Are you suffering with mother depletion? Do you feel drained, like you’re running on an empty tank at times? Are you desperate to have more quality time and be more present with your children but feel like you’re completely depleted and out of sorts?
Let me tell you, you are not alone! ‘Depleted’ is one of those words (along with overwhelmed, exhausted, and frazzled 😊) that has taken pride and place in my mother dictionary.
Do not get me wrong, motherhood is an incredible experience. For me, becoming a mother has been an adventure of self-discovery and personal growth, as well as raising a spirited little being! But this level of growth and being pushed to your limits and outside of your comfort zone, daily is demanding and exhaustive on your resources. One of my greatest Motherhood lessons is – ‘the further you want to drive the car, the more fuel you need to put in the tank’!
Its so easy and not at all intentional to sacrifice your own needs in place of caring for everyone else’s BUT if you don’t give back to yourself and replenish, depletion takes hold. There is no doubt in my mind that postnatal depletion was a factor in me feeling anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted after having Bonnie.
I have learnt self-love and self-care are crucial to avoid motherhood depletion. In terms of nourishment, it is important to realise that food is not just fuel but it’s information. If we withhold critical information from our bodies, they will struggle to function properly. The feedback I get from mothers, whether they have a new-born or a teenager, is that they often struggle with:
- Low-energy levels
- ‘Baby brain’
And let us be honest, we can all relate to that. But did you know that these symptoms are not only relative to the postnatal period or fourth trimester but can in fact have a legacy effect if not addressed.
I always say ‘Never judge a Mother by Another’ – We are all different in the way we heal, recover and regain our sense of self and energy. Our journeys are so unique and defined by a complex set of circumstances which go beyond what is visible. Yes Motherhood depletion is a complex problem but that’s not to say that it needs a complex solution.
I can tell you that this is does not have to be your New Norm! If you are done with quick fix solutions that don’t work, Let me show you a new way to restore your health and energy and reclaim your vitality from inside out. My ‘mother yourself from inside out’ approach to mother depletion!
Nutrient depletion: Nourish yourself
A lot of mothers go into their pregnancy and motherhood journey already depleted. Stress, poor nutrition, chemical exposure and medications are only some of the contributing factors to insufficient nutrient stores and, if not addressed and replenished, these deficiencies can progress into more chronic health symptoms – chronic fatigue, thyroid imbalances, brain fog, anxiety, overwhelm and many more. In my clinic I regularly see mothers suffering with exhaustion and depletion 10 years down the line.
B12 plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells which are needed to efficiently transport oxygen throughout your body. A deficiency in the vitamin can lead to a decline in red blood cells and ultimately a reduction in oxygen being moved throughout the body, leaving you feeling tired and weak.
In addition, vitamin B12 is needed for the production of myelin, a substance which protects your nerve cells. Insufficient levels of B12 can cause myelin to degrade, with the potential to cause fatigue, weakness, and cognitive issues amongst others.
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Vegetarian and vegan sources of B12 include seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewer’s yeast. A good quality B12 supplement may be helpful.
Pregnancy and birth as well as lochia (the bleed that lasts for the first few weeks following birth) significantly depletes your iron stores. And with menstruation, we lose even more iron on a monthly basis.
And yet, iron is key to energy and vitality – similar to vitamin B12, iron is needed to transport oxygen from the lung to your body’s tissues. A deficiency in the mineral can cause reduced levels of oxygen being transported, with the potential to cause extreme fatigue.
Dietary sources of iron include red meat, beans, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits such as dried apricots.
Zinc doesn’t only play a key role in the integrity of our gut lining which is crucial for our overall health and wellbeing, but it also controls copper absorption. A deficiency in zinc can cause copper levels to rise, causing our bodies to produce more adrenaline and resulting in symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
Foods rich in zinc include shellfish, meat, eggs, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Crucial for the health of our immune system and overall energy levels, a deficiency in vitamin D can leave us feeling weak and tired. Build up your levels of this vitamin by enjoying some lunchtime sunlight during the hotter months (sun cream blocks the production of vitamin D in our skin but be careful not to burn) although a year-round supplement is advisable to keep levels in check.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include eggs, mushrooms (go for the brown chestnut variety) and fish.
Our bodies use a lot of folate (that’s the food derived equivalent of man-made synthetic folic acid) during pregnancy to help form the baby’s brain, skull and spinal cord. Folate is also important in the development of healthy red blood cells. A deficiency in the vitamin, similar to a deficiency in B12 and iron, can cause a reduction in red blood cells which can result in impaired oxygen transport, leaving us feeling tired and exhausted.
Foods rich in folate include green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spring greens, kale and spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chickpeas and kidney beans.
As a general rule of thumb for a balanced diet, make sure you eat regularly (skipping meals can have a detrimental effect on our blood sugar…more on blood sugar here) and aim to eat the rainbow. That means including as many brightly coloured fruits and vegetables as possible on a daily basis. I like to recommend including three different colours per meal. For breakfast this could be a fruity smoothie with red strawberries, purple blueberries and yellow bananas. For lunch, you could have a salad with green spinach, orange sweet potato and red tomatoes. Dinner could be a tomato-based dish with secret veg grated in such as courgette, mushrooms and peppers. Challenge yourself to see how many colours and different types of vegetable you can include in a day, it’s fun!
Take time to rest
Research suggests that new mums lose on average 700 hours of sleep in the first year of motherhood. Wow. No wonder that we’re feeling exhausted. And yet, taking time to sleep and rest is absolutely crucial to our recovery following birth and our overall wellbeing and vitality in raising a family. More on how to support good quality sleep here.
Yoga and breathing exercises can also play a key part in switching off and giving your body and mind time to rest. Stop regularly throughout the day and take three slow and deep breaths to ground yourself and be present in the moment.
2-to-1 breathing is a great tool to calm your nervous system down. Simply take a deep breath in, counting as you do, then aim to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. Only a few repetitions of this breathing technique have shown to slow our heart rate, decrease blood pressure and relax the muscles.
For some more breathing tips and tricks check out James Nestor on the ‘Feel better, live more’ podcast.
Build up your energy stores
Energy effects everything. It’s like a life currency which gives you the freedom to feel good in your own skin, have more fun and be more available for your children.
Think of it like a bank account. The more you spend the more you need to put back and save. As a mother our greatest energy expenses tend to come from the mind, our perception and response to stress and our inner belief systems which determine how much of our life currency we give away to others.
One way of preserving energy is to make room for quiet time in the mornings. Try not to start the day by looking at your phone or email, instead try not to switch on any electronics until mid-morning to allow yourself some time to focus rather than starting the day with distractions and demands from others. On that note, think carefully about what you commit to for others and instead commit to looking after yourself first.
Do more of the things you love
I know it’s so much easier said than done. As mothers we tend to put ourselves on the bottom of our own to-do list. This is not conscious as such, its usually in a bid to keep everything and everyone else happy and healthy. But not looking after yourself is a huge contributor to your depletion. Remember – the longer you want to drive the car, the more fuel you need in the tank.
I hear mothers craving for more time however when I dig a little deeper, it’s often a craving for space and the ability to delve into your own thoughts and feelings, a craving to do more of what you love. Yes, juggling all the balls is an energy thief but so is the grief for the things you used to love before you started a family. In a way, this is a craving for a return to your own identity, passions and interests, which are so often neglected in motherhood.
Try to schedule one thing every week that gets you really excited and gets your vibe alive! It could be as simple as meeting a friend for a catch up or going for a walk in the woods.
Resolve the unresolved
The process of becoming a mother is a complex journey. The physical process of becoming a mother may happen overnight but our spiritual journey can take time. It’s at this time of matrescence (more on my matrescence here) that any unfinished and unresolved business may start to bubble to the surface – suppressed stress, childhood trauma, unmet childhood needs, an unfinished bucket list, friendship troubles and anything else that’s buried deep in our subconscious is likely to rear its head.
It may feel like you are stuck somewhere between the person you were before becoming a mother and the person you are growing into. This can be tough and exhausting so give yourself some time and don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s part of the process BUT from my personal and professional experience, it is a huge opportunity to become a more whole, happy version of you, who you love as well as an opportunity to create a more intentional life focused on what’s important and deserving of your energy.
Clear your head
Our ever growing ‘motherload’ is THE THING that depletes our emotional capacity. Its not just one thing, but an accumulation or our EXTERNAL LIFELOAD + our UNRESOLVED INNER LOAD that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, stuck and exhausted.
It is hard to be gentle, understanding and patient parent when you feel like this, with what seems like no end in sight. Where does the to-do list end? This is when you hear me saying – ‘The department for decisions’ has closed! A full head can interfere with your cognitive function, the ability to remember things (I’m sure I just had those car keys!?), your capacity to solve problems and socialise.
This feeds right into doing more of what you love, taking time to rest and, for once, put yourself on the top of the list. Something I do with all my Mum client is look at ways of creating ‘spaciousness’ in the morning. So many of you report waking up exhausted and overwhelmed and done in and frazzled by 9am! Check out my video in my ‘Energised Mother Community’ for ‘Getting through the day when you wake up exhausted’.
Choose your village
And remember – you don’t have to do this alone. Replenishing depletions takes time and small intentional actions so don’t hesitate to ask for help. Friends, family, care professionals and therapist all have their place to support you on your journey. And remember, when you get to shine, everyone else gets to sunbathe (Lucy Sheridan said this)!