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Terms such as executive burnout, washed out, used up, and burned out are often used in the work force to describe adrenal fatigue brought on when someone can no longer respond adequately to the demands of their job. Middle executives, secretaries, and teachers are examples of professionals who suffer from “sandwich stress.” This is stress that comes from having to meet the demands and expectations from above and below without the power or authority to make the necessary changes or to do their job effectively. It is frequently the person in the middle who takes the blame when things go wrong, but not the credit when things go right. People in this position commonly have more than their share of health problems.

They may also have a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome, a complex of signs and symptoms that includes high cortisol, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, hypertension, belly fat and accelerated atherosclerosis. These symptoms largely reflect the cumulative effects on the body of stresses that repeatedly or chronically stimulate the adrenal glands and drive up cortisol levels. This period of elevated cortisol may be followed in time by an extended period of low cortisol if the adrenal glands fatigue as the result of constant over-stimulation and become less able to respond to stresses. However, the health effects of the high cortisol phase may remain, now complicated by the adrenal fatigue.

When the adrenals of a person in a high stress situation fatigue, burnout begins and performance at home and work suffers. At first, the person is able to cover for little slips in memory and job function. However, with progressing adrenal fatigue, personal productivity declines, tolerance decreases and emotional outbreaks become more frequent or have to be controlled with more effort. These people may feel they have to push themselves harder to accomplish the same work they did with ease before, and sometimes others have to cover for them.

Actually, job performance is usually one of the last things to completely deteriorate. Relationships often suffer first. Marriage dissatisfaction may be deeply pronounced and people experiencing adrenal fatigue may become socially withdrawn. They can feel trapped with no safe place to retreat to at work or home. As a result, they may act more aggressive or withdrawn, even though they are feeling more vulnerable. Frustrations and fears build up and frequently there is a “final straw” that precipitates burnout or full-blown adrenal fatigue. The adrenal fatigue contributes to the stress they experience and the stress in turn contributes to the adrenal fatigue.

People experiencing high stress/high cortisol problems, such as metabolic syndrome, and people experiencing high stress/low cortisol problems, such as burnout, may benefit from focused adrenal support and lifestyle changes that reduce stress, enhance stress management and improve the ability to physiologically handle stress.