I am not a fan of new year’s resolutions because often times this resolution is something I have been pondering to make a long term commitment to but my pre-contemplation self is not helping. Even in my health coach training the powerful questions would just skim by my desire to change. Such as…if you wake up tomorrow with all the time, energy, and money in the world, what would you do? There is a part of me that says I would do absolutely nothing, or in the words of Heather Land “I ain’t doing it.” Lol! In all actuality I was continuously moving and going with little time to rest. This process left me tired, cranky, and ready for a new year…NEW LIFE resolution. I made a decision a few years back for self care and I still find that I need to hold myself accountable to making time for this resolution, and asking for support (childcare to exercise, or having coffee with a friend).

I want to back track a bit and tell you what my teacher Jessica Drummond shared with my class. It is something called the “Meadow Report.” Historically, our female ancestors were in charge of going out into the meadow to gather food (berries, herbs, roots) to bring back to the tribe that they were apart of. They would also need to share a valuable piece of information with their fellow women. They would have to pay attention to every detail of their journey so they could tell the other women where to get the food! I feel like singing “over the river and through the woods…” but ending it with “to the elderberry bush we go…this gal knows the way, to save time for play and feeding the tribe today. Hey!” Okay I was never meant to be a song writer! Anyway, these skills were so valuable to the success of the tribe. I would like to take a spin off of history and share with you that I want to be a gatherer for postpartum health and bring you a meadow report.

Today’s meadow report is based on my life’s resolution to decrease stress in my life. The stress response activates our sympathetic nervous system or the fight or flight system. Stress can cause muscle tension, decrease blood flow within the muscle belly,1Gorniak G; King P. The Peripheral Neuroanatomy of the Pelvic Floor. JWH 2016;40(1); 3-14. and can create an inability to relax especially in the pelvic floor muscles. Tension in these muscles can cause aliments such as muscle spasm, incontinence, 2Chiarello C, Activity Limitations During Pregnancy: Is There a Difference Between Pelvic Girdle Pain and Nonspecific Low Back Pain? JWH 2016;40(1); 33-37. pain with intimacy, and an inability for these tissues to heal after labor and delivery. Stress has been shown in the research to affect cognition, sleep, immunity, and has a negative effect on aging at the cellular level.3Basta M, Chrousos GP, Vela-Bueno A, Vgontzas AN. Chronic insomnia and stress system. Sleep Med Clin. 2007;2(2):279–291. 4Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Lin J, et al. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004;101(49):17312–17315. 5Koplas P, Shilling A, Harper M. Reduction in perceived stress in healthy women older than 30 years following a 24-week resistance training program: A pilot study. JWH. 2012; 36(2); 90-101.  6Lupien SJ, McEwen BS, Gunnar MR, Heim C. Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009;10:434–445.  7Stegerstrom S, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune stress system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psych Bull. 2004;130(4):601–630.

My favorite ways to decrease stress included:

  • Being mindful and connecting with the breath when I wake in the morning and as I drift off to sleep. 8Chiarello C, Activity Limitations During Pregnancy: Is There a Difference Between Pelvic Girdle Pain and Nonspecific Low Back Pain? JWH 2016;40(1); 33-37.
  • Going through a yoga flow geared toward pelvic floor relaxation such as the happy baby pose or child’s pose.
  • Pilates
  • Making time to hang out with friends for a few hours once a month or more.
  • Walking in nature which is also called forest bathing.
  • Making sure I eat healthy snacks throughout the day so I do not turn into a snickers commercial.
  • Laughing

I really loved the article, “32 Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve (and Symptoms of Vagal Dysfunction),” as it educates you on the vagus nerve and how to aide in decreasing your stress response. Comment below and tell me how you will make NEW LIFE resolutions (click the highlighted areas above to be linked to research articles, a video, and other blog posts that are relevant ).

Dr. Rachael xoxo

References   [ + ]

1. Gorniak G; King P. The Peripheral Neuroanatomy of the Pelvic Floor. JWH 2016;40(1); 3-14.
2, 8. Chiarello C, Activity Limitations During Pregnancy: Is There a Difference Between Pelvic Girdle Pain and Nonspecific Low Back Pain? JWH 2016;40(1); 33-37.
3. Basta M, Chrousos GP, Vela-Bueno A, Vgontzas AN. Chronic insomnia and stress system. Sleep Med Clin. 2007;2(2):279–291.
4. Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Lin J, et al. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004;101(49):17312–17315.
5. Koplas P, Shilling A, Harper M. Reduction in perceived stress in healthy women older than 30 years following a 24-week resistance training program: A pilot study. JWH. 2012; 36(2); 90-101. 
6. Lupien SJ, McEwen BS, Gunnar MR, Heim C. Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009;10:434–445. 
7. Stegerstrom S, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune stress system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psych Bull. 2004;130(4):601–630.