Support for Postpartum Exhaustion
Adrenal & Hormonal Support for Postnatal Exhaustion
Mothers in today’s modern world have more stress and less support than ever before. The early postpartum period in many cultures is a sacred time where mothers are expected to rest, people bring them nourishing food to help restore and heal and they have the support and help of family or their community. However, in our modern culture, women have more on their plate than ever. Many women are expected to return to work before they are ready, there seems to be a badge of honour for returning to intense exercise or “being productive” in the early postpartum period, there are pressures on social media of moms who seem to have it all together and for most, the support of family, friends and community can be lacking. So, it’s no wonder so many women are exhausted and feeling completely depleted, myself included! It’s not just in the early newborn days or the first three months either, this can hit women at any stage in the motherhood journey.
Adrenal fatigue was something I had dealt with prior to having kids and I thought I was managing things okay. But the wall of complete exhaustion hit hard 2 months after the birth of my second. The feeling was overwhelming, I felt depleted, anxious, exhausted but couldn’t sleep or fall back asleep after being woken, my digestion was off, I experienced aching joints and really did not feel like myself at all. So, I get it and it’s something I am still working on as sleep with two little ones at home is still a challenge. But my hope is that you know you are not alone and you can definitely get back to feeling good again.
There are many things you can do to support your adrenals, your hormones and your health but there is by no means a quick fix. Probably the most important aspect is the lifestyle considerations which is also the most challenging to implement. Personally, making sleep and myself a priority were absolute game changers but they were also the most difficult. These are just a few suggestions and considerations to help support you but are by no means a substitute for advice from a health care practitioner. If you have been feeling this way getting the appropriate testing is important to address your specific needs. If you’re in the Calgary area please let me know and I can send some recommendations of health care practitioners.
Make Sleep a priority
Don’t stop reading! You’re probably thinking what the eff?! I have small humans who make sleeping through the night impossible. There can be little control on how much sleep you are getting. But this is why making it your absolute first priority is so essential.
Aim to get to bed in order to get at least 8 hours of sleep. If you know you will be waking multiple times throughout the night try to get to bed even earlier.
I know this is likely the only time you may get to yourself, so instead of scrolling on social media or watching TV, try to power down on all electronics at least two hours before bed and take that time to do something for you. Screen time can stimulate your brain and make it hard to get to sleep or rest.
Do something during that time that makes you feel better. Reading a book, a hot bath, a warm cup of tea in silence, journal, restorative yoga flow before bed – whatever it is, make this time for yourself. Slow down, wind down and get ready for bed (there will always be laundry, a dirty house, work or social media!).
A trick that has been working for me is turning the WIFI off at a certain time each night, you could even try putting it on a timer.
Schedule in some down time
We live in a world where we are constantly connected and constantly on. Try to simplify your schedule if possible, meaning that you have even just one day without any plans
Make sure to schedule in time for yourself.
Maybe some days you get outside for walk (kid free) and some days it’s a few minutes for a hot shower when your partner gets home- regardless have time for you when you’re not trying to get things done.
If you have kids that nap – set the timer and make the first 20-30 (or more) minutes to do something for you whether it’s lie down and rest or read a book.
We don’t always have time for an hour alone to get out of the house but you can definitely take a few minutes to just breathe and reset your nervous system.
Wrap your hands around your ribs with your thumbs towards your back ribs (either sitting or standing) and as you breathe in through your nose – feel your ribs open up all the way around – opening like an umbrella. Then exhale through your mouth , releasing any tension or stress.
Try just ten breathes. This type of breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which has an impact on your parasympathetic nervous system (the calming restful part of your nervous system). This can help take you out of that fight or flight response happening with your adrenals.
Make yourself a priority
Most women when asked to list their priorities, put their littles number one on the list which I get. I would do anything for my munchkins.
Try really putting yourself, and your needs first to see how that feels.
Set boundaries, and say no more often.
Make a list of the things you need to thrive. And example for myself is that I need to have a minimum of two good workouts that take place outside of my house – 3 is optimal but on those tough weeks 2 is a must that I make happen no matter what. I work out at home the other days but my mental sanity and the act of making myself a priority makes me less resentful when everyone seems to need me.
So, what do you need each week to show up as your best self?
Ask for help
We all need help and I truly believe we were not meant to do this whole motherhood thing alone. So ask for help- whether its from your partner so that you can get out of the house or from a friend. We all need help sometimes and we certainly can’t do it all. Make a list of things you need help with and go from there.
Moving your body is essential and make sure you are moving daily, whether its walking outside or a workout.
With adrenal fatigue and exhaustion you want to really listen to your body. If after an intense workout you feel worse and more depleted, it may be putting more stress on your adrenals. Gentle types of strength training or restorative exercises/yoga and walking might feel better.
It can take up to three years to fully replenish our nutrient stores after having a baby. Our body is amazing but it needs time and nourishment to heal. If we are in a chronic state of stress such as lack of sleep and adrenal overload our nutrition is even more important.
Consider Quitting the Coffee
I may have lost you at this one but it can make a significant difference, especially if you’ve been experiencing anxiety or having trouble sleeping.
Though coffee does have health benefits, if you are experiencing exhaustion or burn out, coffee can actually increase the stress hormones. So, it’s worth giving it a try for 3-4 weeks.
If you experience symptoms of withdrawal try having green tea as a substitute so you are getting a little bit of caffeine, which may make the transition and withdrawal a little easier.
Are you Eating enough?
Skipping meals or eating the kids left overs can become an all to common habit with babes or kids of every age but making sure you are eating is literally essential.
Ensure that you are eating 3 meals and getting a good form of protein, some healthy fat at each meal with a good variety of veggies throughout the day.
Aim to add some starchy vegetables (sweet potato, squash, beets as a few examples) or with lunch and dinner, this can help with healthy cortisol levels.
I know this is basic but simply eating can seem impossible some days as mom, and suddenly it’s 3 pm and all you’ve had are a handful of chocolate chips and maybe a few bites of your kids left over banana. Make eating quality food, 3 times a day part of your self care and part of making yourself a priority.
When in short on time or hands, smoothies are a lifesaver! It is an easy way to add some protein like collagen peptides, frozen fruit, some healthy fat, a handful of something green.
Eating enough healthy fat throughout the day can really help balance your hormones as well as replenish your nutrient stores.
Eating a healthy fat with your veggies also helps increase the absorption of all those lovely nutrients!
Healthy fats that are great to have on hand include: nut/seed butters, olive oil, coconut oil or butter, avocados or avocado oil, nuts/seeds, ghee or grass -fed butter, hemp hearts, chia seeds.
Additional Support with Supplements
When in a state of chronic stress and exhaustion a little help from some good quality supplements can make a big difference.
Each person has different needs, so I recommend talking to a health care provider but generally the following vitamins can help support the adrenals; Stress B-Complex , Magnesium, Vitamin C, DHA, and Vitamin D.
Consider seeing a Naturopathic Doctor for further support with IV therapy or B Vitamin Injections. Again, this will depend on your needs but made a significant difference for me personally!
This list of suggestions in not exhaustive by any means but these were the things that have made a significant difference both personally and clinically.