Managing Expectations Throughout Your Recovery

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD

Managing expectations to reduce stressOne of the most important, and yet often overlooked, considerations to take when you are healing from illness is managing expectations. Dealing with illness and disease can be downright terrifying, and it can be easy to become disheartened. On the other hand, it can be all too easy to cling to a miracle “cure” and believe it will be the sole solution to your problems. Unfortunately, there is rarely a single solution to any disease. Healing illness takes time and patience, so managing your expectations throughout the process is critical to effectively healing your body. When it comes to healing from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), managing expectations is especially important.

The Severity of the Problem

With any disease, the severity of the problem plays a major role in how long the healing process will take to be completed, and AFS is not different. Managing expectations starts with identifying and accepting the severity of your problem. There are four stages of adrenal fatigue, which will be summarized below.

Stage One: Alarm Reaction

During stage one of adrenal fatigue, your levels of cortisol, norepinephrine, DHEA, and insulin will likely be high. You will likely be more alert than someone not suffering from AFS, but your sleep patterns may be interrupted, and you may feel intermittently tired. Stage one is fairly easily reversed, and in fact, many people will experience this stage several times in their lives.

Stage Two: Resistance Response

As AFS begins to develop into stage two, the endocrine system will still be functioning fairly well, but your levels of DHEA and a few other hormones may drop below normal levels. Stage two is still not too serious, and can usually be reversed within a few months. Despite the fact that stages one and two are easily reversible, properly managing your expectations means that you need to still take these stages seriously.

Stage Three: Adrenal Exhaustion

At this stage, things get to be a bit more serious. When your body begins to enter stage three, the peaking cortisol levels begin to dive. At this point, unrelenting stress has continued to impact your body, and your adrenal glands begin to fail to produce adequate levels of pregnenolone, testosterone, and DHEA. This is where the serious issues begin to arise. Stage three adrenal fatigue can take up to 6 months to reverse, but it can carry on for years if left unmanaged. During this stage, your energy levels and libido will diminish, and your immune system will begin to weaken, making you susceptible to infections.

Stage Four: Adrenal Failure

At this point, your neuroendocrine system’s attempt to fight off stress have worn it to the core. Your body’s stress defense surrenders and production of stress hormones stops entirely. This stage causes serious far-reaching health consequences. While stage four adrenal fatigue is still manageable, it can take a very long time to recover, and often requires a complete overhaul of one’s lifestyle.

Once the severity of the issue has been identified, we can then proceed to manage it effectively.

Managing Expectations Without Adding Stress

Let’s face it, managing expectations is one thing, but doing it without stressing yourself out even more is another thing entirely. Fortunately, even extreme cases of AFS have been reversed, but this often requires a complete overhaul of one’s diet and lifestyle. To start the healing process effectively, you need to make a plan.

Make a Healing Plan

Your healing plan needs to begin with a thorough examination of yourself. This part can be tough to swallow, but taking a good honest look at yourself is an important part of healing. Many diseases arise when people neglect to be honest with themselves and let a problem carry on for too long.

Write down all of the stress factors, or potential stress factors in your life. Your healing plan may take a bit of time to develop, and we have plenty of resources on our site to help. As you develop your plan, try to learn something new about your health every day, and make changes to your plan as needed.

There are two major categories of stressors in your life, and you will need to identify both types in order to reduce stress effectively. The first type comes from outside of you, external stress. The second type comes from inside, internal stressors.

External Stress Factors
Managing expectations and stressThese stress factors include your relationships with others, your home environment, your work environment, your finances, and other factors that influence stress from outside. Though there will always be circumstances beyond your control that will cause you stress externally, many of these stress factors are within your control. Identify all of the external stress factors that impact your life on a daily basis. For example, is your job creating a stressful environment? Is there a relationship in your life that is not functioning well? Identify all of these factors and consider ways you can reduce the stress these areas cause you.

Internal Stress Factors
These stress factors come from within your body. These factors may develop from external stress factors, but they are also caused by the foods you eat. During the planning phase of managing expectations, you will need to identify how your eating and lifestyle habits could be contributing to stress. How much processed food are you eating? How many times do you eat in a day? Do you exercise too much or too little? Do you have anxiety or depression?

Correcting Old Habits

Once you have identified where stress is coming from, you will need to develop ways to reduce that stress. During this part of your healing process, don’t be intimidated by all of the problems you may see in your life, you can approach things one at a time and still make some major changes. For example, is your work environment stressing you out? If so, how can you make things better? If you can’t make things better, should you find a new job? These are the types of questions you need to be asking yourself.

Identify the major issues in your external environment and correct them. If you can, start with the biggest external stress factor, and find a solution. This can seem difficult, but can really be exhilarating once you have corrected the problem. It’s also okay to start with small, nagging stressors. It’s okay to take baby steps forward towards managing your stress.

As for your internal health factors, you will likely need to overhaul your diet to correct AFS, especially in the advanced stages. Much of that has to do with:

  • Eliminating processed foods and eating more whole foods
  • Consuming lean proteins
  • Eating healthy fats
  • Avoiding dairy
  • Eating plenty of vegetables

What we eat can cause a wide array of stress factors. Key among these are inflammation, hormone imbalances, and oxidative stress. Each of these factors can develop into worsening conditions that can have a snowball effect on your health. For a much more detailed outline of what you should be eating to reverse AFS check out this article on the adrenal fatigue diet.

Find a Healing Partner

Success and managing expectationsWhen afflicted with an illness you should always seek the help of a professional healthcare provider, but another source of help is a healing partner. Healing partners such as health coaches can work with you to develop and implement a plan. We offer personalized coaching which has turned many peoples lives around, and we would be more than happy to help you develop and implement a healing plan. Sometimes you just need to be accountable to someone else to help you stick to and develop your plan. A healing partner can go a long way towards managing expectations, without adding stress.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Managing expectations is a seriously undervalued aspect of healing. If you are too positive about your health, you may not do what it takes to heal your body properly, but if you are too negative you will likely be unmotivated to do anything. For these reasons, whether you are afflicted with AFS or any other disease, you should work to develop a healing plan. Even if you are not ill, you really should take the time to determine the factors in your internal and external environments that are causing you stress or pose potential risks to your well being and work to make changes before anything goes wrong. We can’t control every factor of our lives, but with properly managed expectations and a plan for our health, we can do a lot to make a difference and avoid illness.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

The truth is managing expectations is something we all too often overlook when it comes to healing from disease. This crucial factor can make or break the healing process, and most people don’t even consider it to be a part of improving their health.

Managing expectations