Ah motherhood. The joy of those first few days when you feel your life has been blessed beyond belief. That now you have a constant companion to love and who will love you back. Oh the wonderful times you’ll have pottering in the garden, filling up your kitchen with home baking and sewing baby clothes.
Ha! Is this how it went for you? All talcum powder and butterfly kisses? Of course there is some of that, but there is also a lot of the garden going to weeds, skipping meals and gratefully received hand me down clothes because you actually don’t know how to sew. Plus you are so tired you could cry.
I see a lot of Mums in the clinic and one thing that has been coming up a lot lately is temper. “I’m so frazzled by the end of the day that I lose it over the smallest thing!”. These normally calm, collected women feel out of control in the face of their crying new born or a tantrumming toddler. They want to scream back at their child and have to leave the room so they don’t, only to realise they are reacting out of all proportion. If you are finding yourself having your own tantrums, or feeling angry at your children a lot; then maybe supporting your nervous system could help.
Many clients recount their daily routine as something like this:
Feed the 5 year old, toddler and nurse the baby, before dressing all three and herself and getting in the car. School drop off, kindy, nurse the baby, visit grandma, nurse baby, back to kindy, home for late lunch, nurse baby, 1 hours work from home while they both nap (Ha!), back in the car (why does this take so long?), school pick up, nurse baby, dinner for the kids, bath time, PJ’s, nurse baby, story time, bed time for kids! Phew. Having fun yet? Now comes the laundry, dinner for mum and dad and another hours work on the computer. All this on a broken nights sleep.
This relentless routine might be fine occasionally, but if this is the norm, there will be consequences for sure. Meeting all those expectations is impossible so we are often left with feelings of guilt, disappointment, constant rushing and ultimately, discontentment.
The negative impact is broad and insidious but sometimes not obvious to the mother. I see women who have exhausted nervous systems daily- their adrenal glands are crying out for help. But instead, they come to see me because they want to “do a detox” or “lose 10kg’s”. It usually becomes clear within minutes where the real problem lies.
Your nervous system responds to stress for you. Every time you are in a situation that you perceive as stressful, such as confrontation, running late, tantrums, an endless to-do list; your adrenal glands (components of your nervous system) release adrenalin into your bloodstream to ready you against the ‘threat’.
In response to this adrenalin, we have an acute stress experience. Heart racing, nervous sweat, you know the feeling. If the ‘threat’ is perceived to be over, your body returns to business as usual, no harm done. But if you continue to experience stress, you enter into a second phase, where your adrenals release another stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can wreck havoc on many body processes. Your progesterone production can be at risk leading to oestrogen dominance and all its nasty symptoms. Sometimes your thyroid function will be compromised, leading to lethargy, lack of libido, weight gain and depression. There are many more health consequences not to mention a short temper!
There are of course many lifestyle strategies that will help. Asking for help, time management, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, lowering your expectations (ah, the relief!), and many more. Also be sure to cut out stimulants such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and too much sugar. These strategies are all necessary, and will help immensely. But even so, years of stress takes it’s toll on the body, mood and emotions; here are some natural medicines to help restore the balance.
Your poor adrenal glands will lap up any nutrients you send their way. They don’t make the stress hormones out of thin air; they need fuel! B vitamins are the first thing to try. There are 12 of them. Ensure you get roughly 25-50 mgs of most of the B vitamins (get a B complex formula) and only take them in the morning with food.
I love Withania somnifera. Used for thousands of years to combat stress, it has been shown to benefit those with anxiety and depression, and also has a normalising effect on the thyroid gland. It can be a real life saver for those women (and men) who feel on the edge of a breakdown at the thought of another frantically busy day. As with most herbal medicines take for 3 months for the full effect.
I know women so exhausted they’re tempted to close their eyes in the car at the red lights but often frustratingly, they can’t fall asleep at night, or they wake after only a couple of hours. Their busy brain is running through what didn’t get done that day and adding it to the mile long list for tomorrow. This is the effect of those elevated stress hormones, keeping you alert, in case of danger. There are some nutrients and herbs that can be enormously helpful. Start with the basics; magnesium morning and night and 50mg of the herbal extract 5-hydroxytryptophan before bed.
Hypericum perforatum, or St Johns Wort is another herb with a long history of use as a nervous system tonic. My clients describe its effect as helping them feel a little sunnier about life and giving them the feeling that a burden has been lifted.
The herbal medicine Piper methysticum is also an amazing natural solution to anxiety, anger, irritability and insomnia. This and Hypericum are best used in consultation with an experienced herbalist.
Being a parent is an indescribable privilege. It’s also guaranteed to be maddening and frustrating at times, but if you are having more bad days than good, reach out for some help. Make some changes and support your body. It will make for a happier you and a happier home.