Losing your Mind? You Kind of Are.
Have you ever poured your leftover coffee in the washing machine? Mixed up crazy hair and ugly Christmas sweater day? Turned around in a complete panic to count heads in your car to make sure you had your kids? Dumped breast milk down the sink accidentally (double gasp at this one). I consider myself an organized, calendar keeping, have it mostly together kind of mama. But all of these happened to me, and I know I am not alone. Before kids, these types of mishaps simply were not a thing. Of course, I had the once in awhile oops moment, but nothing compares to now… enter mom brain.
After school activities, homework, meal planning, outfits to pick out… it’s a lot. But no matter how much there is to keep straight, the volume of “extra” in your life is not the only reason for mom brain. Super emotional after having kids? Some of that uncontrollable boo hooing is attributed to fatigue, new mom anxiety, being overwhelmed, the strong desire for perfection, etc., but it’s actually more scientific than that.
Researchers have found that pregnancy changes the structure of the brain, including its size, which regulates emotions and empathy. So 'mom brain' starts out as 'pregnancy brain' and it does not automatically change back after giving birth. The brain is changed for a minimum of two years afterwards, and sometimes much longer. Then what happens when you have pregnancy, then baby, then repeat? Oh man... ever feel like you are losing your mind? Well, you kind of are!
Women without kids volunteered to have an MRI of their brain. And then the same women went back to have the scan done after they had their first child. The results were loss of grey matter in different regions of the brain which is responsible for cognition, memory and how things are perceived.
But it’s not all bad. They also found an increase in activity in the area of the brain responsible for empathy and nurturing. This change signals the brain to put your baby's needs first, also known as the mother instinct. Which is awesome right? Yes, however, now that your brain is telling you to put your needs on the back-burner all of the time, you can be in danger of negatively impacting your brain further. Studies show that if you do not take care of your own needs, get adequate sleep, and fuel your body properly, your brain suffers even more. Being aware of these changes are important for you and your spouse to understand. Overcoming mom brain is not impossible. Research shows that taking these steps drastically improves your brain function.
1. Eat Foods to Improve Brain Power
Yes, the grey matter has been disappearing which means some of your brain cells have died. However, you can still keep the rest of your brain powerful. Your gut health is tied to how you function cognitively. This means you will want to allow the good bacteria to grow in your gut. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha, and pickles are all foods rich in probiotics. You can also take a probiotic and a prebiotic supplement. (Do extensive research before just grabbing one off the shelf. A phone call to your doctor’s office for recommendations is a free, credible resource.)
Eat foods that are high in antioxidants and good fats. Blueberries, green leafy vegetables, and many other fruits are high in antioxidants. Avocados, salmon, nuts and eggs are also great sources of fat that will help strengthen brain power. If you are unable to consume all of the necessary nutrients, then supplements are recommended.
2. Exercise Your Body
It may be cliche, exercising on a daily basis is needed for your brain to stay strong and functional. Exercise keeps the circulation going and delivers oxygen to all of the cells in your body which includes your brain. This one is extra personal for me. After the birth of my second child, I joined a spin class at the gym. I was way overweight, completely out of shape, and SO beyond scared to walk into the spin room. But I did, and magic happened. I felt alive, invigorated, joyful, uncoordinated and like I was going to die all at the same time. But I did it! And it hurt so good! I noticed a big difference in my mental health compared to when I had my first child. I lost weight, I felt amazing, and I was inspired to want to help other moms find passion in exercise. I got my certifications to teach, and 16 years later I’m still teaching! Hate spin? No problem. There is literally an exercise form for every preference. Zumba, water aerobics, walking, the list is endless. Bottom line is, you need to exercise not only for your body, but for your brain health.
Ahhhh yes. “Get more sleep”, they say. Insert eye roll. I know, I have four kiddos. I get it! Did you know that even if you do not fall asleep, your brain and body are resting and restoring more than if you were up and active? Even if you cannot fall asleep while your baby is napping, force yourself to at least lie down and close your eyes.
4. Me Time
My friend has a prayer closet. She has three kids, one is a baby. When her little girl Amelia wakes up around 6:30 AM, there is no such thing as “me time” for the rest of her day. At 5:30 AM her alarm goes off. She makes a cup of tea, goes in her closet, prays, journals, and has time for herself. She has never considered herself a morning person, so this has been quite the change. She tells me her mental and emotional health has improved drastically since starting this practice.
Journaling, yoga, prayer, sitting in silence, deep breathing, a bubble bath... they all impact your brain. These activities help rewire the brain so you can become more efficient in problem-solving and improve your memory skills. Make it part of your daily routine. Experts agree that even 15 minutes will be beneficial. Moms, it is NOT selfish to tell your husbands you need 15 minutes with no interruptions. The payoff for 15 minutes of me time is huge for you and your family.
Mom brain is real, but you can combat the effects. It is imperative for your spouse, your mom, and whoever else is in your squad to know all the facts. Have them read this blog post and start an open conversation with them. In order for you to be successful with your eating habits, exercise, resting, and time for yourself, they need to be on board too. You, your baby, and everyone around you will all benefit by YOU taking action to be the best possible version of yourself.
Me and my kid crew
Hello! My husband Matthew and I own Lolly Llama. One of my favorite things is being able to create and design products for your family. The purpose of this blog is to write about the topics my customers ask me most! Contact me to ask your question. The answer to your question may be my next blog post!