Answer me honestly how do you feel when you’re on your period? Is it a case that you feel awesome? Do you feel amazing? You feel just like you would at any other time of the month? Or is it more like you feel completely wiped out?
When you get to your period you most likely feel tired, drained and perhaps a little emotional. You kinda wish you didn’t have a million responsibilities. You kinda wish somebody else would just pick up the slack so you could go for a nap.
If this is you on your period, I want you to know that there’s nothing wrong with you. I want you to understand that your physical and emotional needs are different when you’re bleeding then when you’re not bleeding.
The Science Of The Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle can be split into two halves: the first half is all about building energy and the second half is all about winding down that energy. The first half of your cycle starts on day one of your period. I know what you’re thinking. I am not building any energy when I’m bleeding.
The thing is, the start of your period is like travelling at 0 mph. You haven’t got any energy. You’re starting from Ground Zero. Your energy is at the lowest point here.
As you move through the cycle your energy steadily increases until you get to ovulation. Ovulation is the opposite of menstruation. It is the peak of your energy. You can get shit done and not think twice about it.
When ovulation is over you move into the second half of your cycle. Your energy winds down again until you get back to menstruation where it again practically hits a zero point again. You can thank your hormones for these energy changes, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.
Are You Hormonal?
Your hormones control so many processes in your body. If you didn’t have hormones you wouldn’t know when to eat, you wouldn’t know when to go to sleep, you wouldn’t be able to function properly. So, I want you to know that hormones aren’t all bad
In fact, I don’t really think hormones are bad at all. I know often people with periods are are termed as being “hormonal” to mean irrational or unpredictable. But, if you want to talk about being “hormonal” that’s literally everyone all of the time.
If you want to suggest that being “hormonal” (with regard to your menstrual cycle) somehow makes you irrational or unpredictable, I’m going to say the exact opposite is true. I mean, you can ask a person where they are in their mental cycle right now and I’ll bet you could accurately predict how they are going to be feeling.
The idea that you are unpredictable and irrational because you have a menstrual cycle is simply not true. In fact, the menstrual cycle is so predictable that it’s actually the opposite. The way we use that phrase is actually a bit of an oxymoron.
I mean if hormones weren’t predictable and the cycle wasn’t predictable the start of this podcast would have made no sense to you. I said you probably feel tired, drained and emotional. I’m able to predict that about you because I understand the way the menstrual cycle works. It’s a pattern that crops up over and over again
How To Treat Tiredness On Your Period
Let’s talk about feeling drained and tired. For your body to start menstruating, your hormones take a huge dip. I don’t mean a gradual decline. I mean your hormone levels just drop off the edge of a cliff. This is what signals your body to start your period.
With that drop in hormones also comes fatigue and this tiredness. And that’s going to be the focus of this conversation today. I really want you to understand what to do about this tiredness and my biggest tip is probably not what you’re thinking.
I’m not about to start recommending vitamins, supplements, medications or dietary changes that you can implement to get rid of your fatigue. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the most powerful medicine you have against period fatigue is the most obvious and also the most overlooked solution.
I want to tell you this story real quick. I’m in a bunch of Facebook groups for people with periods to discuss the problems that come up, the experiences that they are having and to offer support to one another. There is one question I’ve seen pop up a fair few times. That question is “I get so tired during my period, what can I do about it”.
The answers that come up often look like: “take this vitamin”, “take this supplement”, “have you tried this diet”, “have you tried cutting out this food group”, “have you tried this medicine”. You know when you have an answer to a question that seems so obvious to you, but nobody else has even thought of it, and you end up questioning whether or not your answer has any validity? That was me.
Was I missing a trick because I wasn’t using some secret herbs or fancy formula to deal with my fatigue? Am I doing myself a disservice because I’m not taking pills or changing my diet? Well, I don’t actually think so.
As far as I’m concerned, the answer to tiredness is not about putting more things into your body. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing less.
I am a self-proclaimed drama free person. I just don’t do drama. I’ve learnt the best way to be happy in life is to simplify. I’m not the kind of person who lives a complex life. I like to keep things as simple as possible.
When I was confronted with all these special remedies to cure tiredness my mind immediately went “hold up, this doesn’t feel right”.
I want you to imagine that you’re hungry. Maybe you actually are hungry right now. Maybe you’re listening to this thinking “I haven’t eaten today”. This is your reminder. You’re hungry. What are you going to do?
Are you going to take a pill? Take a vitamin? Make some lifestyle changes in order that you don’t ever get hungry? Does that sound rational and reasonable? Or would you just eat something?
Why are you taking this approach? Why do you feel that when you’re tired, there’s something wrong with you>? You don’t do that with hunger or thirst. You don’t think “I’m really thirsty, there must be something wrong with me. I need fixing”. You think “I’m thirsty, I need a drink”
If you were to take that same stance with your tiredness, what would that look like? It wouldn’t look like being tired and trying to eliminate fatigue from your life. It would look like being tired, listening to your body and taking a rest.
It's Okay To Rest
This is something that had been a really big wake up call for me. I used to go through my period feeling horrendous. I’d be tired and sluggish but also not i never allowed myself to lean into those feelings. I would end up pushing through and feeling completely burn out
I would be ridiculously tired and I would still continue on as if I wasn’t. While this is entirely possible (I mean, I’ve done it and I’ll bet you have too) it is not exactly preferable. I feel like I’m not the only person who has ever had an emotional breakdown because they are exhausted but they still feel like they have so much to do.
In fact, recently I had a few days where I didn’t feel very well. It was completely unrelated to my period, but I didn’t feel well. Of course I still had responsibilities. I still had children – they didn’t just disappear. They still needed to be picked up from school. I was still trying to do all the things even though I really didn’t feel up to it. I ended up getting really angry and snappy with the kids. Not because they’d done anything wrong, just because I did not have the energy or the headspace to do all the things I was trying to do.
I’m not trying to say that your period should be treated as an illness. It is absolutely not an illness. But, what I am saying is that listening to your body and resting when you need to can be really beneficial. Instead of feeling exhausted and still trying to do all the things, have a think about what you can implement in your life to make things easier when you need to drop the ball.
Part of this really is about letting go of some pride. I have absolutely been there. I have felt like the person who needs to do all the things. You feel like you need to show up prim and proper, well dressed and super organised. I have pushed through my period fatigue to achieve all these things.
And, do you know what? Not once did it make me happy. Not once did I get to the end of a really difficult day and feel accomplished. What I felt was burnt out, tired and emotional.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to the idea of a big bleed that things change for me. I first learnt this from Claire Baker. The idea is that you prep in advance for your period and just take time out to bleed. You listen to your body’s needs and become really intentional about creating time to rest.
When I was first presented with this idea it was like a light bulb went off in my brain. It was like somebody had handed me a permission slip to give in to my tiredness. My brain was like “wait, it’s okay to rest?”.
I just thought that pushing on and doing more was the way to be successful and happy in life. It didn’t occur to me that by doing less I could feel more in control. It didn’t occur to me that rest was the medicine for tiredness.
The resting doesn’t have to look like doing nothing. Although if you can take this approach, I recommend it. There is nothing better than spending the first few days of your period curled up under a blanket, binge watching your favourite show on Netflix.
Do The Bare Minimum
That said, I know you still have responsibilities. I know you still have things that you need to get done. But, I also know you’re piling on way more than is entirely necessary.
When I’m bleeding, I make a promise to myself to do the Bare minimum. Sometimes my minimum is literally doing nothing. But more often than not, the minimum is doing some things.
I still have 2 kids to look after which means, yes, they’re going to want feeding. They’re going want to be played with. They’re gonna want taking to school. They’re going to want picking up from school too. My parental responsibilities don’t just diminish because I’m on my period and I don’t feel like adulting today.
With all that in mind, I have started to create a life for myself whereby I don’t have to do other things when I’m bleeding. I only have to do the bare minimum.
I’m going to say the same is true for you. You don’t have to do all the things that you’re telling yourself you have to do. Things like “I’m bleeding and I’m tired but the laundry really needs doing”. Does it though? Is anyone going to die if you bin off the laundry for a couple of days?
Better yet, if you know your cycle and you understand the way you’re likely to feel, can you prepare in advance for this? Can you do some extra laundry at ovulation when you have extra energy? If you can then that will free you up a little more time and space to let things slip while you’re bleeding.
I’m using laundry as an example, it might not be the laundry – it might be cooking. “I don’t have the energy to prepare myself a meal today”. Okay then, don’t. Grab something from the freezer, call in a takeaway or pick up a ready meal. Don’t feel like you have to be doing more all the time.
When you have the energy to cook yourself a fancy nutritious meal, you don’t have to. You can spend 3 hours in the kitchen preparing food when it feels good for you, but when you don’t have the energy, don’t feel like you have to. You do not have to be by consistent.
(in)Consistency Is Key
In fact, you’re not designed to be consistent like that. You’re designed to have these ebbs and flows in energy. Work with them. Come to understand where they come, where the energy rises and where the energy falls and work with that.
When you know where your peak energy point is, you can prepare in advance for that low energy point. You may not always need to because there are probably things on your to-do list that could wait, but knowing that you’ve worked a little harder during ovulation takes some of the guilt out of resting while you bleed.
Guilt is absolutely not a requirement by the way. Resting should be done without shame. You do not have to feel bad for listening to your body. You do not have to feel bad for needing a little more space and a little more time for rest. Guilt is not required.
Even if you didn’t put in some extra work or get super organised at ovulation, you’re still entitled to a rest while you bleed. You’re allowed to drop the ball. You can just pick it up again later. I would really encourage you to ask yourself about the things that you feel like you need to do. When you just don’t have the energy, question “how important is that need? Is it a life or death situation? Can it wait a few days?”
Your priority when you’re bleeding should be you. I don’t mean that in a dickheaded way like, “everybody should cater to my needs” because we know that’s not how the world works. But, be selfless some other time. If there is one point in your cycle that you should put yourself first, it should be it while you’re bleeding.
If you have a menstrual cycle, you are not linear. You have ebbs and flows of energy as you go through the cycle. You may have heard me talk about the cycle seasons, so you may be familiar with this basic structure of the cycle seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn). Winter is low energy, spring is rising energy, summer is high-energy and autumn is winding down energy.
The only way to know for sure what the cycle seasons look like for you is to track them. You might find you only have low energy for the first 2 days of your period. I know that to be true for me, but what’s true for you might be different from that. Tracking your cycle really is the key to understanding how you can best live your life.
If you understand how you’re likely to feel at certain points of the cycle, which as we already discussed it’s really beneficial, you can optimise your life in a way that compliments your cycle. When you work with your cycle you make your life easier, simpler and much less stressful.
So if you are interested in tracking your cycle and you don’t know where to start I have a few options for you. First of all I have a free cycle tracking worksheet which is available on my website at www.cherrelleslaney.co.uk/tracker. This one is for tracking your period and working out your cycles seasons. If you’re someone who wants to dive a little bit deeper than that I also have a digital tracking journal. This is for people who want to dive deeper Into understanding their cycle. I also have a cycle tracking workshop available in the website shop which is a full workshop on how to track your cycle, how to reduce stress, minimise PMS and have a better period. The link for the website shop is www.cherrelleslaney.co.uk/shop.