I’m blessed to attend college in the Northeast, where the seasons make themselves very known. Summer is hot and humid, fall is marked by the fiery orange and red leaves everywhere, winter is unmistakable as it seems the snow doesn’t leave for three or four months, and spring is announced by hundreds of flowering trees. Our lives used to clearly align with nature's cycles: in the past, our largely agrarian based communities would work long hours during the summer and fall harvests, and shorter hours once winter hit and the light started disappearing. However, modern life seems to look down on cycles. Professor Breanne Fahs makes this clear in her essay entitled “In Praise of Cycles”. Fahs, who teaches Women’s and Gender Studies and Sexuality Studies at the University of Arizona, argues our current unwillingness to engage in seasons of life and cycles is hurting us. She describes how the “monotony of the year-round 9-5 job with little vacation time and, more importantly, no cycles of work and play, creates the most havoc on people’s lives”. Work culture fails to acknowledge the cyclicality of human nature, instead asking for machine-like consistency in our working lives.
Periods offer a unique opportunity to get back in touch with our bodies natural cycles. Tuning in to what your hormones are doing, and working with instead of against them, can be valuable. Women often report feeling tired, low-energy, or unmotivated during their periods. You might not feel like going out on the town or squeezing yourself into a pair of pants, so just… don’t. Lean into this phase of your cycle and prioritize rest.
Cancel your optional plans and luxuriate in your free time. Take a warm bath (also helps with cramps!). In the break from your routine, make time for an afternoon siesta. I like to mix up my workout routine and swap a longer run or weight session with restorative yoga or yin yoga. It’s a great way to get really relaxed and move around a little bit. Honor that your body is not a machine- it’s unfair to ask it to work hard everyday. Give yourself permission to be unproductive (or just less productive) during this time.
One of my favorite ways to rest during my period is to declutter. As my uterus sheds its unneeded lining and it exits my body, I like to do the same with the other aspects of my life. My physical space is one prime area for getting rid of old stuff. I ask myself each month- what do I no longer need? I go through a different space each cycle; my bathroom, bedroom, or closet; and figure out which items bring me joy and which ones need to be transferred or trashed. I love this minimalist blog which offers great tips on decluttering. As an added bonus, the monthly decluttering helps keep my space effortlessly clean the rest of the month. Win! Once I’ve decluttered, I like to kick back and enjoy more rest by watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
What are your favorite ways to relax? Do you find it hard to give yourself permission to relax during your period?
Women's Health Program Manager