You’ll often hear me talking about the profound benefits of resting during menstruation. But what does that look like in reality? How do we carve out time for rest when the pace of life seems relentless?
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to our health, and has a huge effect on how we feel and perform the following day. Honouring our need for rest during menstruation is equally beneficial. It allows us to replenish our energy so we can move into the new cycle feeling energised and aligned. And just as we need extra sleep after a busy or stressful week, our body may require more or less rest during menstruation (our Inner Winter) depending on how we’ve managed our energy and stress levels over the past cycle.
I’m currently on day five of my cycle, and I’ve rested so deeply this bleed. I took the better part of three days to nourish myself and fill my own cup, which was a new level of honouring for me. By day 29 of this last cycle I felt so, so exhausted. I’d given all of myself over the previous few weeks – working long hours and pushing myself long after that ovulatory superwoman energy had dissipated – and my cup was completely empty. As always, I’d planned my schedule to allow more space around the day when I expected my period to arrive, so that when it arrived I could take day one of my cycle off. Often, one day of rest is enough. But this time I woke up on days two and three of my cycle to a clear message from my body, ‘No, not today. I desperately need more rest.’
Did I feel guilty for taking those extra days off? Definitely! There were many moments where my ego piped up and told me I was being lazy and ‘falling behind.’ But I’m consciously choosing to rewrite the belief that rest = lazy. When I tap into my Truth, I know that flowing with my cycle makes me more productive and efficient, not less. Not to mention, pacing my energy in this sustainable way allows me to avoid the perpetual cycle of burnout I’ve experienced in the past.
I asked myself, ‘What is there to be gained from resting deeply?’ The answer: More energy, clarity and inspiration. Sacred connection to my inner wisdom and the divine. Healing for my body and mind after an energetically heavy month. A full cup from which to serve. A powerful sense of purpose and alignment so I could intentionally use the creative energy of this cycle. There was so much to be gained from honouring my body.
I then asked, ‘What absolutely has to get done today?’ I had no urgent work, because I’d planned my schedule that way (more on that below). No harm would come from me dropping offline for a few days. The world wasn’t going to fall apart if I took a few days for myself, believe it or not!
And so I chose to honour the needs of my body and soul, regardless of my ego’s expectations. I noticed the stories of guilt bubble up, and chose myself anyway. Because they are just stories, and we get to choose whether we make them our truth.
Unravelling our feelings of guilt around resting takes work. Taking a whole day (or days) for yourself may seem unfathomable right now. A few years ago, taking even half a day off was a huge stretch for me! And even though I wasn’t working, I still somehow managed to fill my day with ‘self-care’ tasks – beach walks, reading, journaling, gentle yoga. I didn’t know how to just be. I’d get to the end of my day one, and realised I’d replaced one to-do list with another.
Embracing rest has been a practice, and one that has become more comfortable with time. The more I experience the gifts of resting during my Inner Winter, the easier it is to see the value in honouring this season of my cycle. Taking three days off this cycle was a new edge for me – I slept, meditated and journaled. I pulled cards, read, and slept some more. I surrendered fully to this mini death and rebirth. I feel grounded, clear, lighter. Now as I emerge from my Inner Winter, I’m being flooded with ideas and fresh energy!
Being able to rest at menstruation takes planning and clear boundaries. But the rewards of honouring that time are profound, and will have a positive ripple effect on every area of your life.
So, how do you carve out time in your busy, full life to rest deeply?
1. Schedule your period in your calendar
At the beginning of each cycle, note the date you expect to get your period in your calendar. If you have a partner or family, make sure they’re aware of it too so they can support you!
If you have irregular cycles, or even a cycle that varies by a few days – as most of us do – it can be challenging to plan around your cycle. The Fertility Awareness Method (checking cervical fluid and taking your basal body temperature each day) can help you pinpoint ovulation, and estimate within a day or so when your period will arrive. Your luteal phase (the time between ovulation and menstruation) is always going to be between 11-15 days, so if you know when you’ve ovulated you can more accurately estimate when your period is due. If your cycle is long, it’s because you’ve ovulated late – your luteal phase is still going to be its usually length. I know that my luteal phase is always 13-14 days – so if I need to, I’ll adjust the date I’m expecting my period once I’ve ovulated.
This knowledge is so empowering, and will allow you to really take advantage of cycle syncing. It’s a particularly powerful tool if your cycle is irregular, as it takes the guesswork out of knowing which season you’re in, whether you’ve ovulated and when to expect your period. If you want to learn more, I recommend reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
2. Create space for yourself during your Inner Winter
This will look different for everyone, depending on your lifestyle, work and commitments. I’ve designed a life where I get to create my own work schedule, so usually I block off 2-3 days where I don’t book any appointments, client meetings, or non-negotiable creative deadlines. Every time I go to put something in my calendar, I know to schedule as little as possible during that week. More space means I have the option to shuffle things around as I need to to accomodate my period when it arrives.
Space and flexibility are key here, so say no to anything that isn’t absolutely necessary (or reschedule it for another time in your cycle). We’ve been conditioned to put everyone else’s needs above our own, so we tend to say yes and overload our plates because we don’t want to let anyone down or be perceived as selfish. This is the perfect time for you to practice the superpower of discernment, and flex your NO muscle. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
Even if you work 9-5, there’s plenty you can do to create space: order your groceries in your inner Autumn and batch cook some food so you don’t have to cook during your period, say NO (or ‘not right now’) to that extra project at work, decline that invitation to dinner, honour your energy by skipping the gym in favour of extra sleep, organise a playdate for your kids so you can take a few hours for yourself, reschedule that coffee date for the following week, get a cleaner (or ignore the mess for a few days!).
The options are endless, if you can find the courage to put yourself first and ask for what you need.
3. Find your edge, and start small
Taking an entire day to rest may be totally unrealistic for you right now, and that’s okay! Consider what your ideal self care would look like, and then ask yourself how you can make 1% of that a reality right now (this is a wonderful concept I learned from Red School).
Could you switch off your phone when you get home from work and go to bed early? Could your partner (or a friend) take the kids out of the house for an hour so you can enjoy a pocket of rest? Could you order dinner instead of cooking, to create a little more space in your day? Could you take 5 sweet minutes to rest your hands on your belly and breath deeply (instead of scrolling Instagram)?
Start with what feels doable right now, and then ask yourself, ‘What else can I do (or let go of) to honour my needs right now?’ The more you practice cyclic self-care and start to see the benefits, the easier it’ll become to honour yourself during your Inner Winter without feeling guilty.
You can start this practice today! Check when your next period is due, and start thinking of ways you can create some space for deep rest during those few days. What actions or decisions could you make this week to make sure that happens?
No matter how busy life gets, you have the power to prioritise yourself… and the rewards are so very worth it.