Is it depression? I don’t think so, but it feels like the wind has been taken outta my sails. My normal get up-n-go has somehow disappeared. I don’t know what it means or what to do about it, but it doesn’t feel great.
Can you relate to this right now?
Are you finding you cannot tolerate many moving parts at one time, when you used to thrive on it? Are you finding yourself easily overwhelmed and not very motivated, just going through the motions?
If you are saying “yes” to any or all of this, know that you’re not alone and this is a perfectly NORMAL way to be feeling right now. Also know it will pass. I promise. More than likely it’s not depression, in the clinical sense, but rather the way our bodies and psyches work to protect us.
For all of us, there have been many big changes in the last 3 months: job loss, isolation, different ways of interacting with each other, new information, fear, emotionally charged images and conversations, violence, new and perhaps painful awareness’. It’s a lot to take in and process, more than we realize.
So when our thoughts, emotions, and I would add hearts, are on overload, the mind and body responds by slowing down, a little like hibernation. It’s a very smart defense mechanism built into us in order conserve energy and to survive, a mechanism that we need to honor.
This natural response can feel very strange and uncomfortable but the more we honor it, the sooner we’ll be able to bounce back. How long will it take to bounce back? There is no time table. Just know that you will. We have to let things progress organically and get support as we move through it.
There are emotional and psychological aspects to what we’ve been experiencing and because our minds and bodies are connected, there’s also going to be a physical component–loss of energy, fatigue and a myriad of other things.
Using myself as an example, I’ve experienced a bit of a malaise over the past couple of weeks with physical changes.
I’ve been a bit more emotional, not able to listen to an in-depth podcast while navigating the drive from the OC to LA, needed more quiet, haven’t had the resiliency I usually have to trouble-shoot without breaking a sweat. Eventually I put two and two together. Sometimes it’s easy to forget cause and effect when you’re too close.
On a physical level, these are the changes I’m experiencing: body odor changed and increased, rosacea returned with a vengeance, heels cracking to the point of bleeding again, my hands very dry and having a hard time with frequent washings, more tired than usual and lowered libido. In short, I’m not feeling like the woman I was just 3 months ago!
If I was standing in front of me as a client, these are the connects I would make.
First, the adrenal glands are behind everything going on here, not surprising as stress/inflammation hit the adrenals big time. So let’s dig in here and get a bit more specific.
Body odor: When adrenals are working overtime, you’ll often get a different odor in the armpits and groin area. This has been a non-issue for 19 years thanks to my hot yoga practice which calms, detoxifies, and gets the lymph moving. Three months without hot yoga and adrenal glands working overtime changes the landscape.
Rosacea: More stress can have an effect on mast cells which can contribute to increased redness which is a hallmark sign of rosacea.
Cracked heels and dry hands: There’s a couple of different ways this can be traced back to the adrenal glands.
Cracked heels and dry skin are often associated with low thyroid. While my thyroid labs are a bit on the low end of where I’d like them to be, I’ve been able to manage things pretty well once I added choline and upped a few others: zinc, selenium, and vitamin C.
(Choline is used to make bile, an important player in the GI tract, including breaking down and digesting fat. Choline also affects cell membrane integrity–think dry cracking skin. I added selenium and zinc as well, as it’s needed to make thyroid hormones and for the conversion of inactive T4 to active T3. Last, vitamin C is essential for adrenal health and making collagen. The body will prioritize getting vitamin C to the adrenals over skin).
So how do the adrenal glands specifically come into play here?
- If there’s a lot of stress or inflammation, the adrenal glands will interfere with the conversion of T4 to T3 by making Reverse T3 instead of the metabolically active T3. This slows everything down, reducing available energy which can make you feel tired and even a little depressed. It’s part of that survival mechanism I referred to earlier where your body attempts to conserve energy and resources when it feels like it’s in survival mode.
- Besides making cortisol and adrenaline, our adrenal glands also make sex hormones–estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When our bodies are stressed and require more cortisol, the raw materials used to make our sex hormones are redirected to make that cortisol, so estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels drop.
- Less estrogen means even less choline available and less T3 (thyroid) so cracked heels and dry skin returned, along with extra sensitivity and lowered libido.
What’s the fix? I’ve added a few new things and upped a few of my supplements. I’m still seeing clients, researching and writing (all things I love to do). Spreading out appointments so I don’t get crunched or stressed for time. I just don’t have the bandwidth right now. Probably most important, is choosing carefully who and what gets my time, attention, and energy and allowing myself the time to feel and even grieve.
If you’re in a bit of a hibernation state right now, it’s your body talking to you, asking for a little bit of understanding and support. I hope you can find that support.
A conventional doctor may prescribe a pill, but that pill is a patch, not a solution. To truly heal from trauma of any kind, we need to understand the root causes. Is it your adrenals, your thyroid, your gut, your hormones or your blood sugar that’s being affected by all that’s going on? You need to know.
Please read: In no way is this piece meant to diagnose or treat. It’s meant to inform and bring awareness, only. It’s really important to seek help if you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is true depression or just a need to hibernate a bit.
I’m hoping all of us will emerge from 2020 with new understandings and more compassion for ourselves and each other.