Welcome to part 2 of this blog series on energy. Please check out part 1 if you haven’t already.
How would you describe your energy levels on a daily basis? On a scale of 1-10, 1 being tired all the time, 10 being full of beans and raring to go, where do you sit? Wouldn’t it feel amazing to be a regular 8, 9 or 10?
Being a mum IS hard work and often tiring, but if you are battling with low energy regularly that is impacting your life, it might be something to start investigating.
First up, if you are feeling consistently exhausted please do first seek medical advice, as it CAN indicate an underlying undiagnosed condition. The advice given in this blog series does not replace medical advice.
Today I’m going to explore stress. What do I actually mean by stress? What does it mean for our energy? And how can we optimise our resilience to stress to promote optimal energy?
What is stress and how does it impact our energy?
Our stress response is a basic survival mechanism. Something threatens us and our body responds by increasing our stress hormones, speeding up our heart rate, making us more alert, plus a whole host of other physical changes, to allow us to either run to safety or fight the danger.
Our ancestors would have been dealing with sporadic stress triggers from animal predators or threatening tribes, but these days we rarely face serious life-threatening dangers. The problem comes when stress is chronic (ongoing). Modern life (including modern mum-life) is constantly putting our bodies in to a stress response, by every day occurrences. Think rushing for an appointment or to get to work on time, your toddler throwing food around after you’ve asked him/her not to, sitting in traffic, phones constantly pinging, work pressures, housework that needs to be done all the time, feeling like you aren’t getting any ‘me time’, strained relationships, losing your keys/phone and spending ages to trying to find them, niggling unresolved health issues, etc.
As a result, we are continually in our stressed, alert state, (opposed to our calm, relaxed state). When our bodies are having to deal with mental, emotional or physical stress for long periods of time, there are consequences. If we are chronically overwhelmed, fatigue or tiredness can result.
An ongoing stress response can also deplete key nutrients you need to make energy, like B vitamins and magnesium, which can in turn drain your energy even more.
Long term stress can result in high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can then negatively impact on sleep, further impacting our energy levels.
When we are in a stressed state, our digestive system and immune system is inhibited, which can result in suboptimal digestion (hello bloating, indigestion and gas) and increased susceptibility to colds and other infections.
So, as you can see, the repercussions of ongoing stress can have a BIG impact in many ways.
Feeling tense, irritable, overwhelmed, restless, experiencing poor sleep, low mood and low energy are all signs that you are experiencing too much stress.
A quick word here on stress specifically in relation to early motherhood. Becoming a mum is an enormous transition and life change, which undoubtedly brings with it a raft of new experiences, new stressors and a whole lot of adapting to your new role and life. Acknowledging this huge shift and being VERY kind to yourself is essential. Your responsibilities can feel enormous, so take pressure off of yourself. Don’t expect perfection.
Being aware of how stressed or overwhelmed you are is the first step to knowing when you might need to seek out some support, to start saying no to people when needed, to adopt more self-care in to your routine, to start taking some pressure off yourself, and start making some changes that allow you to feel calmer and more in control.
How can we optimise our resilience to stress to promote optimal energy and feel calmer?
· Make sure you are getting enough ‘me time’. This is like allowing your batteries to recharge adequately, allowing you to have more resilience to those stressful situations. This is really necessary, and not at all a luxury. I know ‘me time’ and ‘self-care’ are terms that are often thrown around and can feel like something that other people have time for, but if you don’t make it a priority for you then you are likely to feel burnt out and overwhelmed. Carve out time to do whatever it is that gives you joy, even if it is for just a few minutes a day. Creative activities like drawing or colouring, journaling, walking in nature, meeting a friend for a drink, going to an exercise class, doing some yoga, reading a book, taking an undisturbed bath and going to the cinema are all good examples. What makes you feel refreshed?
· Implement good sleep hygiene to optimise your chances of getting adequate sleep. I know as a mum this isn’t always easy, but check out my blog on prioritising your own sleep for tips on how to help ensure you are getting enough.
· Take time to breathe deeply and slowly. The way we breathe has a direct impact on our parasympathetic nervous system (our calm and relaxed state). Spend 5-10 minutes focusing on breathing deeply through the nose. Notice how it makes you feel different?
· Increase your intake of B vitamins, by eating leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, broccoli), seafood, meat (particularly organ meats), eggs, legumes such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas.
· Increase your intake of magnesium, by eating avocadoes, nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains, some fish such as salmon, mackerel and halibut, bananas, dark chocolate, and leafy greens.
· You could try a magnesium supplement. Magnesium can help us deal with stress and improve sleep. The form of magnesium and quality of the supplement is key though, so please consult a professional before buying any old magnesium.
· Soak in an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are high in magnesium, so soaking in a bath of Epsom salts is a great way to absorb magnesium and also take some time out. Make sure you soak for at least 20 minutes.
· Avoid or reduce stimulants such as caffeine. Instead, try herbal teas like chamomile, lemon balm and green tea which all have calming effects on the body. Restrict coffee intake to the morning only.
Which recommendation will you pick to start implementing today? Choose one to start with and focus on making it your new habit.
If simply considering what you need to do in order to help you feel less stressed is overwhelming, please get in touch, I would love to help.
Next up in The Energy Series we will take a deep dive in to vital nutrients for energy. Stay tuned!