Chinese Medicine, Burnout and Adrenal Fatigue.
Wednesday, 17th July 2019
Our modern lifestyle is fast-paced and jam-packed! We juggle work, family, community – it’s all too easy to be overwhelmed. So how do we achieve balance? Let’s take a look at how Chinese Medicine can help with burnout and adrenal fatigue.
What is Burnout
Burnout syndrome is otherwise known as adrenal fatigue and is characterized by exhaustion, de-personalisation and reduced satisfaction in performance.
When we talk about burnout in Chinese medicine we are often talking about a depletion of Kidney Qi or vital energy in the body.
A simple way of looking at how energy works in Chinese Medicine is to think of a pot of stew over a camp fire. The fire at the bottom represents our Kidney Yang Qi (adrenals), the pot represents the Spleen Qi (digestive energy) and the steam is the Lung Qi (breath). They all have their part to play in creating and disseminating energy through the body.
Ideally our bodies are fueled by the food we eat. Good nutrition going into the cooking pot is digested and absorbed with the help of the Kidney Yang Fire below and is distributed through the body with the help of the Lung Qi above. This gives us the clear energy we need to get through the day. Adequate rest gives the body the opportunity to heal and replenish itself from the day’s activities.
The fuel we give our bodies and the Spleen Qi’s ability to transform it into energy is an important factor in how vital we feel. If the fuel or Spleen Qi is not adequate we experience fatigue, especially mid afternoon and at the end of the day. This is easily rectified with good nutrition and rest.
When we try to function without adequate fuel or we push through fatigue barriers we dip into our Kidney Qi for energy. Stress, caffeine and recreational drugs will also cause a release of Kidney Qi. You can think of it as stoking the fire too vigorously, burning through all your fuel.
The concept of the Kidney Qi is hugely important in Chinese Medicine and is often referred to as our constitutional energy. It incorporates the adrenal glands, reproductive organs and stores our Jing-essence which governs growth, reproductive function and ageing.
As with everything in Chinese Medicine there is a yin-yang balance within the Kidney. The Kidney Yang (Fire) is our vital life force and is contained within the Kidney Yin essence (Water). The Kidney Yang-Fire and Yin-essence are the fundamental Yin and Yang of the whole body.
When we dip into our Kidney Qi we are dipping into our ageing potential, borrowing from tomorrow.
Typical modern day lifestyles find us burning our Kidney Qi on a regular basis ultimately resulting in a depletion of Kidney Yin and Yang. This eventually results in an imbalance in every system of the body especially hormonal, emotional and energetic.
The main hallmarks of Kidney deficiency are fatigue with only a desire to sleep, weakness in the lower back or knees that improves with rest and feeling or looking older than you are. As the Kidney becomes more deficient symptoms such as insomnia, reproductive disorders and chronic health complaints start to emerge.
How to Prevent Burnout and Adrenal Fatigue
- Early to bed early to rise. Making sure you are getting adequate rest, especially between the hours of 10pm and 2am.
- Look after your digestive energy. Eating a well balanced diet, ensuring that your blood sugars remain stable. NO skipping meals or eating on the go.
- Avoid caffeine and recreational drugs.
- Avoid stressful situations, or at least make sure you balance the stressful, high demand hours with rest and replenishment.
- Stay warm. Keeping the lower back and feet covered protects the Kidney Yang.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a wonderful way of clearing those stress hormones and nourishing the Kidney Yang. Have you ever heard your tummy start to gurgle during an acupuncture treatment? We consider it a compliment! It means you’ve entered into “rest and digest” mode, where the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and activates the more tranquil functions of the body.
- Herbal medicine. There are many wonderful herbs within the Chinese materia medica that nourish the Kidney energetic and treat adrenal fatigue. You may even recognise some of the more common ones such as goji berries and cinnamon that are used to nourish the Kidney Yin and Yang respectively. There are some more tips in our post about Post Natal Depletion.
Practice What We Preach
After 15 years of working 6 days a week (and loving every second!) Annalise has decided to cut back on her hours a little at the clinic. With the intention of preventing burnout, she is going to stop working on Saturdays to enjoy some weekend downtime with her family. Kim Riley will be taking over Annalise’s Saturdays. (A big welcome to Kim, we’re so pleased to have you on board!) Kim has the same lovely, calm energy as Annalise, you’ll love her treatments.
We hope this post has helped to highlight how Chinese Medicine can help with burnout, if you have any questions feel free to comment below or send us an email. If you’d like to read more about the kidney in relation to Chinese Medicine check out our Emotions of Winter post.