Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

Why Empaths Are at Risk for Adrenal Fatigue

Judith Orloff - Monday, April 28, 2014


(Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff MD)

As a psychiatrist I treat many empath-patients who come in exhausted with a syndrome known as adrenal fatigue. This is a collection of symptoms such as exhaustion, body aches, anxiety, trouble thinking clearly, and insomnia. In this condition, the theory is that the adrenal glands can’t keep up with outside stress so the hormones such as cortisol that normally keep you energized begin to get depleted.

In my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender I discuss the very real situation of empathic illnesses where empaths literally take on the stress and symptoms of others. Unfortunately, conventional medicine doesn’t have a context with which to understand this and many empaths are left in the lurch or misdiagnosed. Because empaths can be emotional sponges and take on the literal symptoms of others, it adds to their stress levels and leaves them more vulnerable to adrenal fatigue. To learn more about Empathic Illnesses including strategies to stop absorbing other people’s toxic energy read the chapter “Harmonizing with Illness & Pain” in my book.

Here are some solutions for empaths to treat adrenal fatigue that can turn your symptoms around and restore your energy. But remember, for empaths this isn’t a one-time fix—it requires some basic life style and diet changes so that you can effectively manage your energy over the long term.

Strategies to Relieve Adrenal Fatigue

  • Get a blood test to measure your cortisol levels.
  • Consider temporary natural cortisol replacement per your physician’s recommendation.
  • Get as much rest as you can on a regular basis (sleep is very healing and restorative!).
  • Eliminate the energy vampires in your life or at least set clear limits and boundaries with them so they don’t chronically sap you. (Read Chapter 5 in the Ecstasy of Surrender for tips and strategies.)
  • Eat a natural whole food diet and avoid junk food
  • Add Himalayan Red Salt to your diet and get rid of low quality salts (always check with your physician if your blood pressure is high).
  • Avoid white flour and other toxic grains
  • Minimize your sugar intake
  • Gentle exercise and stretching—gradually build up stamina and challenge yourself as your energy increases
  • Meditate: Use the three minute surrender to your heart meditation in The Ecstasy of Surrender to take mini breaks throughout your busy day to replenish yourself
  • Take 2,000-5000 mg Vitamins C orally every day
  • Consider IV Vitamin C drips (10-25,000mg) delivered intravenously that can jump start your energy level and support adrenal health (holistic physicians often offer this treatment in their offices). I get one whenever I feel like I’m coming down with a cold to build up my immune system—and it works!
  • In addition to these practical tips, get in the habit of practicing positive thinking. By this I mean, do not beat yourself up with negative thoughts such as “I will never feel better” or “I am weak and sick.” Rather focus on the surrender affirmations I present at the end of every chapter in the book such as “I am healthy, happy, and deserve to have vibrant well-being.” You might not have control over some stresses in your life but you can have control of your attitude. To relieve adrenal fatigue, you can remove a great deal of inner stress by surrendering patterns of self-loathing and embracing self-compassion and self-love!

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    4 Ways Surrendering Control Makes Us More Successful

    Judith Orloff - Saturday, March 15, 2014


    (Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff MD)

    We live in a culture that encourages type-A personalities who engage in multitasking, getting ahead, competing, and growing profits. The problem is, behaviors such as trying to control the outcome, working overtime, and pushing ourselves to the limit leaves us exhausted, stressed out, depressed, and depleted.

    There's a better way, and it involves learning how to surrender or let go of control. When we invite spontaneity, let ourselves be "in the flow," and when we're able to trust that everything will get done, it opens us up to more creativity, serendipity, and unexpected benefits such as joy, balance, and better health.

    In The Ecstasy of Surrender, learning to let go of our need to control difficult people, win arguments, or be in charge changes the way people relate to us. Instead of arguing, pushing back, or escalating the conflict with a rageaholic or passive-aggressive person, we can let go of the tension we feel. Once we do that, we can find a simple way to navigate the interaction, by agreeing with part of what they say, for example, or by offering a solution that has a common benefit.

    Surrender helps us stay focused.
    In our business and personal lives, it's easy to get distracted by wrong-headed ideas of success. We compare ourselves to others who are wealthier, higher up the corporate ladder, thinner, younger, or more attractive. Learning to surrender comparisons enables us to wish others well, and then we can refocus on energy on our own opportunities, talents, skills, and assets. As a result, we get instant relief from self-doubt, and a big jolt of confidence and purpose.

    Surrender enables goal attainment.
    We've been taught to keep our eye firmly on the goal we want to achieve so that everything we do, say, and accomplish gets us closer to that goal. The problem with this approach is that it's premise is faulty: We cannot control outcomes. There's a better way. By keeping your eye on what you can control--your breath, your emotions, your outlook, and your self-care--surprising things will begin to happen for you. You'll feel positive, happy, and healthy. People will respond to you. You'll feel energized and inspired. Soon, you'll have exactly what you want.

    Surrender expands creativity.
    Being rigid and single-minded in the pursuit of success is like walking on a railroad. You may miss great things that don't fall within your view. Letting go of our addiction to stress and struggle allows us to change our relationship to time and organization. We may find, for example, that looking up at the sky in the middle of a particularly jam-packed day lets the mind wander to the shape of the clouds, which leads to another thought. When we go back to our work, we have a new idea about how to tackle the task.

    Want to find out how "surrendered" you are? Take a free quiz HERE.

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    Empathic Illnesses: Do You Absorb Other People’s Symptoms?

    Judith Orloff - Saturday, January 25, 2014


    (Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff MD)

    Empathic illnesses are those in which you manifest symptoms that are not your own. Many patients have come to me labeled “agoraphobic” with panic disorders, chronic depression, fatigue, pain, or mysterious ailments that respond only partially to medications or psychotherapy. Some were nearly housebound or ill for years. They’d all say, “I dread being in crowds. Other people’s anger, stress, and pain drain me, and I need a lot of alone time to refuel my energy.” When I took a close history of all these patients I found that they were what I call “physical empaths:” people whose bodies are so porous they absorb the symptoms of others. I relate because I am one. Physical empaths do not have the defenses that others have to screen things out. As a psychiatrist, knowing this significantly changed how I treated these patients. My job became teaching them to center and protect themselves, set healthy boundaries, and let go of energy they picked up from others.

    To determine if you are a physical empath take the following quiz.

    Quiz: Am I a Physical Empath?
    Ask yourself:

  • Have I been labeled as overly sensitive or a hypochondriac?
  • Have I ever sat next to someone who seemed nice but suddenly my eyelids got heavy and I felt like taking a nap?
  • Do I feel uneasy, tired, or sick in crowds and avoid them?
  • Do I feel someone else’s anxiety or physical pain in my body?
  • Do I feel exhausted by angry or hostile people?
  • Do I run from doctor to doctor for medical tests, but I’m told “You’re fine.”
  • Am I chronically tired or have many unexplained symptoms
  • Do I frequently feel overwhelmed by the world and want to stay home?
  • If you answered “yes” to 1-3 questions you are at least part empath. Responding yes to 4 to5 questions indicates you have moderate degree of physical empathy. 6 to 7 “yeses” indicate you have a high degree of empathy. Eight yeses indicate you are a full blown empath.

    Discovering that you are a physical empath can be a revelation. Rest assured: You are not crazy. You are not a malingerer or hypochondriac. You are not imagining things, though your doctor might treat you like a nuisance. You are a sensitive person with a gift that you must develop and successfully manage.

    Strategies to Surrender Toxic Energy

    Physical empathy doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Now that I can center myself and refrain from taking on other people’s pain, empathy has made my life more compassionate, insightful, and richer. Here are some secrets to thriving as a physical empath that I’ve learned so that it doesn’t take a toll on my health.

    A Survival Guide for Empaths: 9 Strategies To Stop Absorbing Other People’s Illness and Pain (from The Ecstasy of Surrender)

  • Evaluate. First, ask yourself: Is this symptom or emotion mine or someone else's? It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what's causing it on your own or with professional help. If it’s not yours, try to pinpoint the obvious generator.

  • Move away. When possible, distance yourself by at least twenty feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don't err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don't hesitate to change seats if you feel a sense of “dis-ease” imposing on you.

  • Know your vulnerable points. Each of us has a body part that is more vulnerable to absorbing others’ stress. Mine is my gut. Scan your body to determine yours. Is it you neck? Do you get sore throats? Headaches? Bladder infections? At the onset of symptoms in these areas, place your palm there and keep sending loving-kindness to that area to soothe discomfort. For longstanding depression or pain, use this method daily to strengthen yourself. It's comforting and builds a sense of safety and optimism.

  • Surrender to your breath. If you suspect you are picking up someone else’s symptoms, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This is centering and connects you to your power.

  • Practice Guerilla Meditation. To counter emotional or physical distress, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. Do this at home, at work, at parties, or conferences. Or, take refuge in the bathroom. If it’s public, close the stall. Meditate there. Calm yourself. Focus on positivity and love.

  • Set healthy limits and boundaries. Control how much time you spend listening to stressful people, and learn to say “no.” Remember, “no” is a complete sentence.

  • Visualize protection around you. Visualize an envelope of white light around your entire body. Or with extremely toxic people, visualize a fierce black jaguar patrolling and protecting your energy field against intruders.

  • Develop X ray vision. The spaces between the vertebrae in your lower back (lumbar spine) are conducive to eliminating pain from the body. It’s helpful to learn to mindfully direct pain out of these spaces by visualizing it leaving your body. Say goodbye to pain as it blends with the giant energy matrix of life!

  • Take a bath or shower. A quick way to dissolve stress is to immerse yourself in water. My bath is my sanctuary after a busy day. It washes away everything from bus exhaust to long hours of air travel to pesky symptoms I have taken on from others. Soaking in natural mineral springs divinely purifies all that ails.
  • Keep practicing these strategies. By protecting yourself and your space, you can create a magical safe bubble around you that nurtures you, while simultaneously driving negative people away. Don’t panic if you occasionally pick up pain or some other nasty symptom. It happens. With strategies I discuss in my book to surrender other people’s symptoms you can have quicker responses to stressful situations. This will make you feel safer, healthier, and your sensitivities can blossom.

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    3 Steps to Rekindle the Passion in Your Job

    Judith Orloff - Tuesday, June 25, 2013


    Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff's ”Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love ”

    I’m a fanatic about following your passion. As a psychiatrist and intuitive when I work with my patients and workshop participants my mission is to hunt down and reinforce what creatively jibes for them from jobs to finger-painting. In my book, Positive Energy I devote a full chapter to help people to reconnect with their passion and creativity. Whether you’re writing the great American novel, laying bricks, or sprinkling rose petals on a salad, your delight and surrender to the impulse is what catalyzes energy.

    Now this is your chance to investigate what does or doesn’t inspire you. The purpose: to honestly access where your energy goes so you can constructively re-route it. To remember all inspiring inklings, I suggest you keep a journal and review it. Don’t be discouraged if you’re stuck in a rut or feel far from inspired right now. This inventory will turn all that around. Re-inspiring your life takes courage. It’s a solution-oriented process of uncovering, then commencing change.

    My focus will be helping you to re-inspire your current job, even tiny bits of it--there’s always a way. Throughout this process, the poet Rumi’s words will be our mantra:

         “Let the beauty you love be what you do.
          There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

    But how do we get there? Here are some basic steps from my book, Positive Energy.

    Step One: In A Journal Define the Conflict About Your Job.

    For instance, “I’m exhausted after eight hours, and I hate my work.” Or “I’m bored and need a change.” Or “I feel taken for granted.”

    Step Two: Ask yourself the following questions:

    Why doesn’t my job inspire me? Pinpoint the cause.

  • Is it the particular circumstances--your boss, office politics, or irritating coworkers?
  • Do I dwell on all the negatives, rather than looking for a piece of my work that could give me more juice?
  • The most basic issue: Am I following my heart’s desire or mired in a career that doesn’t feel center for me?
  • Can I work within the system for change? Or do I need to seek another job?
  • Step Three: Modify Your Current Work Situation

    How to Re-inspire your Job:

  • Sometimes lack of inspiration comes from difficult relationships, not the work itself. If there’s bad energy between you and a coworker, try to correct the situation instead of aggravating it. Be the bigger person. Start being pleasant instead of prickly. Nastiness can be a mask for a person’s insecurities. Kindness often penetrates that. Offer a word of appreciation. Surprise the person with a rose. Do everything possible to shift antagonism.

  • Don’t expect your boss to be a mind reader. Instead of stewing in boredom or discontent, express your needs. If you know how you’d like to better your job, explore options. See if they are do-able within the framework of your environment. For years a patient of mine had been paralyzed by fear of rejection. It stopped her from asking for what she wanted. When she finally summoned the courage to present a project she loved to her boss, and he agreed to it, her job took on new energy. The point is to risk. You’ll never know what’s possible until you do.

  • Intuitively micro-analyze your day. Look for any aspect of your job that has some sparks. Remember what initially attracted you to the job other than money. Also notice what perks your magic up and relieves apathy or fatigue. When you hit upon it, you’ll experience a more-alive feeling, an excitement, or simply a gentle interest: these are signs of life force in your work. Spend more time in these areas. Document them in your journal.

  • Gravitate to coworkers who inspire and energize you. One publisher-patient who thrived on her busy job, often came home tired. Once she realized what a kick she got from interacting with the art department she upped her visits there. They had loads of laughs, which tweaked her energy at work and afterwards. Fatigue is lethal to inspiration. Avoid anyone who drains. Go towards energy hot spots in your job--people and activities--so your time is skewed towards inspiration.

  • Make your work about service and meaning: how to make a difference in the world. This can entail being kind to others and injecting friendliness into your milieu, which will nurture you too. Give a co-worker a pat on the back; don’t lay into a delivery guy when he’s late, turn people on to ideas to better the environment and the world. One of my patients is a producer for national news. Though deadlines are brutal, he’s in an ideal position to get positive messages across. Framing his work in service keeps him aligned with inspiration. Whatever your job, the ethics and love with which you conduct yourself, and the positive messages you share can be of service and spread inspiration.
  • If you’ve tried to re-inspire your job, but the situation is unredeemable, you may want to look for another. It could be an upward or lateral move. This may make all the difference. One of my patients who felt battered by her Napoleonic boss’s mood swings, found her blood pressure normalized and her inspiration returned when she quit that job and began working with another boss she enjoyed. In these cases, a change of place is just what’s needed.

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    Power of Love: Recognizing our Collective Unity

    Judith Orloff - Tuesday, December 18, 2012


    Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff's "Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love ”

    There is much speculation and anticipation about the advent of the winter solstice on December 21, 2012. This is the date that the Mayan calendar ends and their prediction of the 2012 Galactic Alignment phenomenon, which happens every 25,800 years or so. Some say this represents an opportunity or gateway for the re-birthing of humanity and our planet if we can come together and realize the strength of our collective unity. This means there’s no arbitrary division between Us and Them. That’s only our small-self’s hallucination, but one that can kill off civilization.

    In Positive Energy I emphasize that every human being is of one family, a truth I’d bet my life on. Alas we no longer have the luxury to keep debating this. Our Earth, our home, is being plundered. No survival without Her. The fate of our species, of all species, depends on caring for nature’s ecosystems. At a subtle energy level, when wilderness is raped, so are we. When oceans are poisoned, our bodies wail. Causes of physical and emotional suffering are not as pat as they may seem. No coincidence that depression is epidemic and cancer is ravaging so many people dear to us. In our own way, we energetically process the surrounding violence. There’s a metabolism between the exchange of nations, communities, the earth, and our bodies. We must do our part to fight for the abundance of a healthy Earth and its people.

    Recognizing that the path to peace is not outside us, we must be cognizant of the energies we project. Remaining naive to this is irresponsible; so is lip service. Though talk alone can uplift, its power pales next to embodying the change we long for. Practicing what we preach is the imperative of our millennium. It may be hard, we may falter, but so what? There’s no escaping that our energy as human beings collectively mingles. “Evil doers” never do it alone. Apathy to healing makes us their accomplices.

    The key to this realization is that love is a sustainable energy. Always remember that. The mandate is simple. If you’re tired, love. If you’re happy, love. At your final breath, love some more. When it feels utterly impossible--such moments arrive--try to love again later. I promise: you’ll never leave empty handed when the heart is true. There comes a point when we must decide what our endgame is going to be, personally and for the planet. To me, the only one that makes any sense is love. It’s how we have to define ourselves beyond all other criteria. This will ensure the health and abundance for all.

    The present informs the future. So make your present bright. A belief in love is unstoppable. You’ll have the courage to do anything. I want to share with you from my book, Positive Energy an interview I did with the legendary Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. Rosa Parks exemplifies what the power of love can accomplish.

    Interview with Mrs. Rosa Parks from Positive Energy

    On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama my decision not to give up my seat on a bus to a white passenger was intuitive and spontaneous. Like usual, I was just headed home from work at the department store. I was forty-two then, had always thought about freedom. My grandfather and mother taught me that all human beings were equal. But on that bus I just knew that we, as a people, had suffered too long. Even though I was afraid to make a protest--I risked being beaten or killed--I set my mind not to give in to fear. I couldn’t continue to be mistreated for no reason. Then things would never get better. After my arrest, the bus boycott began. We were fortunate that Dr. Martin Luther King, at twenty six, was willing to take the lead. After 381 days of the boycott, the Supreme Court overturned the old laws and made segregation illegal on public transportation in Alabama. This became the model for other southern states to change. I don’t feel angry or victimized about the past, just grateful that the conditions we were under came to an end. If you stay angry at other people, you might miss finding friends among those you were angry with.

    I believe that the most positive quality in the human spirit is love. The most negative quality is hatred that has no reason. We can create a more loving world by learning to respect our differences, not judging them. Hatred, like other negative emotions, is a choice. If you choose kindness and humanity you will have peace and prosperity. It also comes from being generous to others when there is no benefit to yourself. My friend, Dr. King, set a profound example for me and many others. He was an extremely kind person. He understood the soul of man.

    I know that we can achieve Dr. King’s dream of a world where we come together and live as one. Love, not fear must be our guide. I see a world where children do not learn hatred in their homes. Where people don’t call each other names on the basis of skin color. I can see a world free of violence, where people from every race and religion work together to improve life for everyone.

    As we step through the threshold of December 21st let us as one family, hearts joined, keep saying a prayer for the world: “May our people and planet be healthy. May our people and planet be happy. May suffering be lifted. May we know enduring peace.”

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