Like many mothers in this world that work and have a young family, I too work and have an almost-three-year-old that I care for. On the same token I regularly see stressed out, anxious, adrenally fatigued mothers. I too have been this mother.
When did life become so busy? How did our forebears cope with their range of day to day activity and keep little ones entertained, healthy and fed? Surely there was more stress for the first settlers without todays’ modern conveniences. Alas, I feel this is not so. Our modern lives were designed to help alleviate the shortcomings of those before us but instead I feel it just adds to the problem. I feel the more ‘stuff’ we create the more there is to do which leads to there being more to be stressed about. I digress.
I see many new mothers that appear to be coping fine on the outside but are internalising a range of emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and hopelessness to the point of overwhelm. When did mothering become so difficult? Is it because we no longer live as a community with grandparents, aunts and uncles or do mothers feel they have to grin and bear it, showing an exterior of strength whilst feeling fragile and depleted inside? Is it that society expects a mother to be strong, independent, self-reliant and ever-doting? Do we believe this of ourselves?
Mothering is a life-time journey and many lessons are learnt along the way, primarily from our children. But how do we manage work, rest and play and keep stress to a minimum? I feel it’s about finding those snippets of quiet time and being completely and utterly present to enjoy them fully. It’s also about being present with our children, being attentive, explaining situations, treating them as individuals so that they may become conscious responsible adults. It is about realising that for some chores there is tomorrow, that we can say ‘no’ to various requests and that it is absolutely ok to leave the dishes until the morning.
Of course stress can manifest differently for everyone but I feel the way we manage it can be the same. I feel that watching our thoughts is of a high priority. Our thoughts can spiral from one to another and before you know it there is a long list of ‘to do’, ‘should have’, and ‘could haves’. This isn’t productive and just creates extra pressure to achieve.
Another way of managing the daily stress is to indulge in gratitude. To see the beauty in mundane occurrences and to find the fundamental life force in seemingly inanimate objects.
I see many mothers putting their families before themselves. Remember that it is vital that mothers give to themselves, regularly. This is not selfishness and may help to prevent possible resentment later down the track. Indulge in a massage, go to a spa, have a coffee on the beach with a good book, take a long shower, drink a whole cup of tea while still hot.
On a serious note, stress can lead to conditions such as depression, anxiety and panic states and adrenal exhaustion. Prolonged stress, whether it is physical, emotional or mental, and quite often it is a mix of all three, can become debilitating and cause disruption to homeostasis (the normal functioning of the body). It can cause hormonal and endocrine dysfunction, digestive upset and decreased mental and coping capabilities. But there are ways of preventing this. Natural health has great success in treating nervous system disorders and can treat conditions where conventional medicine tends to miss the mark.
As an herbalist I find herbs are little blankets of love for frazzled nerves. There is a wide range of nervine tonics and anxiolytics such as Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Oats (Avena sativa), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Zizyphus ( Zizyphus jujuba); antidepressants like St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Saffron (Crocus sativa), Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) and the hypnotics like Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), and Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). There are herbs that target adrenal health and support adrenal function such as Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Withania (Withania somnifera), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea).
Nutrients are of much benefit also. Magnesium is a wonderful nerve relaxant, as is glutamine which potentiates GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and melatonin which regulate our mood and circadian rhythms. Tyrosine supports adrenal health and is the precursor to thyroid hormones. Vitamin C is utilised by the adrenal glands and can be supplemented at quite a high dose during periods of stress. Supplementing with a B multivitamin can help cellular energy and nervous system function. Coenzyme Q10 may be of benefit when fatigue and energy levels are low as it is vital for our cellular energy system.
There are a range of lifestyle factors that may help reduce the rigors of stress and anxiety. Yoga and meditation are wonderful in helping you find that quiet place inside. Often keeping a journal and freeing the thoughts that spin inside our heads is a great way to find closure or counsel in certain events. Bringing ritual into your life helps to calm and soothe the mind, light a candle in the evening with the family and let it burn for an hour and find the tranquillity in its tiny light. Allow yourself to rest.
Nervous system dysfunction can manifest differently for each individual and their unique symptom picture and treatment will be tailored to them. The above is merely a guide as to remedies that can be sought to help mothers and their families cope in a busy world which doesn’t seem to be slowing. But if we slow our minds, then our bodies will follow and life can be enjoyed that extra bit more.
I am a qualified herbalist and have a specific interest in supporting the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of mothers during the life-changing time when a baby enters their life. I conduct naturopathic consultations and I am available for home visits in my local area.
Janine Emerson BHSc (WHM)