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Adrenal Fatigue & The Nervous System

Adrenal Fatigue & The Nervous System

At its foundation, adrenal fatigue is a state of burnout due to a prolonged state of alarm in the nervous system. Adrenal fatigue affects most of our body’s systems, but particularly the endocrine system. It also affects blood pressure, but in different ways depending on the stage of adrenal fatigue we’re in. It affects our sodium and potassium balance, but and these are important electrolytes for cellular function. I could go on, but let’s get back to the beginning of it all. Stress.

Stress takes a toll on the body, and there are plenty of self-help books out there. However, I’ve found that folks lack an understanding of the stress response from a physiological point of view. The mental side of the stress response is much better understood. Here are some things that I think you should know, so that you can get the most out of the online class about adrenal fatigue that I’ll be doing with Goodness Me! later this month.

The Stress Response: Prolonged Fight-or-Flight

The stress response is a high energy state that most of us call “fight or flight”. It’s a normal thing, and actually good in small doses. I like to call cortisol our performance hormone instead of our stress hormone. Cortisol gets a bad rap. It becomes problematic, though, when we get stuck in a prolonged state of low-grade fight-or-flight. In this state we’re tired, cranky, and forgetful. We also have heightened senses, meaning that annoying sounds are really annoying and bright lights can seem blinding. Bad smells can seem nauseating, quick movements can make us gasp, and crowded places can be overwhelming.

Stress & Triggers

Triggers are also called stressors. Even without us knowing, the body can move into the fight-or-flight state as a result of a trigger. We’re not always aware that we’ve encountered a trigger, we may start feeling unwell and decide that we’d better have something to eat or drink. Or we may suddenly become more difficult to get along with. If we can notice this when it occurs, we have an opportunity to turn things around for ourselves. This simple state of awareness can

Was there a sound, a movement out of the corner of our eye, or an odour that triggered us? Are we in a place where something bad happened to us in the past? Who just walked into our personal space?

We all have triggers, they’re hard to avoid. When our system triggers, we should give ourselves a moment to become aware. This awareness keeps us grounded. It prevents us from being tossed about by the circumstances we find ourselves in.

What to Expect After We’ve Experienced a Trigger:

We may notice a rush of adrenalin. We may feel an upward or downward movement in the stomach. We may have a strong craving for a certain food or drink. Our senses will be heightened until our nervous system is able to re-set back to Neutral. If we’re at the grocery store the lights will seem brighter, the smells stronger, the people moving faster than usual, and we’ll feel over-stimulated. Our muscles will be flexed, the body will feel heavier, and we won’t have the flexibility or balance we’re used to having. If we already have pain somewhere in our body, it’s likely to flare up at this time. We’ll startle easily, we may gasp if a bird flies too close. We may get the sensation that there’s bugs crawling on us, or there a drop of water trickling on our skin.

We Can Use the Felt Sense To Keep Ourselves Grounded & Aware

The Felt Sense is different from our thoughts and emotions. It’s the body’s wave-like responses to our experiences. These are some examples of how we experience the felt sense. When I’m working through a trigger, I choose from these words, circling the felt senses I have in that moment. I find that if I can actually physically circle them, my subconscious mind is better able to stay in grounded awareness with me. 

“I Feel”:

  • Dense
  • Thick
  • Flowing
  • Breathless
  • Fluttery Nervous
  • Queasy
  • Expanded
  • Floating
  • Heavy
  • Tingly
  • Electric
  • Fluid
  • Numb
  • Wooden
  • Dizzy
  • Full
  • Congested
  • Spacey
  • Trembly
  • Twitchy
  • Tight
  • Hot
  • Bubbly
  • Achy
  • Wobbly
  • Calm
  • Suffocating
  • Buzzy
  • Energized
  • Tremulous
  • Constricted
  • Warm
  • Knotted
  • Icy
  • Light
  • Blocked
  • Hollow
  • Cold
  • Sweaty
  • Streaming
  • Disconnected



  • Upper abdomen
  • Lower Abdomen Shoulder
  • Girdle(s)
  • Upper Arms
  • Forearms
  • Wrists
  • Hands
  • Chest
  • Ribcage
  • Thighs
  • Head
  • Upper Back
  • Mid Back
  • Lower Back
  • Eyes
  • Knee(s)
  • Pubic Bone
  • Urinary Tract
  • Groin
  • Shins
  • Feet


Once We’ve Identified Our Felt Senses, We Can Bring Our Awareness Into Our 5 Senses More Effectively.

  • We can listen.
  • We can smell.
  • We can see better.
  • What colours stand out?
  • What’s moving and what’s standing still?
  • We can taste. Is the mouth moist or dry?
  • Most importantly, we can feel.
  • What’s the temperature? Any air currents?
  • What does the fabric of my clothing feel like on my skin?
  • Have I been picking at my nails?
  • Pinching my skin with my fingernails?
  • Pulling at my hair?
  • Is my ribcage moving when I breath, or just my collarbones?

A Note On Anxiety & PTSD

For those of you who have severe stress and have experienced trauma, you’re well aware of how complex your stress responses are. I encourage you to look much farther than this document for insights and help. I’m really just scratching the surface here.

Always Practice Discernment

This article is for information purposes only, and not meant to be taken as recommendation. For advice and care, consult your personal health care providers......or book an appointment with me at Brant Wellness & Rehab. The phone number is 519-304-5007.

Wishing you wellness and joy. Dr. Angela, ND

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