Ugh…another night without sleep, Lori Yach groaned inwardly as she tossed and turned. “It was 3 am, and I was desperate to get some rest. I just couldn’t take another day of dragging myself through life,” she recalls. “It seemed like I hadn’t slept in weeks. My thoughts and my heart were racing. It felt like an impossible situation.
Trying to Keep Up
“It all came crashing down this past year. I knew I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from being in an abusive marriage from the age of 19 to 33, but I had been doing well for many years. But then my ex-husband got out of prison and my anxiety spiked again.
“And when Covid hit, I was laid off when the casino where I worked essentially closed. I felt like my dreams were taken away. And like a lot of other people, I felt hopeless wondering what I was going to do and how the world was going to change to deal with this new virus.
“As Covid-19 unfolded and my stress and insomnia got worse I thought, Oh no, I hope I’m not going back down that dark road of anxiety and fatigue. I felt a familiar sense of doom and hopelessness as I navigated losing a job I loved while searching for a new one.
“I was also suffering with brain fog and I could feel my heart beating in my chest as I did errands and tried to be present for my family in the midst of what felt like chaos. The lack of sleep and stress made me feel like I was just going through the motions.
“One night, in the middle of this upheaval, I reached my breaking point. It was after midnight and I had that familiar sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was tossing and turning and thinking about how exhausted I would be the next day. I knew if I didn’t make changes now it would get harder to get out of what felt like a never-ending cycle. I thought, I’ve pulled myself out of worse things and I can do it now. I knew that if I didn’t I would be no good for anyone, especially my daughter, who is in her 20s and needs me to be strong.
“The next day, I began searching for solutions to my stress, insomnia, and fatigue online. What I was already doing — ginseng, meditation, exercise — wasn’t working anymore. I came across an article on adaptogenic herbs, and I was intrigued. Adaptogens are foods that nourish the body at a deep level and help a person withstand the effects of stress by supporting mood, mental balance and immune function. Some adaptogens stimulate the body and support mental performance, while others calm the body and soothe the adrenals.
“Adaptogens can also support the body’s circadian rhythm to improve sleep. I learned that ashwagandha is one such adaptogenic herb, and it’s known mainly for its ability to help the body cope with stress. But it’s also known for supporting mitochondria, the ‘energy engines’ in cells that serve as batteries, powering various functions of the cell and the organism.
“Excited by what I was reading, I decided to go to the health-food store and buy some ashwagandha, which I learned is non-habit forming and is said to help with PTSD.
“That first night I took half the recommended starting dose of 500 mg., and I finally got a good night’s sleep. I woke up thinking, Oh my gosh: I slept all night! Could it have worked this fast? It turned out that dose wasn’t enough to help symptoms during the day, so I worked up to a higher dose and soon found the right dose for me: 500 mg. in tincture (Buy on Amazon, $9.99) or powder form (Buy on Amazon, $13.94) once or twice per day. If I took more than that I was too mellow.
“Ashwagandha balanced me out emotionally, getting rid of the rapid succession thoughts that came from not sleeping. I felt calmer but centered and more focused throughout the day and sleepy at night. Suddenly, I wasn’t stressing about things I couldn’t control and my life felt manageable again. Plus, the fatigue vanished.
“Today, I’m sleeping better than I have in years and my smile is back. I have a new job working in customer service from home. I am enjoying those little moments that I had lost track of along the way.
I’m working out longer in the gym and taking longer hikes with my dog, and I’m not exhausted afterward. I’m beginning to pursue my dreams again, getting creative and making T-shirts.
“I want to inspire others to be their best. It’s important to keep going and not give up. Sometimes it’s about trying new things and seeing what works. Everyone has their trials in life, and PTSD and fatigue were mine. But now, I have energy to get through my day, and I have a new positive outlook!” —As told to Elisabeth Dunham
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.