Episode 13: Fatigue and Burnout with Naturopath Pam Hird
Stress, fatigue and burnout sit alongside modern day busy life for many women. In today’s episode, I’m really excited to speak with naturopath Pam Hird, who has a special interest in prevention and treatment of women experiencing burnout and was my personal “go to”, years ago and was an integral part of my recovery from adrenal fatigue.
Pam breaks down simple steps we can take to slow down, bring ourselves back to a state of calm and I LOVE her key message – be gentle with yourself.
In this episode we talk about:
Some of Pam’s top tips which we dive in todays episode are:
- Slow down, we need to bring ourselves back to a state of calm
- Check in with the quality of your sleep
- Pinpoint where the stress is coming from
- Key things to check with your diet
- The importance of letting go of perfection.
Links and resources:
Pam Hird is a naturopath based in Brighton, Brisbane.
You can learn more about Pam here:
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Kylie: Hello everyone. And welcome back to the hormone hub. It’s Kylie here and today I am very excited to have a special guest, a good friend of mine and colleague Pam Hird. [00:01:00] So Pam’s a naturopath. She has the Pam Hird Naturopathy clinic in Brighton. I’ve probably got that wrong in Brighton, in Brisbane. And yeah, so Pam and I have worked together before.
So Pam was actually the beautiful clinician who plucked me out of burnout, you know, way back in the day. And Pam really specializes in, you know, that stress, fatigue, burnout, that a lot of women go through. So I’ve been there. I know lots of you are there now. And you know, this is really something that we want to talk to you. What are the warning signs? What do we need to look out for? And then what do we need to do as well? So welcome Pam.
Pam: Thanks very much for having me.
Kylie: Absolute pleasure. Absolute pleasure. So Pam, tell us what sort of women, you know, do you see in your clinic? What are they [00:02:00] coming in with?
Pam: Yeah. So I see a lot women with stress and fatigue concerns, and majority of them actually come in and think, oh, my hormones are out of whack, you know, your sex hormones. And I go, ah, that’s actually not what’s causing your problem right now, and then obviously explain the stress response to them and how our adrenals function.
And then they go, oh, That makes a lot of sense now.
Kylie: Yeah. And would you like to just jump in and, you know, explain that to us, how it works?
Pam: Yeah. So when we lead a busy lifestyle or we have a stressful event in our lives, What happens is, our adrenal glands. So they sit on top of the kidneys and they secrete cortisol.
So cortisol is our main stress hormone. So when we are stressed, lots of cortisol will be released from the body. And then over time, if we’re sitting in that busy-ness or that stressful period, our body can’t sustain sitting in that high cortisol. So then you can start to notice that you get a little [00:03:00] bit tired, maybe your sleep’s disrupted, you know, you start to gain a little bit of weight.
Your mood goes a bit all over the shop. Irritable and agitated. And you know, it can throw out your digestion. I mean, there’s so many different symptoms that can actually happen for you when you are in that kind of state. So, you know, some people can sit in that state for months or years. Other people, it happens, you know, it goes through a lot quicker.
So it just really depends on the person and how well you can actually tolerate that amount of stress in your life.
Kylie: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And one thing that sort of, you know, blows me away because I have conversations with women every day about this is women have this extraordinary capacity to push through and, you know, deal with what we have to deal with.
And, you know, we, we talk about this a lot or, you know, we do all the things, you know, we’re exhausted, we’re tired, but we just keep going and then, you know, cause we need to lose weight. So we’re going to the gym. [00:04:00]
Pam: Yeah. So I think because particularly if you have a family we’re always the last one, so we don’t actually make ourselves a priority, we’re actually prioritising everybody else in our family, but not ourselves.
So it’s really coming back to, you know, making sure that you are eating breakfast and not just having a coffee and running out the door and dropping kids at school or racing to work, or, you know, first thing in the morning, going to the gym and hoping that you are going to lose that weight, but you’re actually doing your body a massive disservice by doing some of that stuff.
Kylie: Yeah. A hundred percent, hundred percent. And I, you know, that’s it, I’m too busy to eat breakfast. I don’t feel like breakfast. I haven’t eaten breakfast for 20 years. So one of the first things I get to, you know, these women to do. Okay. Breakfast within, you know, half an hour to an hour of waking up is a non-negotiable.
And it’s funny that, you know, a hundred percent of the time, everyone feels better afterwards.
Pam: Yeah, definitely. [00:05:00] You know, cause you go back to that whole stress response and you need food to help with that. Coffee actually is trying to stimulate your adrenal glands and make you produce all that cortisol and adrenaline.
So you’re actually putting more load onto the body. So, and we’re what we’re trying to do is take the load off. So that’s why we tell you to eat.
Kylie: Yes. A hundred percent. So it’s not just me. It’s Pam as well. And on the the exercise front, you know. Okay. So just so everybody knows, Pam knows what I’m going to say here. I, when I first met Pam, this sort of blew my mind. I got very excited and I’m very proud to know an ex Hockey Roo. So Pam played hockey for Australia. So at that high level of sport, and that sort of being that driven, you know, must train, must exercise.
You know, there’s a lot of women that I work with, okay. We’ve not all, you know, played sport for Australia. However, we are [00:06:00] kind of, you know, just driven and we we’ve got that drive because we’re used to pushing ourselves hard at the gym. We’re used to, you know, go hard, go home kind of mentality. So what’s your take on that?
Pam: So it really depends on where the person is sitting, but if the person is extremely exhausted, so this person is waking up tired, you know, they might feel okay around 10:00 AM and then come to like that 2:00 to 4:00 PM in the afternoon. They’re really slumping. I will tell them not to exercise because exercise is actually another form of stress.
Okay. So maybe I should rephrase that. I don’t tell them to stop exercising so they can do low impact. So if you were to do a nice gentle yoga, go for a gentle walk, you know, go for a bike ride with your kids. That’s okay. But anything high tensity where the, you can’t hold a conversation with the person next to you is out.
Kylie: Yeah. Yeah. Perfect. Perfect. And yes, I do recall you telling me to stop running.[00:07:00] You know, 10 K runs every morning was, was not the thing and you know what, I’ve never actually gone back to it. You know, I’ve done the odd little runs here and there, but I can actually now feel it in my body. I can feel that, stress response happening in my body when I run.
So for me, I know it’s, for me, it feels like butterflies. Or if I’ve had too much coffee, I get that jittery kind of feeling and I’m like, oh no, body’s not happy. So. Yeah, I’m sticking to it. That’s me done, done with the running.
Pam: I think like, I mean, I love exercise, right? And sometimes I even have to pull myself up because I do CrossFit.
I’ll put that out there. So I do a lot of high intensity exercise, but even for times with me in times of busy-ness or quite stressful periods, I actually pull back, in what I do too, because I know my body can’t handle it. And [00:08:00] for me, it’s the fatigue in the afternoon and the sugar.
Kylie: Yes. Yeah, definitely.
Yeah. I’m the same. So I, you know, the way I sort of work with clients is exactly what you said. I want you to move your body. Yeah, I really don’t care what you do, but if you know that high intensity exercise is going to leave you flatlined on the couch, or, you know, you madly scrambling for the carbs, the sugar, you know, just to pick yourself up.
We know that there’s a, that’s a little bit of a warning flag there, for sure.
Pam: Yeah, absolutely. So sometimes it’s, it’s not, it can be just a little bit of a mindset change as well, because you know, it’s very old school, the more, the harder you work, the more you burn. That’s not necessarily the case.
Right. So it’s more complex than that. So we need to get out of that old school kind of thinking, and also the fact that, you know, getting on the scales and that number is everything that it doesn’t define who you are. So I [00:09:00] think, you know, just changing that around as well is really important.
Kylie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely, definitely.
And that’s the thing and I think, you know, to, to reframe health, like it used to be, you know, eat less, move more, exercise, you know, all of that sort of stuff. Whereas now it’s sort of, you know, I really encourage clients to like, how do you feel within your body? You know, did that food that you just ate, did that make, does that make you feel light? Does that make you feel energized, nourished? Or do you feel really depleted and you’re scrounging for something else later on? And likewise with exercise, does it leave you flat line on the couch or does it leave you feeling okay?
Pam: So, yeah, so I had a conversation just to sideline a little bit about a lemon and maple diet that they’ve wanted to do.
So it’s a crazy fad diet where you drink lemon water and maple syrup right? Crazy diet. I know [00:10:00] right? No crazy diets.
Because it like, you know on the nutrition side of things. If you don’t actually fuel your body, right. It will make you feel a thousand times worse than what you were feeling right now. So.
Kylie: Yeah, absolutely. And that comes back to, you know, the whole, the energy levels is there’s so many women who just aren’t eating enough.
So, you know, we’re kind of got this mental 1200 calories to lose weight, but we just need more than that. Or, you know, for the love of all things carbs, can we just stop with the keto plans.
Pam: A hundred percent agree with you.
Kylie: It comes down, you know, the quality of the carbs ladies, not the, you know, not the actual carb itself, you know, there was one sort of chick I was sort of looking out on Instagram.
It did make me laugh, you know, because she’s sort of saying, oh, fruits so good for you, but you shouldn’t really eat it. So if you ferment it, it’s okay. And I’m [00:11:00] like, what? Can we just take the banana, please? She just made something so simple, you know, two or three pieces of fruit a day is fine.
You know, you’re getting your fiber, you’re getting your nutrients. You’re getting, you know, all your antioxidants, your polyphenols, like all your good stuff. You don’t need to make it more complicated than that. You don’t need to go and ferment your food to get rid of the sugar in your fruit. But yeah, I did laugh and I would just went okay, well, that’s a new one.
Pam: It’s like you say, it’s this perfect little package, but remembering as well that your stress response needs carbohydrates to help it function properly. So, you know, that’s why, when you, not only your stress response, but there’s other systems within the body as well. And I’m sure you can appreciate and have seen when people eliminate carbohydrates and do a keto, they lose their period.
Yeah. So you need carbohydrates for healthy period as well. So that, you know, there’s so many different things that [00:12:00] can actually go wrong when you start to just get rid of things all together. But yes, it also comes down to portion.
Kylie: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. Yes. We cannot, you know, drink the wine in the bottle and say, we’ve had grapes.
Pam and I were laughing about this before wine doesn’t count. But definitely, yeah. If particularly weight loss is a goal portions, you know, do matter. But one thing I’ve sort of noticed with carbs and energy and you know, that stress response is also the knock-on impact, particularly for ladies that I work with in their forties and fifties is the impact it has on thyroid too.
So, you know, and this is where you need those carbs to support your stress response and support your thyroid.
Pam: Yeah, absolutely. But the other thing is, is majority [00:13:00] women, particularly all over the world, aren’t getting enough protein. So I think, you know, making sure that we’re having a good quality protein and if you’re not a meat eater, then protein combining properly.
So in the sense of, you know, remembering that meat’s a complete protein and then you do need to combine either like lentils and rice to get a complete protein. In relation to that, cause a lot of people go, oh, I’m not going to eat meat. I’m like, well, that’s great. But then you have to be very organized in how you are going to get your nutrition throughout the day as well.
Kylie: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. And that’s it. You know, you can be healthy on a plant based diet but you do need to work a bit harder, be aware of where your protein’s coming from, but also, you know, where your iron is coming from, where your zinc’s coming from, where your B vitamins are coming from. So it’s, you know, women who are lacking in energy and low in energy are often also low in iron, zinc, B vitamins, you know, so [00:14:00] while your, you know, being on a plant-based diet might be a good idea and, you know, I’m sure Pam is with me when we say, you know, we should all be eating more plants hundred percent, but you know, you just do need to be a bit, work a bit harder and, you know, be a bit more mindful.
And I think that’s where, you know, the help of, seeing a nutritionist or a naturopath can a hundred percent help because yeah, you’d need to. You don’t just give up meat, you’ve got to, you know, know where you’re putting that back in.
Pam: Yeah. Particularly like it from that weight loss as well, you know, you need that protein to help keep you fuller for longer, stabilize your blood sugar levels, you know, all of that stuff and be a flow on effect to the energy, like you said.
So, yeah, it is really important to have a look at your diet.
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Kylie: So Pam, what would you say to our, our low fat ladies? So our skinny latte, ladies.
Pam: I would say, go back to full-fat purely because a, you’re stripping away different nutrients that the, fat has in it. Your fat soluble vitamins. And, also keeping in mind that there is a lot of sugar sometimes put into those low fat products to make them taste [00:16:00] better.
Kylie: Yeah. Yeah. So what sort of fats would you have our ladies look at?
Pam: So I would look at more of the good fats as opposed to like potentially dairy. Some people upset dairy, but yeah, thinking like avocado, olive oil, olives, like, you know, chia seeds, salmon, tuna. Add some of those fats into your diet, because remembering your brain’s really rich in DHA as well.
So you need that to help with your mood, memory, and weight too.
Kylie: So, absolutely. And the fats is what makes your hormones and transports your hormones through your body. So for, for you to be well and feel well, ladies, we need to eat well.
Pam: Yeah. I mean, fat is for every cell in the body. Isn’t it? So it’s really, really important.
Kylie: Yeah. The low fat industry has a lot to answer for and they should all hang their heads in shame for putting us through that for 20 years.
Pam: Really good marketing. It’s just like the five star [00:17:00] rating and that rubbish as well.
Kylie: I know, I know. So always read your labels, ladies. We want real food ingredients and we want to make sure, you know, if you’re reading the ingredients on something, if it’s got a five-star rating for the love of all things, turn it over, read the ingredients.
If it sounds like real food, it’s real food. If it sounds like a science experiment, it’s a science experiment.
All right, Pam. So, you know, for our stressed out, burnt out sort of ladies, let’s just recap. What are the, what are the top three things that you would recommend.
Pam: So the first thing that I’m getting them to do is to slow down. Yeah, it’s really important that we still don’t do that go, go, go lifestyle, and actually bring our body back into a calm state.
So, you know, doing that can vary from person to person. You might like to do yoga. You might like to do meditation. I mean, for me, my meditation is actually my [00:18:00] exercise where I go and completely clear my mind, lose count of how many I’m supposed to be doing and think, oh my God, is that 40 or 50? So. Yeah.
Any, anything along those lines.
Kylie: I’d go with 50 every time…
Pam: But yeah, anything that just helps you slow down. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And then the second thing that I would say is make sure you’re getting some good quality sleep. Yes. Sleep is extremely important for every single system in the body. I mean, it was used as a form of torture.
So, you know, sleep deprivation creates all kinds of problems for us. So we really want to be making sure that we go into bed before 10:00 PM, and then sleeping all through the night and then waking up feeling okay. I mean, you won’t to start off with, but we want to gradually get that, that better and you want to be consistent with that nighttime routine.
I understand sometimes it’d be thrown out, but your body does like to [00:19:00] go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time so we can try and have a solid routine there as well.
Kylie: Absolutely. And I know sleep’s a huge issue and that’s whole other podcast. I think actually that’s a great topic for next time.
Pam: Yeah. And then obviously you want to, there’s probably a couple of other things, like look at where the stress is coming from in your life, and look at trying to reduce that down. So maybe that falls back into the slowing down part, but then also you want to be looking at your diet too. So how much coffee you’re having, looking at, you know, your fruit and vegetables?
Good quality protein, good quality carbohydrates. Are you drinking enough water? All of the basic stuff that we want to make sure that we’re actually doing in relation to our diet, because it does. I mean, you eat shit, you feel shit, you eat better, you feel better. It’s pretty simple.
Kylie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. A hundred percent.
And that’s the thing. We all know what healthy eating looks like, but for whatever reason, you know, to actually do [00:20:00] it, you know, and once we get in the swing of doing it and we realize how good we feel. And I noticed with like my ladies and we might’ve taken them off bread, taking them off pasta, their bloating is better, their energy’s better.
And then sometimes they slide back into that and they notice straight away. So sometimes to check them back in and just go, oh yeah, that’s right. That’s why, I don’t eat those foods.
Pam: Yeah, yeah. With your diet, don’t over-complicate it like you’ve already said, right. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed with it.
So I always say when it comes to your diet, you know, if you’re struggling with changing a few things, just pick three, master those three, and then move on to the next.
Kylie: Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s really great advice. Okay. All right, Pam. So what I’ll do, I’m going to pop Pam’s details in the show notes. So if you are in the Brighton area, if you are, you know, around that area in Brisbane, you know, Pam is available for, consults.. And [00:21:00] she’s nodding. She’s going, yes, she is. So I’ll have Pam’s clinic details in the show notes for you. Any final words of wisdom?
Pam: Yeah, I think don’t aim for perfection, right? Like with anything, I think, you know, be kind to yourself when you’re going through this process, because it’s really easy to think about where you are right now and forget about how far you’ve come, you know, when you’re trying to change things. So yeah, just be gentle on yourself and it is a journey. So if things don’t move all at once, it’s okay. Just keep chipping away.
Kylie: Absolutely. Yep. That consistency over perfection every single time. Yeah. All right. Well, thanks so much, Pam. And yeah, we will have you back on the show.
Absolutely. Plenty more to talk about.