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Permanently exhausted pigeons – the hidden exhaustion of motherhood.

Published Jun 21st, 2022 by

Nikki Knieriem

When the adrenal glands have been under severe and/or prolonged stress it can lead to adrenal fatigue. This can impact the body, leading to a host of symptoms. These symptoms look similar to ‘normal’ motherhood exhaustion and why adrenal fatigue often goes untreated in Mums.

Permanently exhausted pigeons – the hidden exhaustion of motherhood.

Are you exhausted and overwhelmed all of the time? Has your motivation and mojo gone MIA?  Perhaps you shrug off your daily exhaustion symptoms as ‘part of motherhood’?

As mums, we blame a lot on the experience of becoming a mother and managing a family. This is something that I not only see in my clients – I’ve experienced it too. I would make excuses for how I was feeling by justifying my depletion because I had a busy week or too many late nights.

It’s often referred to as burnout. Some call it adrenal fatigue. And some call it plain old motherhood! But the effects of chronic stress aren’t all in your head – they are affecting your body too and this could lead to adrenal fatigue.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenal glands have been under severe and/or prolonged stress. The stress hormones produced by the adrenals can become too high, too low, or even fluctuate at the wrong time of day. This can impact the rest of the body, leading to a host of symptoms. Often these symptoms can look very similar to what many would consider ‘normal’ motherhood exhaustion and why adrenal fatigue often goes untreated.

Is adrenal fatigue a real thing?

There is a bit of debate over the terminology itself and the mechanisms behind it. But if you break it down into:

  • Can adrenal hormones fluctuate and go out of balance? Yes
  • Can hormonal fluctuations cause symptoms? Yes
  • Does chronic stress lead to long-term poor health and potentially chronic illness? Yes

So you can see there is a real health concern here, no matter what you choose to label it.

Why is it so common these days?

Simply because we have countless forms of stress – even little bits add up. It’s the traffic, the kids not doing their homework when you ask, the boss being in a bad mood, the ever growing to-do list, dealing with illnesses, you name it. It’s why you will also find memes online about “I’m not an early bird or a night owl. I’m some form of permanently exhausted pigeon!”

Signs of adrenal dysfunction

Some of the signs that your adrenal hormones are out of whack include:

  • General feeling of fatigue and exhaustion
  • Insomnia and/or oversleeping
  • Relying on caffeine to get going in the morning
  • 3pm ‘slump’
  • Waking suddenly around 3am
  • Using alcohol to ‘wind down’ your mind at night
  • Digestive issues
  • Low sex drive
  • Low motivation
  • Stubborn weight gain
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Mood swings, anxiety and depression
  • Blood sugar fluctuations and food cravings
  • Changes to appetite
  • Brain fog

As you can see, a lot of them add up to the average mum’s experience and so often adrenal fatigue is left untreated.

How you can take care of your adrenals

Firstly, it’s often best to work with a health expert to get you on track. But in the meantime, here are some simple ways to take care of your adrenals.

Eat nutritious food

Just like any other organ, the adrenals require key nutrients to function properly. You also need nutrients to protect against the effects of prolonged stress. Focus on those nutritious, wholefoods.

You may also find that you need to eat smaller, more frequent meals. This can help to counteract the blood sugar fluctuations that are common with adrenal dysfunction.

Rest frequently

One reason behind chronic stress building up is a lack of rest. This can be literal sleep, but also just taking proper breaks and downtime through your day.

Pace your exercise

Find a way to pace and move your body that fits with your symptoms. For example, you might need to wind back the Crossfit or HIIT and work more on gentle forms of movement. It is important to chat to your MumSafe trainer about how you are feeling.

Seek support

In my experience, the biggest underlying cause of mums being burned out is lack of support. We think we can do it all alone – but that simply isn’t the case. So, if you’re not coping, it’s time to add someone to your team that makes you feel heard and supported when life gets tough.

Reach out to your local MumSafe Trainer and they can help connect you with the right professionals to guide you as well as providing you with a suitable strength and fitness program to support your body rather than deplete it as you recover.

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Written by

Nikki Knieriem
MumSafe™ Trainer at 
Body 4 Mind Connections

About the Author

Nikki specialises in Women's health & fitness, with a focus on improving body health and the connections to mind health. She is passionate about helping women to optimise their health by focusing on four main pillars; exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress reduction. Through her own experiences as a mum, she understands that time is limited, the to-do list is always long and often your own self-care practices fall further down the priority list. Nikki loves helping women to unlock barriers and safely move forward on their health & fitness journey.

Nikki specialises in Women's health & fitness, with a focus on improving body health and the connections to mind health. She is passionate about helping women to optimise their health by focusing on four main pillars; exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress reduction. Through her own experiences as a mum, she understands that time is limited, the to-do list is always long and often your own self-care practices fall further down the priority list. Nikki loves helping women to unlock barriers and safely move forward on their health & fitness journey.
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