Episode 98 Summary

  • Dr Ali Young- Dr Ali Young is an experienced Australian chiropractor who after 12 years of practice moved overseas and had a child. She found that motherhood was not everything that she thought it would be. After visiting Australia for a short period and then spending two years in South Korea with her two children, she returned to Australia to set up a large new practice which she loved, but she hit “burnout” very quickly.
  • At the age of 40- Dr Ali Young began to develop a variety of mysterious and worrying symptoms, She was gaining weight, experiencing paresthesia, had rashes and her moods were altered. She sought medical help. She discovered that her cortisol levels were extremely low and that she had a Dientamoeba fragilis infection. She had adrenal exhaustion, also known as burnout, something that is increasingly common in health care workers and mothers.
  • Our immune function can be impacted- Overwork, emotional and physical stressors, lack of nutrition and lack of sleep can all be very hard on our physiology and allow commensal or otherwise harmless pathogens to cause harmful infections.
  • Dr Ali worked with a functional nutritionist and her GP to recover- She learned to make changes and slow down on her exercise and focus on her breath. She was able to lose the weight she had gained and improve her health. She now notices that any time her stress begins to build up she will start to put weight back on again and this is a valuable warning sign for her.
  • Caffeine and adrenal exhaustion- Dr Ali Young found that caffeine worsened her symptoms, and that the claims about high caffeine energy drinks that they will “give you energy” may be misleading and they can be detrimental to health.
  • Dr Ali’s first book- Work.Mama.Life explores the realities of motherhood and guides other mother’s to seek ease and health in their own lives in order to recover from or avoid burnout.
  • The “Perfect Mother Myth”- The perfect mother myth is a series of unrealistic expectations engineered by the patriarchy to allow men to return to their jobs that had been filled by women during the second world war. Unfortunately this myth and the expectations that come with it are being perpetuated by women themselves. Mothers need to prioritise their health and “keep their children safe and alive” in a realistic way. It is healthy to let go of the expectation that they be “perfect” or “Supermums”. 
  • It is helpful for Mothers to listen to and honour their own needs - Assess each morning what it is that will benefit you the most on this day. Do you need to rest or is today a day to work hard? 
  • Dr Ali Young Runs a course called "The Working Mama Reset”- It is an eight week program in which she supports mothers as they learn to honour their intuition and inner voice and work to break down the unrealistic expectations of perfection in motherhood. She teaches about proper self care and what that looks like. She helps working mothers to recover from or protect themselves from burnout and adrenal exhaustion.


Meet Dr Ali Young

Dr Ali Young is a highly educated chiropractor with more than 19 years of experience in her field, both practicing and teaching others.

Through her life experiences, Dr Ali Young has developed a passion for working with and supporting other mothers. She has shone a bright light on the true realities of motherhood and how they can impact on us. She is a fierce advocate against the unhelpful phenomenon of mother's guilt and has written a book, Work.Mama.Life. Dr Ali Young runs the Working Mama Reset program to help others who may be struggling with stress unrealistic expectations of society or be at risk of burnout.  

Find Dr Ali: https://www.draliyoung.com

Dr Ali’s Program:  https://www.draliyoung.com/mamareset

Work.Mama.Life. Book: https://www.booktopia.com.au/work-mama-life--ali-young/book/9780730396567.html

Show notes:

Motherhood and burnout

Dr Mary Barson: (0:11)  Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr. Mary Barson.


Dr Lucy Burns: (0:15)  And I'm Dr. Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. Good morning, lovely listeners. It's Dr. Lucy here, as you all know. And you will know that I love, love, love, love bringing you, really fabulous guests.  I have a beautiful guest with me this morning. Her name is Dr. Ali Young and what she loves to talk about, and what I think will be really helpful for you is her story on burnout, motherhood, and basically all the things. So Ali, welcome to the podcast.


Dr Ali Young: (0:53)  Thanks for having me, Lucy, I really appreciate the opportunity to come on and chat about all the things and the journey and how we've both ended up here.


Dr Lucy Burns: (1:04) Absolutely. We spend time making sure that the guests that we have on are going to be helpful to our listeners, because at the end of the day, we all know that people are giving up their time to listen to us. And so lovely listeners, I'm always extremely grateful for the time that you put in listening to our podcast. But Ali, what I'd love to know from you - and we talked a little bit about this off air - if you could just give us a little bit of background about you. Like all of us - and you're a healthcare professional as well - there is this turning point in our lives where we have what I often called the epiphany, the awakening and realising that what we do isn't helping us anymore. So I'd love you to explain a bit about that for our listeners. Yeah, absolutely.


Dr Ali Young: (1:47)  So we had a really interesting family life where I got married after being in practice. I'm a chiropractor for 12 years and then moved overseas and had a child, and motherhood was not what I thought it would be, at all. We came back to Australia and lived here for a little while and had a very tiny at-home clinic. Then we moved to South Korea for a couple of years with two kids and again, couldn't practice so just got to hang out and be Mum and that did send me a little crazy. And then we came back to Australia and I started a big new practice and it has been brilliant. But I hit burnout and I hit burnout very hard. 


(2:29) I turned 40 in October and by January, I got an innocuous bump to my chin. So a little bump by my kid, you know those vigorous hugs where they jump up into your lap. And it shifted and I was like, “Oh, I just need to go and get an adjustment”. Chiropractor mindset. “Just gotta get an adjustment to get this sorted out here,” because it had made my face a bit tingly. And I was like, “That's what it'll be”. It didn't go away. I was like, “Ah, interesting”. I then started gaining weight and within three months I had gained 10 kilograms. I also had altered sleep. I was a grouchy mum, my face developed butterfly rashes. I thought I had a pituitary tumour. Then this started to really change. The paraesthesia spread over my whole face and then I thought I had a weird form of MS occurring.


Dr Lucy Burns: (3:22) Scary! 


Dr Ali Young: (3:23) Yeah! So I went to my GP and lost my… do we swear on your podcast? Probably. 


Dr Lucy Burns: (3:28) Yeah, no, we can. 

Dr Ali Young: (3:30) I lost my shit, obviously, because I was like, “I know too much! This is very bad.” And, we did all the tests, and we found out my cortisol had bottomed. Like it was flatlined. I was still functioning, still working, supposedly and all those things and still gaining weight. Then we did lots more testing and discovered I had a really nasty parasite that I've probably picked up from dodgy water here. I'm guessing. Dientamoeba fragilis. Not my friend! And yeah… 


Dr Lucy Burns: (3:58) Or Korea. 


Dr Ali Young: (3:59) Yeah, maybe Korea, but I'd been home for a couple of years by then. So I would have thought he would have reared his parasitic…


Dr Lucy Burns: (4:08) Maybe, although interestingly, it may have been that thing that we will have sometimes ‘commensals’. So things that just live there. And it's not until our immune function decreases with overwork, stress, yada, yada, that it gets an opportunity to go “Oh, I'm going to mischief here.”


Dr Ali Young: (4:25) This is going to be interesting! 


Dr Lucy Burns: (4:27) Yeah, yeah! So it may have been a combo of both, but again, I'm just supposing.  


Dr Ali Young: (4:31)  Yeah, it definitely could have been and yes, I started on the journey of healing all those things. So then I did a lot of work around breath and I did a lot of work around slowing down and purposely changing how I worked and how I lived. I was a very heavy exerciser and still gaining weight. Like lots of HIIT workouts and stuff and my adrenals just couldn't handle that. They were super smashed by it, so I had to go back to slow. Then I saw a functional nutritionist in Melbourne and she did DNA testing as well. So we combined that with my GP and I lost the 10 kilos, which was brilliant. And it's been pretty good, but interestingly, I'm so acutely aware now of when I do too much, because the first thing I noticed is that my body starts to store a bit more fat and my adrenals can't deal with caffeine at all.


Dr Lucy Burns: (5:24) Ah, interesting, interesting. And it's so interesting, because when we're, I guess overworked and just in that constant stress level, we're often looking for extra energy, and people will go to caffeine. And in particular, I see a lot of people using energy drinks. It's not their fault. They're marketed to be that. You know, Red Bull gives you wings and all of those things! You think, “Yeah, I need a few wings. Gonna get some of that”. And it's just, yeah…


Dr Ali Young: (5:53) Highly detrimental to our health. What bothers me is when I'm driving to work, and I see the high school kids buying their two cans of V or Mother and putting it in their school bag to take to school that really gets my goat.


Dr Lucy Burns: (6:07) Yeah, like me, and again, what it'll be is that there'll be a special on offer that you get two, you buy one, you get the second one for an extra 50 cents. So it feels like good value. So yeah, it is, it's just wicked. Wicked! Predatory marketing to children.


Dr Ali Young: (6:22)  It is! It's horrible. And so after that, I realised that I wasn't alone in that, and that burnout was a real thing. And I never thought I'd get burnt out because I was always the ‘Energizer Bunny person’ and I always just could keep on going and do all the things. So I decided to write a book about it.


Dr Lucy Burns: (6:43) Wow, awesome! What's the name of your book?


Dr Ali Young: (6:46)  So it's called Work Mama Life. And it's written for working mums about how to beat the burnout and find that joy and health again and rediscover the fun in their world and whilst doing that rediscover their health as well.


Dr Lucy Burns: (6:59) Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's really interesting because burnout; burnout, is a newish phrase. Adrenal Fatigue has been in the alternate health space for quite some time and traditional medical people will poopoo it, but in fact, adrenal fatigue is just burnout by a different name. It's just the same. It's this constant, low level, chronic,  and chronic - remember, listeners - just means long standing. It's a chronicity, it's time, chronic low level stress without closing the loop.


Dr Ali Young: (7:32)  Yes. Yeah. There's no end to that stress.


Dr Lucy Burns: (7:35) No. Humans are meant to deal with stress, we're very good at it, we should be able to. We're meant to deal with high stress and then close the loop. But if we don't close the loop, Then as you said, your adrenal glands are just constantly making levels of cortisol, as well as adrenaline, noradrenaline, etc. And never getting that time to close the loop.


Dr Ali Young: (7:55)   Yeah, and I think the last two years, particularly for mums who've had to navigate work, working from home, home educating their children, has created a level of non-closing of the loops that is significant. We're seeing so many more mums with lowered thresholds because that bracket of ability to deal with the stress is already lapping the top so one tiny thing pushes them over. So we're seeing mums having anger which feeds into mum guilt, which feeds into trying harder to please everybody, which decreases the loading in their system and away we go.


Dr Lucy Burns: (8:34) Yes, yes. It's such a wicked cycle, isn't it and that mum guilt, mom guilt is massive. Tell us a bit about that. 


Dr Ali Young: (8:43)  Mum guilt, I think comes from patriarchy, I am a silent, not a silent at all actually, a relatively loud raging feminist. And I… 


Dr Lucy Burns: (8:52) Me too!


Dr Ali Young: (8:54) I knew we liked each other for a reason, The mum guilt cycle is from this ‘perfect mother myth’. So we have this understanding, and in the studies I've done with Dr. Sophie Brock, who's a motherhood studies practitioner, she was telling us about how in the end of World War Two, all of the women had gone to do the male jobs. And this is particular to Australia, and other Western nations. So they've gone to do the male jobs and the men came home from war, and they wanted their jobs back. So the government actually created these education and marketing campaigns, that the women's role is best at home, so that the men could get their jobs back. And that's where we started that cycle: ‘Women are good if they stay at home and bad if they choose to go to work’. And along with all of the other things that go with that, ‘You're good if you home cook your food, you're bad if you get someone else to cook the food for you’. ‘You're good if you drive your kids to school and pick them up every day you're bad if they go on a school bus’, you know.


Dr Lucy Burns: (9:57) Yes. Oh my god! I so remember that, and I remember in my head even a specific thing, ‘I'm good if I wash my own cloth nappies, I'm bad if I use disposable nappies.’


Dr Ali Young: (10:08)  Yes, that was so big. So, so big. ‘I'm good if my kids are eating purees from organic food, but I'm bad if sometimes when I'm really busy, they have an organic puree squeezy pack.’


Dr Lucy Burns: (10:20) Yes, absolutely. Yes. And the judgement is interesting isn’t it? Because it can be other women. It's other women that can do the judging and ourselves, often. If we think about it, I mean, I don't know that many blokes would give a shit if you feed your kid organic, home cooked pumpkin mash versus something from a jar.


Dr Ali Young: (10:40) No, they're not going to give two hoots! My husband was only concerned that the kid got what they needed. Are they getting fed? Is it food that's good for them? Great. Keep feeding them that.


Dr Lucy Burns: (10:52) Yes, yeah, yes. Yeah. It's interesting, isn't it? That it's that myth that started from patriarchy, but then, in some ways is perpetuated by matriarchy?


Dr Ali Young: (11:01)  Yeah, absolutely. And I think it really hits home around birth choices, because there is so much and where I live, we're lacking obstetricians at the moment. So there is actually no choice except to give birth in the public system unless you choose to go and live for three weeks around your delivery near the private hospital. But back then it was birth choices. Are you going to get an elective caesarean? Are you going to do this? Are you going to do that? That birth plan and how that played out for you and the guilt when it didn't go to plan? Because you'd ‘failed as a mum’, that first step, you already had failed. That begins that cycle.


Dr Lucy Burns: (11:39)  Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, we talked a little bit off air about the idea of not having too much attachment to the outcomes in all aspects of motherhood, because that's when we have unmet expectations. That's what drives our stress and our guilt.


Dr Ali Young: (11:57)  Yes, absolutely. Being able to know the things that matter and the things that don't. The glass ball analogy. You've got your glass balls, and you've got your plastic balls, and the glass ones are the things you've got to keep up and the plastic balls, if you can juggle those as well, that's wonderful, but if they fall to the floor, it's okay. You can just pick them up later. But don't drop the glass balls. And pretty much, that's ‘keep the kids alive’. ‘Look after your own health’.


Dr Lucy Burns: (12:26)  Yes, absolutely. That's wonderful. I love that. And for a lot of women, I think women are high achievers, like even, you know, people that feel like they're not high achievers, because, you know, they're not the managing director of a corporate company or something. Most of us are really high achieving. We talk a lot about language and I'll often say to women because they'll go, “I'm just feeling a bit lazy today”. Okay, you're not lazy. You're the least lazy person I ever knew. Yeah, what you're looking for is to try and create some ease in your complex life. Ease is not lazy.


Dr Ali Young: (13:00)  No. Ease is  just honouring that in a cycle that we as women have seasons, and that sometimes we can go and sometimes we need to,  ‘Ahhhh’ which is okay. A few weeks ago - and this was very out of character for me - I came home and it was a rainy day here. I live in central Queensland, so we don't get lots of those in wintertime. And the kids, all the sport was cancelled, so we had a free afternoon. And all they wanted to do was eat popcorn on the couch watching a movie. I was like, “Go for it.” and I’m going to run a bath and put all the salts and the salt lamp and the candles and read a book. And I felt lazy initially. And then it was that mindset shift. No, Ali, this is your body just taking that time and nurturing your soul and having that deep breath, which was so good.


Dr Lucy Burns: (13:47)  Yes, absolutely. What I love about you is that you have the same sort of philosophy as we do that this is all about nourishing and nurturing your body and your mind as a woman as a mum. Look, even as a bloke, looking after yourself is loving and nurturing. It's not punitive and punishing.


Dr Ali Young: (14:06)  Yes. And I call it perfectly selfish motherhood. Because to have our best motherhood, we have to learn how to be perfectly selfish for ourselves first, and fill our own cup. And what that looks like for each of us is different. It's not a prescribed thing. I can't go and tell everyone you need to go and walk for 30 minutes in nature, lift some heavy weights, drink three litres of water because for one person that will work and for another person that will actually feel like a punishment. Their nurturing and their being perfectly selfish will be a cup of tea and a book in a quiet room. And I think the identification that self care doesn't have to be expensive and it doesn't have to be leaving for long periods of time. It can be these pockets of time that these micro moments that we can create, which give that ease back into our system and signal safety to our brain so that our brain goes “Ah I'm going to come back down out of fright flight, and I'm gonna sit back in this parasympathetic window a little bit longer”. That's where the magic happens.


Dr Lucy Burns: (15:08)  I couldn't agree more. I totally love that. I think it's so interesting, isn't it?  The idea of self care. And again, for some people it might be reading a book, but sometimes self care is actually also making some tough choices. And sometimes, you know, you've got decisions. And I think about this, maybe last year, Dr. Mary, and I were going to a dinner with a bunch of women, and it was gonna be fun. We were all looking forward to it. But she had a lot of stuff going on. And she actually made the decision not to go, which was really hard for her because she wanted to go, it wasn't that she didn't want to go, but she just recognised that driving into town, staying out late, was not going to serve her well, at that moment in time. So, I think sometimes we get misled into the idea too, that self care is just easy. And sometimes it's actually making some really hard calls to do what is best for you.


Dr Ali Young: (16:06)  Yeah. And learning how to listen to that. I think as mothers were told, often, that we don't know how to do this. So let's ask an expert. Let's ask an expert. Let's ask an expert. And there is a time and a place for that, 100%. But we need to also honour our mother's intuition and our self voice, and know how to listen to that. And in my course, I teach mums how to actually stop and ask that first question of the day, “What do I need today?” Before you get out of bed, you don't have to write it on paper, take a moment, take a breath, ‘What do I need today?” And just don't judge yourself for what comes up. It might be that you need to do nothing. And it might be that no, today is  get shit done day, and I am going to do the things. Yeah. And and it's about honouring that inner voice as well. Yeah.


Dr Lucy Burns: (16:57)  Yeah, absolutely. And knowing that it doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, it can't be perfect.


Dr Ali Young: (17:05)  No. Because who defines perfect anyway? 


Dr Lucy Burns (17:09)  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly that. And I think, you know, there are always days you're going to have it where some days you feel like you've nailed it. And some days you haven't. But that's also normal.


Dr Ali Young: (17:19)  Yeah, that's a very normal part of human existence.


Dr Lucy Burns: (17:23)  Yeah. But on the days where we feel like we haven't nailed it, we will often beat up on ourselves and go uhh, you know? 


Dr Ali Young: (17:27) Yeah.


Dr Lucy Burns: (17:29) just recognising that that's also very normal. 


Dr Ali Young: (17:32) Yes, absolutely. 


Dr Lucy Burns: (17:34) So gorgeous. Tell us a bit about your course. What is that about?


Dr Ali Young: (17:37)  Yeah, so I have a course called the Working Mama Reset . And it's for working mums, and it's an eight week program. And we step through the definition of perfect motherhood and break down that understanding. And then we move into neurology. It's not too heavy, but I really want to give mums an understanding of how their brain works, how the stress response works, and how we can sort of hack that. The different indicators that we can use, and then we start exploring my five pillars of healthy motherhood, which is in my book. So it's nourishment, movement, thinking and calm, sleep and connection time. And then we wrap it all up at the end. And it's a beautiful course, there’s online videos, and there's also weekly live Q&As that go with that as well. 


Dr Lucy Burns: (18:19) Yeah, yeah. I totally love that. I love it. And I think these are really the foundations of good health. And it's so interesting, because, again, there'll be people out there selling potions. Pills and potions and magic fixes to women, because we're overwhelmed. And we'll be thinking, ‘Oh, this will be a shortcut’, but it's not not. 


Dr Ali Young: (19:42) There's no shortcuts. 


Dr Lucy Burns: (18:44) Yeah, doing that foundational work and nailing that, you don't then need to buy the rubbish. You can just get your foundations right. And then that's 95% of the job done.


Dr Ali Young: (18:57)  Yeah, exactly. Right. And it's beautiful, watching women realise they have actually got control and power that lives within them. And they just needed someone to encourage them about owning that and owning the choices that they’re making as well.


Dr Lucy Burns: (19:11) Yeah, absolutely. And we often talk about the fact that conditioning beliefs, so beliefs are conditioned for us in our brain for decades. So, people will sometimes again beat up on themselves by thinking, ‘Well, I should know this’. But why should you when you've been told for years and years and years that you're not a good enough mom or you're not perfect enough or you have to do it this way. Or you have to be able to do all the things and be a Supermum.


Dr Ali Young: (19:42)  Yeah. And the Supermum concept is really not okay. I called the mums who enter my course ‘supermoms’, I actually run them and it's from irony. So this is the thing that I use and I put it up so that I can visualise them daily, but it’s because I know that we are all super moms and it's not that there is one person that does things well. And I think social media has had such a big part in that. I mean, for us, it's how we can reach a broader audience and hopefully help change the lives of women. But it also has so much Insta perfect bullshit that we really need to… I love to show the realities. I often post photos of my washing pile and my full sink and all of those sorts of things because I think it's important to say ‘Hey, I look like I have it all together. But no, look, I don't wash my dishes every day’.


Dr Lucy Burns: (20:33)  No, yeah, absolutely. Gorgeous Ali, This has been delightful. I think that you're a beautiful human and helping women. Women raising women is what we're all about. So, lovely listeners, we will link in the show notes to Ali's course. I would highly encourage you to buy her book, Work Mama Life. And there's lots, lots and lots of valuable information in that. So go and to quote Molly Meldrum for our Australian listeners, ‘do yourself a favour and check it out’.


Dr Ali Young: (21:06)  He used to say that didn't he? 


Dr Lucy Burns: (21:10) He did. He did. Until next week, my beautifuls I will see you then.


Dr Lucy Burns: (21:19) so my lovely listeners that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr. Lucy Burns,


Dr Mary Barson: (21:27) and I'm Dr. Mary Barson.  We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit https://www.rlmedicine.com


Dr Lucy Burns: (21:38) And until next time, thanks for listening. The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss Podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.


Find Dr Ali Young
DISCLAIMER: This Podcast and any information, advice, opinions or statements within it do not constitute medical, health care or other professional advice, and are provided for general information purposes only. All care is taken in the preparation of the information in this Podcast.  Real Life Medicine does not make any representations or give any warranties about its accuracy, reliability, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose. This Podcast and any information, advice, opinions or statements within it are not to be used as a substitute for professional medical, psychology, psychiatric or other mental health care. Real Life Medicine recommends you seek  the advice of your doctor or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Inform your doctor of any changes you may make to your lifestyle and discuss these with your doctor. Do not disregard medical advice or delay visiting a medical professional because of something you hear in this Podcast. To the extent permissible by law Real Life Medicine will not be liable for any expenses, losses, damages (including indirect or consequential damages) or costs which might be incurred as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way and for any reason. No part of this Podcast can be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form without the prior permission of Real Life Medicine.