POSTPARTUM SUPPORT

Cutting Alcohol & Other Wellness Habits that Have LITERALLY Changed My Life

Cutting Alcohol & Other Wellness Habits that Have LITERALLY Changed My Life

Written by Kaci Smith

If you’re new around here, you can read about my experience with postpartum anxiety and depression here. It came on strong after my first was born, and was something I dealt with on a daily basis for a solid 1-2 years. It finally disappeared when I became pregnant with Scottie, and seemed to be under control after giving birth to her as well. When I stopped nursing her around 7 months, I noticed that while I wasn’t having anxiety daily like I had with Shep, I was having 3-5 days/month where it would get bad. Bad to me meant insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and constant worrying that would get in the way of our everyday life.

Around September / October, I set an appointment with a psychologist that specializes in postpartum mood disorders, as well as my OB to see what could be done. The psychologist couldn’t get me in until December, but I got into the OB right away. I explained my history and how going on hormonal birth control (even though I have a copper IUD) in the past had helped to level my hormones – so we started with that. After about a month, it wasn’t getting better, so I called and asked for my birth control dosage to be upped. Thought process being – in the past, it seemed when my estrogen levels were higher, the better I typically felt. Well – that didn’t work how we thought it would. With upping the birth control dosage, the anxiety maybe got a tiny bit better and only came maybe 2-3x/month vs 3-5x – but all of a sudden I got my period and it didn’t stop for three months. THREE MONTHS. I’m not exaggerating. I had my period from the beginning of October until after Christmas. I called into the OB and they said it was normal since I’d switched birth control so many times and that it should level out after 3 months. Cool, cool cool.

This was not sustainable. Waiting 2-3 months for a psychologist appointment and also waiting 3 months for my period to stop…felt like a huge waste of time. I’d had enough. I began researching and trying to figure out what I could do to take back some control over my anxiety and overall health / hormone regulation. Since I have a copper IUD in and it’s good for 10 years, I really didn’t want to have to take hormones if I didn’t have to, and I wanted my body to try and get back to some normalcy after being pregnant or postpartum for the past 3.5 years. I started listening to tons of wellness podcasts and the same things kept coming up as recommendations – stop drinking alcohol, set a bedtime routine, meditate, get daily movement in, and prioritize sleep.

In the past, I would hear things like this and just sort of go “yeah yeah yeah” in my mind and look for an “easier” fix, or at least a fix that fit my lifestyle. Since I don’t have a drinking “problem” – and enjoying a nice glass of wine was such a “normal” part of my social life – cutting it didn’t seem necessary or realistic. As far as meditating goes, I could also never relax or turn my brain off to actually meditate, so even though I would hear about it’s benefits and most of the people I admire who are successful in business and life would sing it’s praises – I didn’t think that it would help me that much. However – the more I’d listen to these podcasts and hear about how doing these things would help alleviate stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms – I finally concluded that I needed to at least try to make some changes.

I started by giving myself a bedtime routine that pretty much mirrored my kids’ routines. Prior to this – we’d do dinner, baths, bedtime for the kids – which would be done around 7:30. Then dinner cleanup, and work on COO BABY, MFM, or watch tv until I fell asleep on the couch. Then I’d roll into bed around 11pm – where it would be hard for me to fall back asleep, and I’d toss and turn or watch a show on my iPad if I couldn’t turn my brain off. Some nights I wouldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, and I’d wake up several times and find it hard to fall back asleep. No wonder I was having problems! Now, when I actually think about it – I was not setting my body or my brain up for success.

The new routine I implemented looks like this: Same bedtime routines for the kids, then work or tv – depending on the day. Then around 8:30 or 9 (but never later than 9:30) I go up to my room and run a hot bath. I take my vitamins, turn off all overhead lights and turn on a dim lamp, a Himalayan salt lamp, and either a meditation or a wellness podcast. I take a 15-20 minute bath while I listen to whatever I have playing, wash my face in the bath (slowly and deliberately – sounds funny but I really look forward to it), and then I get out, put my pajamas on, brush my teeth, and get into bed. From there, some nights I journal about the day, but most nights I read a fiction book on my new kindle to avoid as much blue light as possible. I usually fall asleep by 9:45-10:15 at the very latest, and we wake up between 6:30-7:30am (depending on the kids).

Having this routine has drastically improved my daily life. It grounds me, ensures I take “me time” every single day, and helps my body get into the routine and mindset of going to sleep. Just like the kids need consistency and predictability in order to have healthy sleep habits — so do I.

To circle back to the journaling part. I probably only do this now once a week, but I started out doing it every night or every other night. It started as a way for me to track and evaluate what activities I was doing in any given day and see if there were any patterns that drove the anxiety days. At first it wasn’t really your typical “journaling” – where you chronicle what happened in the day. I would literally write down – how my diet was, did I get steps in, did I meditate, what time did I go to sleep and how much sleep did I get the night before, did I do the full bedtime routine, did I cook dinner or eat out, did I see friends that day, was work stressful, did I drink alcohol, and what types of feelings I was having. After being pretty consistent with that – I was able to go back and identify certain patterns that perhaps weren’t causing anxiety — but they certainly weren’t helping cure the anxiety. The major things I noticed were that the nights and the 1-2 days after drinking any sort of alcohol – I would usually get the anxiety and insomnia. I noticed that on the days I meditated, got my steps in, did the full bedtime routine, cooked dinner for my family (I actually really love to cook), were the days that I felt the most relief and at ease. The cooking dinner was a big surprise for me- because even though I considered it a hobby – I didn’t think it was improving my mood – but I was wrong!

The most glaring truth that I found in that journaling though – was the alcohol piece. I couldn’t ignore it. It was not helping me feel better, and I feared it was in fact, making things much worse. I should also note here – after having kids, it seems I developed a mild allergy to most alcohol. I typically will get swollen and stuffed up pretty instantaneously after I drink anything with alcohol in it. So – those (what I thought were mild) side effects in combination with the anxiety was finally enough to make me think “I need to try cutting it and see if it improves anything…”

I decided that starting November 1, I would cut back significantly – at least until Thanksgiving celebrations began. If I decided I wanted to have a few glasses of wine on Thanksgiving or during a Friendsgiving party, I would on those days. Otherwise it was cut out completely for all dinners, nights out with friends or family, etc. until I came to some sort of resolution.

At first, nothing happened. I usually only drink socially on weekends, so cutting it out for that first week didn’t make much of an impact. I would say after 2 weeks – I started noticing a difference in how I felt. I didn’t feel bloated, swollen, and my sleep was getting better and better each night. I was finally able to fall asleep fairly easily – and then most importantly stay asleep. That first month I still had a couple of anxious days/nights, but I noticed it was always after I would have some form of alcohol. I only had 2-3 glasses of wine in a 6-7 hour timeframe during a Friendsgiving celebration – but slept horribly that night. I then had one glass of really good red wine on actual Thanksgiving – and again was tossing and turning all night. That was when I really started to realize how much it affects my sleep…and therefore my life.

December was similar to November – I cut it for almost everything. I had less than a handful of drinks throughout our entire 7 day Cabo vacation. I didn’t have any on Christmas Eve / Day but I did enjoy champagne and wine at a Christmas party with friends and then celebrated New Years Eve without restricting myself. We stayed in and had a couple of friends with their kids over- so it wasn’t a wild NYE by any means, but it was more than I’d been used to drinking for the past two months. Same story – slept terribly, anxiety came roaring in for the next few days – and I started to really believe that it may be something I need to stop completely to alleviate the anxiety for good.

It’s now February 1, and I haven’t had anything at all since NYE. I also haven’t had even one bout of anxiety since the day or two after NYE. It’s truly unbelievable. I feel so much more in control of my thoughts, emotions, and overall wellbeing. I am a better mother, friend, and wife. I don’t feel so lethargic on weekends, I have more energy to engage with the kids, and I probably lost a good five pounds from cutting alcohol alone.

I also stopped taking the hormonal birth control at the end of December. The three month period that was still happening had me at a breaking point that I needed to make a change, and I finally felt confident that I was in a place where I was doing everything I could from a health and wellness standpoint to regulate my hormones and wanted to see what would happen if I got off of it. Now that I was doing all of the things that they say can truly make a difference – what would that actual difference be? Well – so far my period has totally regulated – thank God – and I just feel normal / centered. I don’t know that I’ll never drink again – but that’s not what this about. It’s about getting my anxiety and wellness into a positive state and keeping it there, so we’ll see where this road takes me in the future!

I can’t point to only one thing being the game changer – I truly think it’s been a combination of taking these small and big lifestyle habits – changing up my routines — being more thoughtful and intuitive with how I treat myself that’s made all the difference.

 

My favorite wellness podcasts:

My favorite meditation apps:

  • Superhuman – this has changed my life (created by Mimi from the above podcast list)
  • Peloton

 

Cutting Alcohol & Other Wellness Habits that Have LITERALLY Changed My Life

 

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Cutting Alcohol & Other Wellness Habits that Have LITERALLY Changed My Life

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