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Shiatsu Vitality: Stress, Anxiety & Adrenal Fatigue

A vast topic to cover in 5 minutes, but a very relevant one at this time as I'm hearing more and more people getting anxious at the thought of Lockdown being lifted - why is this and what exactly is going on in our minds and body's?


STRESS is what is put on us by life, and I'm normally writing this from the point of view of a menopausal woman so even our bodies put stress on us with hormonal fluctuations. Stress is how we cope under pressure, and at this time this maybe the pressure of too much work, too little to do, loneliness, coping with isolated parents, caring for someone with disabilities, worrying about your jog, your health, your family; and the list goes on.

ANXIETY is a symptom of stress, it's a feeling in the gut that is disquietening for some through to feeling sick with breathing difficulties and palpitations for others, right through to paralysis and agoraphobia. Anxiety is exacerbated by thinking about Anxiety, raising your stress levels which then causes you to have over sensitive adrenalin release. Attached to this is Cortisol, another hormone and this is the one that is causing anxiety to hit, especially at the time you ought to be relaxing, when you're sitting down, or when you're sleeping. On the other hand if you run around, do exercise or any kind of physical release Anxiety 'disappears'.

ADRENAL FATIGUE is the outcome of too much stress and anxiety. The adrenal glands are associated to our kidneys (literally) and they are part of the hormone endocrine system. Kidney energy in Chinese medicine is at the root of our health and constitution, When it is low your are fatigued, prone to anxiety, fearfulness, phobias, panic and overwhelm; you're also going to have a sorely compromised immune system, gain more allergies and have poorly gut health. Adrenal fatigue is serious and can't be ignored, it takes a long time to come on, but it can seem to appear 'overnight' when you've had extreme stress or any kind of trauma either physical or emotional; the 'straw that breaks the camels back' scenario. It was there, it was going to happen, it's just now it's been triggered. Trying to be 'British' and push past all the warning signals (i.e. increasing symptoms) that your body is now giving you is to end up in the realms of ME and Fibromyalgia.


If you recognise yourself in any of the above 3 now is the time to make some changes, often people can't think how to break the cycle of stress and anxiety, and sometimes you can be so involved that you 'don't see the wood for the trees'. I was the same, have been many times, its just I pick up on it more quickly now, and can do a lot about it. I was reading a magazine article (in Natural Health Magazine) in January and it asked me if I had 'Burnout'? I realised by the end of the article this is where I'd been in Nov/Dec 2020. I didn't think in the scheme of things that I'd had a bad year, only broken my ankle and couldn't walk for 4 months, lost most of my business and then got Covid in November! I'd been chipper until then but what I couldn't do in December was 'anything new'. I thought 'What's the point of doing this?' and 'I'll leave that until next year'.... putting things off you'd usually do , and /or losing enthusiasm for doing things that you love doing are both red flags. And what is 'Burnout', a term for Adrenal Fatigue.

However, this type of fatigue can be acute, meaning sudden and temporary, I took 2 weeks off over Christmas, I recovered. Chronic Adrenal Fatigue is the serious one, it's where you sleep a lot and don't feel refreshed, you take those 2 weeks off and they are not restorative, your tank is literally on empty.

This is how I describe constitutional energy to my clients:

You're born with a full tank of fuel, life empties the tank at different speeds for everyone. Also everyone starts off with a different tank size, you know those people that run around with seemingly endless energy? They may have a bigger tank that yours or, they may be emptying it quicker; only time will tell.


When I was learning the theory of Chinese medicine I'd read some things about 'kidney energy' and it didn't really make a lot of sense or come to life for me. Now as I approach 50 and 20 odd years of experience, boy does it play out and make larger than life sense!

Your fuel tank is emptying as your life goes on and if you get pregnant/ have children that's a lot of fuel going, if you burn the candle at both ends, have a stressful career, have a jet-setting lifestyle, drink alcohol and caffeine, and miss a lot of sleep, the gauge is going down far more quickly than someone who's leading a more measured life.

At some point in midlife the dial is verging on the red, the tank is pretty low and your body starts to sputter. For women this is more accurate timing as its the hormonal change of the Perimenopause, or post baby later in life which are both triggers. Also grief, car /accident trauma, post viral fatigue and dealing with repressed childhood issues are also all major triggers, and if these happen around midlife you may notice you're not who you were a couple of years ago, feel achy, not digesting food as well, not sleeping so good; just not feeling right - these are all signs and symptoms.


It's always the first question I'm asked after this analogy, and the answer is 'you must try', but we never fully refill the tank as aging is also a part of it. Here's what you can be doing to really make a difference to your health, to relieve anxiety, combat stress and be on the path to healing adrenal fatigue:

  • Nutritious Food and Rebalancing the gut (and I put clients on supplements so they really feel a difference)

  • Good sleep, this is a must as it's the basis of all health

  • Good Air, so getting out, country walks, fresh air; get the lungs moving and quality of air

  • 'The 6 Doctors' of health are talked about a lot so the other 3 are - drinking water, sunshine and exercise

I'm sure I don't need to explain drinking water, just to add though how vital it is to combat dehydration which becomes pretty serious in later life as we tend to not register thirst as we get older and so it's helpful to have the habit of drinking plenty already instilled, it also aids flushing out toxins from your system in everyday life.

Sunshine - this is Vitamin D, and we're all deficient in it (no you don't get enough from the sun if you live in the UK, and especially if you have darker skin tones). Vitamin D is vital for bone health, your immune system and your mental health.

Exercise - this is an interesting one as in the case of Stress, Anxiety and Adrenal Fatigue you can do too much of the wrong type and exacerbate your condition. If you're doing circuits, HITT, running over 3 times a week AND you recognise the symptoms above, you need to cut down the intensity and switch to more therapeutic exercise like Qi Gong and Yoga which are designed to help you recouperate your constitutional energy.


Shiatsu is always working to balance the energies of your body, it can do a couple of things that are really beneficial to you if you are feeling any of these symptoms. Life knocks our energies out of balance, you can have too much in the wrong areas, for example you may get regular headaches/migraines or shoulder tension, this is energy that is trapped higher in your body. Energies can also get stuck in organs like the liver, and you may experience this as mood swings and irritability. Shiatsu unblocks and relaxes organs, muscles and fascia so that you have a smooth flow of your energies. You'll experience this as calmer moods, less achy muscles and a reduction in headaches, and things that were 'stressing you out' will seem more manageable. If overwhelm was your problem (caused by a hectic cluttered mind), this will ease up to, work will seem more straight forwards and you'll handle problems easier, all signs that you are less stressed.

Being in a stressed state all the time keeps your body in a high alert status, this keeps you in the 'fight of flight mode', your caveman brain, always on edge, waiting for the next emergency. It's why you can be jumpy, fidgety, easily frightened or may feel extremely tired but not be able to switch off. You can only livein this state for so long before your body becomes severely and chronically fatigued.

At the heart of shiatsu and all eastern type therapies, exercises and meditations is to bring your energy back to your centre or Hara, this grounds you and brings scattered energy back to where it is needed, in your core, back to replenishing your Kidney energy, restoring your system from adrenal fatigue. The Yin and the Yang of Kidney energy makes up your constitution, it is also your immunity. Receiving regular shiatsu is a destressing therapy you should think about to maintain good health both physically and emotionally.

Shiatsu Bodyworks Cheltenham is open with restricted hours/clients to ensure your safety at all times during the Covid pandemic.

If you'd like to know more about your health Andrea offers a free short 'Health and Vitality' phone chat, you can book in here and if you're suffering from these symptoms and also wondering if you're menopausal then check out my sister website here.


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