritis by the time they reach their middle-age.

Despite the aches, pains and exhaustion, low-energy types can greatly benefit from exercise. Exercise produces endorphins, natural pain-killers; it will also increase your energy, and help you lose weight if you need to. You just have to do it wisely. Don’t look at what other people do for exercise, as it might be too much for you.

  • Start with very low intensity and short intervals. Few minutes of walk every day might be a good start. If you feel exhausted afterwards, decrease the time or the intensity. If you were fine, gradually increase them.
  • Try water-based exercises, if available, since they are gentle and great for anybody with pain.
  • Get approval and advice from your health-care provider.

Dealing with the past

This type has low levels of cortisol as the result of chronic stress earlier in their life, typically in-utero and childhood. I personally know four women among friends and family members who suffered from childhood abuse. They all belong to this stress-type, and developed chronic health issues by their forties and it is quite typical according to the researchers.

Research also shows that women who suffered childhood abuse have similar physical symptoms and psychological problems than women currently experiencing abuse in their lives. Which says to me that past trauma is still hurting you unless you do something about it.

Trauma therapy

One scientific and effective way to recover from traumatic experiences is EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy. It works faster than traditional talk therapy and also covered by insurance.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  […] EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. Source: EMDR Institute, Inc.

Forgiveness therapy

Research shows that forgiveness therapy is effective in improving physical and mental health of women who suffered abuse, including childhood abuse.

Forgiveness therapy doesn’t mean that these women are asked to agree with what happened, or stop being angry, or to reconcile with abuser, or anything like that. Forgiveness therapy helps us to be free of the emotional burden eventually and heal.

Forgiveness often is confused with reconciling, forgetting, pardoning, and/or accepting even though it is different from all of those terms. Some people criticize forgiveness because they think that advocating forgiveness leads to further abuse or hurt. Safety is the first and most important consideration. Thus, a survivor of any type of abuse would not be encouraged to forgive her abuser until she was safe and removed from the abusive environment. When one forgives, she does not give up her right to a just solution; forgiveness and justice occurs together. Source: Journal of Women’s Health Care

If you feel you might be affected by trauma I’d like to encourage you to seek help. None of us deserves to suffer. Healing is possible.

These were my tips for you if you struggle with low energy levels regularly due to lack of enough cortisol.

I hope you have found some helpful ideas. Pick one or two and try it for a few weeks and see if it is working for you.

I will post stress-management tips for women who are on the left side of the diagram soon.

What are your favorite ways to deal with your stress? Let me know in the comments below.

Take care,

Livia,

Life coach focusing on health and wellness in Calgary

Resources:

So stressed – The Ultimate Stress-Relief Plan for Women by Stephanie McClellan, M.D. and Beth Hamilton, M.D.

 

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