Feeling ‘burnt out’ is commonly experienced by many parents. Whether you’re the ‘stay at home’ parent or heading out the door to work each day, or even a combination of the two… the juggling act of life as a parent can take its toll on our energy levels and health. As with health in general, prevention is better than cure and ultimately that means it’s worthwhile putting in effort to stay well and prevent burn out.

Burn out – sometimes referred to as ‘adrenal exhaustion’ is basically a result of ongoing stress resulting in physical, emotional and mental fatigue. It is natural to feel tired throughout a busy week and perhaps periodically, depending on the physical and internal demands placed on ourselves. As human beings we can’t be expected to feel ‘up and bouncing’ every waking minute. Energy fluctuations are a natural part of life as much as sunrises, sunsets and seasonal changes are, however prolonged periods of fatigue can be detrimental to health and quality of life, and therefore warrant investigation. 

Ask yourself  – if any other ordinary healthy person did what I did, would they feel fatigued? If the answer to that question is yes, then perhaps it comes down to needing to re-balance activities and lifestyle to include some down time. Your body may be legitimately tired and may simply need rest. Real rest. ‘Normal tiredness’ tends to resolve with relaxation and rest.

There are many other common causes of fatigue such as low iron or vitamin B12; infection; thyroid function issues; blood sugar regulation issues; stress; poor sleeping habits; depression and anxiety; or insufficient dietary fuel to facilitate required energy expenditure. The use of stimulating foods such as sugar and caffeine can also result in feeling fatigued when the artificial energy runs out.

The following is a simple dietary and lifestyle checklist. If you can answer ‘yes’ to these things and you’re feeling persistently fatigued, then it’s time to visit a health practitioner to investigate other potential underlying causes. If you answer ‘no’ to these things and you’re feeling fatigued… well… you know what to do! Make changes to your diet and lifestyle so you can answer ‘yes’ to the checklist and observe how your energy levels respond. 

Do you? 
get 8 hrs sleep most nights of the week?
go to bed and wake up at the same time most days?
get 30mins exercise most days?
drink minimum 1 litre water per day?
eat 3 protein rich main meals and 2 snacks each day?
have 4+ alcohol free nights per week?
avoid caffeine and high sugar containing food?
take time to stop and relax – even for 5mins each day?
engage with people or activities that trigger happiness?
feel you’re being true to yourself in communication and decision making?

There are times in our lives when ALL of the above is simply not possible due to other life events and circumstances such as the arrival of a new baby, caring for sick family members or even starting a new job. If however these components of a healthy diet and lifestyle are included MOST of the time on MOST days, then this will provide strong foundations for your body to maintain a path of wellness and reduce the incidence of burn out. 

Sometimes life requires more from us than usual and during these times it can be useful to provide the body with additional nutrients to support the cells in energy production. For example extra amounts of magnesium may be utilised by the cells during times of prolonged stress, and magnesium is also a key nutrient required by the cells in the energy production cycle. Some people find when supplementing with therapeutic doses of magnesium, energy levels can improve. There are also a number of herbal medicines which tonify the adrenal gland and improve resilience to stress. Taking these herbs can result in the adrenal glands withstanding more stress before stress hormones are released which can lead to a reduction in the impact of burn out or adrenal exhaustion as a result of persistent stress.

Prolonged, unexplained fatigue needs to be investigated by your primary health care practitioner. Just because diagnostic tests such as blood tests may suggest you are ‘healthy’ or ‘within the normal range’, and there is no pathological cause for fatigue, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to improve energy levels and enhance feelings of wellness. Sometimes a nutritional and lifestyle check up can invite a few alterations to your diet and lifestyle routine that can positively impact energy levels as well as provide information you can share with your family to optimise their health.  In the same way that it’s important to fit your own oxygen mask before helping your children, it’s important to ensure your own wellness is catered for so you can better support and educate your family.