How to Heal
Stress and Burnout
I think we can all agree- mental health is an epidemic.
Stress, anxiety, and mental health are all words that seem to have a seat at the dinner table- and while destigmatizing the severity of these issues is a great thing, it’s also a really serious issue that many of us are facing.
At the time of writing this protocol, we are 2 years into a global pandemic- a time in history where each of us are being pushed to our absolute limits. This crisis has put extraordinary pressure on our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and social wellness unlike any other. From my own personal experience with mental health issues, my work with Wild Roses Apothecary, as well as sitting in circle with women every month in MOONWELL... it’s not only time we start talking about how common depression, anxiety, and burn out is, but also how to start building our resiliency, naturally.
The Earth and her medicines know crisis.
They’ve been here for a millenia -thriving under their own extreme change and circumstances as well. Herbal medicines and nourishment from food is one of the best ways that we can help build our strength from within to be able to not only withstand, but grow stronger within these challenging times.
How do we know when we are experiencing depression, anxiety, or burn out?
How I really want to answer this is by saying- you’ll know because you know. There are no fancy tests to confirm what you already know- you’re struggling. In a larger sense, I personally feel that depression, anxiety, fatigue and burnout are smaller symptoms of a bigger picture- adrenal fatigue. In this protocol, I am going to be offering a well rounded approach to help us calm our nervous systems, rebuild our adrenal glands, bring zen to anxiety and allow us to drop into a deeper sleep for a mentally refreshed you.
Here are some symptoms I look for when I am addressing how to heal adrenal fatigue:
-Brain fog + concentration problems
-Insomnia, difficulty falling asleep (feeling “wired but tired”)
-Blood sugar problems and insulin resistance
-Depression and Anxiety, irritability
-Digestive symptoms, leaky gut, constipation or diarrhea
-High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes
-Frequent colds and flus, infections
-Feeling like you’re in ‘Flight, fight or freeze’, constantly in a trauma response
-PMS, infertility, missed periods, menopause symptoms
-Weight gain, especially around the middle
-Inflammation and joint troubles
Before I begin, I first want to acknowledge that this approach is foundational. Mental health challenges are very serious and sadly, still carry the weight of stigma in so many areas. Please know that when it comes to healing, I believe an integrative approach is the best way to help overcome mental illnesses. There (should be) no shame in asking for support with medications, and psychological therapy- because they’re life saving. I believe our best fighting chance is to merge these therapies with nutrition and plant medicine- but please check in with an herbalist, pharmacist or naturopathic doctor to make sure there are no contraindications with your condition or any medications you may be taking.
Soothe with Foods
There are a couple key factors that are really important to address- and most importantly, I dont want to add more overwhelm to anyone’s plate (no pun intended!) so for that purpose, I am going to keep it brief to things that are SUPER important to be doing while we move through burnout.
Unlike simple carbohydrates such as refined white flour and sugars which break down really quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar- our focus needs to be on those slow burning, energy lasting carbs such as whole grains (like brown rice, oats, quinoa) and root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, and carrots. These carbs are also full of nutrients that help heal and balance our adrenal glands and thyroid- two major organs that help us modulate our stress response. As easy as it is to reach for white bread, pastries and refined pastas to soothe our cravings (because your intelligent body KNOWS where to find energy by craving these foods during a time of burn out!) the sad reality is that consuming these foods regularly will end up causing long term issues such as insulin resistence, gut impairments, hormone imbalance and more. My go to easy meal ideas for incorporating more healthy, complex carbs is overnight oats for breakfasts, roasted root vegetables with a simple protein for lunch and dinners, or a sweet potato ‘hash’ with a fried egg- perfect for any time of the day.
You might be needing to eat more than you think. Especially with burnout- I know from experience you are too busy doing all the things to just stop and make yourself food- especially a healthy one. But because imbalanced blood sugars directly play into our cortisol production, this is a huge factor for addressing our mental health concerns. If you find yourself feeling unstable, moody, and irritable often, then you definitely need to be supporting your blood sugar. Its important to eat every 3-4 hours during our wake time. For optimal hormone levels, our breakfasts and lunches should be our largest meals of the day. Make sure they are balanced with lots of healthy carbs, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are not the only food source that provides energy- in fact, fat is a powerful superfuel for the brain to provide long term energy and healthy cognitive health. There are hundreds of thousands of studies that prove that consuming fats high in EPA and DHA not only help with chemical and neural transmission, but without it, the brain can literally deteriorate? The brain itself is made up of primarily fats- so healthy fats such as grass fed butter, avocados, nut and seeds (especially walnuts and chia), fatty fish like salmon, trout and sardines help to actually feed the brain
I always heard the saying ‘your gut is your second brain’- because it’s true. So many of our neurotransmitters and chemicals that support brain balance begin production within our guts. But did you know that sustaining just 30 minutes of stress can remarkably alter your gut microbiome (your healthy gut flora)?! This is why for those who are living under chronic stress really need to be trusting our gut- that it needs support! The best way we can do that is not only by supplementing with a probiotic, but also by consuming naturally fermented foods such as kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, lactofermented vegetables, for example.
Critical Nutrients- the three you need
Did you know that 80% of women are deficient in these nutrients? A huge reason why we have such huge nutritional gaps is because stress depletes these vital nutrients from our bodies. On top of that, when chronic stress comes into play, our body can also begin to block the absorption from these nutrients to absorb as well. When we are in chronic stress, our adrenal glands work in overdrive by producing cortisol and adrenalin, and within that process, consumes any useable Vitamin C.
Let’s quickly break down what each of these nutrients do for our bodies:
Magnesium is our relaxation nutrient, it helps to relax smooth muscle tissue and soothe the nervous system. I recommend taking a biglycinate magnesium , as it is a highly bioavailable. Leafy greens, Nettle tea, (The Replenish Powder is a beautiful blend of leafy greens, nettle and other nutrient dense herbs!) and pure Cacao powder are excellent sources of food based magnesium.
B-Vitamins are a crucial nutrient that helps the body convert food into energy. They ensure the proper functioning of cells and directly impact our metabolism and energy resources. Women, particularly childbearing women and vegan and vegetarians, are at high risk of not consuming enough B-vitamins. Eating a diet rich in beans and legumes, leafy greens, nutritional yeast and animal products such as grass fed, organic beef and poultry (especially their organ meats), is an excellent way of ensuring optimal amounts of B-vitamins - otherwise a diet lacking in these foods means that supplementation is highly recommended.
Vitamin C is a crucial factor in healthy immune and tissue response, but did you know that by being in a chronic state of stress, your adrenal glands can actually begin to break down and dysfunction? This is a scary reality for those dealing with chronic stress and burn out in the HPA- axis. Vitamin C is also easily destroyed by heat, and so unfortunately, is lost when we cook or process foods with high temperatures, so consuming lots of fresh fruits that are high in vitamin C like cold pressed citrus juices (with the peel on!), cantaloupe, camu camu, kiwis, papayas, mango, pineapple. Rosehip and Hibiscus tea are also delicious and high in Vitamin C.
Learn how to use plant medicines to calm and relax the nervous system and promote homeostasis to bring you into a state of relaxation. In this mini chapter of herbs, I am going to be talking about a few of my favorite nervine and adaptogenic that will help promote chill vibes, adaptive mental state and restful sleep.
Lemon Balm is a delicious, lemon flavored nervine that has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) as well as a gentle sedative effect. Most effect when brewed as a tea, not only can Lemon Balm help you ease into a deep sleep, but it also exhibits antiviral properties, especially against the Herpes virus- which is good news if you suffer from outbreaks due to high amounts of stress. Find Lemon Balm as a primary ingredient in our Berry Healthy tea- an elixir that is not only supportive to our immune health, but to our adrenals as well.
While all parts of this plant have medicinal properties, they all seem to have various effects on the body. Oats are nutritive, tonifying, sedating and calming to the nervous system. Oatstraw (the ‘stem’ part of the plant) are one of my favorite, gentle herbs that are safe for all people. Oatstraw is a calming nervine that helps ease ‘frayed’ nerves- something that is common for someone dealing with consistent anxiety and/or burn out. Find Oatstraw as a primary ingredient in our Calming Tea.
Holy Basil is a sacred plant in India and a traditional Ayurvedic remedy and adaptogen that boosts energy, alleviates fatigue, and clears brain fog like no other.One of the most powerful allies in my herbal toolkit, adaptogens like Holy Basil calm and nourish the adrenal glands and support many different processes that are controlled by the glands themselves such as hormone production, blood pressure, immune system regulation and more. They help to improve our stamina and endurance, reduce fatigue, modulate immunity and so much more. Find Holy Basil in my Harmonizing Tea, Earthside Chai, and Basic Witch teas.
Rituals and Spells
Transform your brain with just a few mindful moments: When you are in a constant state of fight or flight, your brain is in survival mode- your body is pumping cortisol and adrenalin, and you might be feeling like you need a break, but its impossible to get it. That’s because your brain is in ‘ON’ mode. We can easily switch back into parasympathetic mode, AKA the ‘rest and digest’ state by taking a few moments each day (even if its just 5 minutes in the morning and at night) to close our eyes, focus on our breathe and come into a place of meditation. Have a hard time meditating? It doesn't need to be! Everyone finds their own way to meditate- for me, I imagine my thoughts coming in as internet ‘pop ups’. Each time a thought pops into my brain, I press the X and try to focus on a white light pouring into my third eye. This significantly helps me to bring myself into a state of calm, which then helps me to be more focused and clear.
Let someone else carry you: Talk therapy, whether it be with a psychologist, a get together with a friend, or a sisterhood circle (like our Coven over at Moonwell!) is such beautiful medicine. To be able to vent and be seen, heard and validated just as you are can help you find peace and perspective.
Boundaries:This one is HUGE. I remember years ago when I first started Elle Wellness and was doing ALL the things, I was headed for extreme burn out. A mentor of mine told me, if its not a ‘HELL YES!’ its a no. Set those boundaries for yourself by feeling into what feels like a yes or a hell no.