Stress. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid: bringing home a new baby, adjusting to mom-life, dealing with the rollercoaster of hormones… Too much stress affects you in so many ways- everything from cravings to quality of sleep, to your energy level.
So is it really possible to reduce stress and increase energy even when you’re trying to juggle taking care of the house, taking care of the baby, and taking care of yourself?
When your body is under increased stress (which might feel like all the time at this point) it signals the release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol plays a major role in most of your body’s function- everything from regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, hunger and cravings, and sleep patterns.
Under “normal” circumstances cortisol is highest in the morning and then decreases throughout the day, with even less at night so that you can go to sleep. But not much about postpartum is “normal”…
You’re hardly sleeping.
Your hormones are all over the place.
You’re not getting the nutrition your body needs.
You’re still figuring out your baby’s personality and patterns.
You feel like you never get time for yourself.
When you feel like you’re in a constant state of stress, your body continues to signal the release of cortisol… which then creates this cycle of even more stress: higher cortisol (particular at night) not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but also inhibits all of the restorative actions that normally happen while you sleep.
So you wake up already feeling tired, craving the foods that will give you a quick energy boost, and having no energy for exercise or movement. Which causes more stress (and releasing more cortisol)…and the so the cycle continues. Ugh.
How can you break the cycle? The obvious answer is to incorporate more self-care into your life. But I bet you’re thinking that entails even more time and energy (something else I have to do??) and when you already feel like you’re stretched too thin, it’s like “just, no.”
But it doesn’t have to be another time-sucking obligation on your to-do list! What if I told you that just five minutes a few times a day is enough to bring your stress levels down and give you an energy boost?
Think of it like the adult version of a “time-out”(except you’re not in trouble). Five minutes to listen to a guided meditation, or practice some simple breathing exercises, or literally just sit and do nothing! Whatever practice feels most natural for you that gives you the chance to take a break and pay attention to what’s happening with you.
Maybe you have this idea that meditation is a little too “woo woo”. I used to have this image in my head that meditation involved sitting on a overstuffed pillow in a candelit room with chanting music playing…you too??
Well, it was actually my pelvic health physical therapist who really encouraged me to start incorporating more mindfulness into my day by taking these mini-breaks after showing me the effects that stress (some that I didn’t even realize) was having on my body physically.
And no, I didn’t transform my office into a meditation room! I just started doing things like adding five minutes of stretching/breathing at the end of my workouts in the morning, and listening to a guided meditation before going to bed.
During the day when I feel like I’m running out of patience, or like I’m getting a little too snippy (which honestly, happens a lot) I’ll take a few extra minutes washing my hands in the bathroom while I do a few deep breathing exercises to relax my body and calm my brain.
Just like exercising consistently creates habits that become part of your routine, you can do the same by taking a time-out for mindfulness. The more you practice it, the more it becomes something that you just do so that you start seeing changes both to your physical health and also to your mental well-being.
So now instead of that cycle of constant stress, exhaustion, etc., the cycle starts to switch to one of lower stress, better sleep, and more energy.
I know from my own experience, it’s much easier to be more engaged and present in all of the other areas of your life when you feel your needs are being met! So really everyone is benefiting from me taking care of me, and I want every other mom to be able to feel that way, too!