After running a marathon, Iron Man, or any other long, strenuous event, athletes are encouraged to take some down time, also called rest. Rest is a critical part of training, allowing athletes to recover properly so they can get back to doing what they love and stay strong and competitive. It takes up to two weeks for the muscles to recover, inflammation to settle down and hormones to balance.
The need for recovery after intense physical exertion seems obvious to most, but seems to require greater justification when applied to mental exertion. We do not often think of the brain as a muscle, but if we did, we would see the value of rest and recovery. Financial stress, meeting deadlines, taking care of sick family members, planning a wedding, heart ache, moving etc. are all events that tend to cause the mind to be more active, impair sleep, effects our diets, and the ability to exercise and rest. These events are not particularly physical; however, they do cause many physical effects resulting from an increased release of cortisol.
Cortisol is a very important hormone. Our ability to withstand stressful events would certainly be very low if we didn’t have cortisol, but elevated levels, over prolonged periods are deleterious for health. Chronic elevated cortisol cases fat to be stored around the abdomen, muscle breakdown, insulin resistance, sugar cravings, lowered immunity, increased cholesterol and can cause anxiety and agitation which will make sleep even more difficult. Insufficient restorative sleep causes a further increase in cortisol and the cycle gets worse eventually resulting in burnout. Prior to burnout individuals may notice an increase in colds and flues, increased body aches, pain and tension, agitation and /or anxiety, forgetfulness, lack of focus, and digestive difficulty.
These are not uncommon symptoms; we at Vitalia Healthcare hear these complaints all the time. These symptoms are not signs of weakness, they are signs that you have too much on your plate and you are not getting adequate rest to balance the cortisol. We understand that there are times in life that rest and vacations are not possible, so we can help support your body, but ultimately getting more sleep and rest are the best medicine.
Some of our more prescribed herbal formulas are Adrenal SAP by NFH or Adaptogen by Restorative Formulations. We may also recommend herbs and teas to help with sleep, as true healing cannot happen without sleep. We frequently prescribe IV nutrient therapy to help patients get through their difficult times and to help them get back on track afterwards. We do these treatments to help prevent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which once it sets in, can take a year or more to recover from.
The kids have just gone back to school; hectic summer schedules are behind us, so now is a perfect time to think about rest and recovery. A little extra sleep now, may allow you to go into the holiday season with extra energy and avoid the colds and flues that often follow.
I look forward to helping you be your best.
Dr. Natalie Waller, ND