We all have energy fluctuations. These could be week to week, day to day, or even with days (anyone relate to the ‘afternoon slump’?). Of course, many factors can affect our energy levels - how well we slept last night, what we’ve eaten, are we hydrated…but a much forgotten factor is where we are in our menstrual cycle.
Our cycles, and the hormone fluctuations that control them, can have a huge impact on our energy levels throughout the month. Commonly, menstruators report feeling energised and alert in the lead up to and during ovulation, whereas PMS and menstruation can leave us feeling fatigued.
So what can we do about it?
What to eat - Alight the carbo coaster
This applies throughout the month, but particularly during PMS. Peaks and troughs in blood sugar in response to carbs can result in energy dips and cravings, leaving us reaching for the next sugar boost. If you often find yourself having the aforementioned afternoon slump, this is suspect number one. Replace refined ‘white’ carbohydrates and sugars with wholegrain alternatives such as oats and quinoa, the fibre in wholegrains limits the spike in blood sugars, and pair these with protein and fats at each meal or snack for slow release energy, keeping you fuller for longer.
Speaking of energy spikes and dips, caffeine should be limited or avoided altogether during PMS. Not only does this exacerbate mood swings, anxiety and lead to energy dips, caffeine can have a negative impact on sleep quality (see below) further impacting energy levels.
Check out my free downloadable Ebook - Eating to Balance Hormones - to find out more.
How to move - Do what feels good in your body
Studies have shown menstruators who engage in regular exercise have fewer PMS symptoms than those who do not. And the exercise doesn’t need to be intense – it just needs to happen regularly (at least three times per week throughout the month).
Exercise reduces oestrogen levels, balances blood sugar levels and raises your feel-good endorphins! Any exercise will do. So run, dance, swim, cycle, hula hoop, yoga or pilates - whatever you enjoy!
The type might change depending on where you are in your cycle:
Menstrual - low energy - gentle exercise, yoga, rest
Follicular - rising energy - increase intensity, try new things
Ovulation - high energy - feeling strong, strength exercises & lifting weights
Luteal - energy starting to decrease - full body workouts with lower weights, listen to body if rest is needed as our period approaches
But what if you’re unsure of where you are in your cycle? I regularly run Cycle Tracking for Beginners Workshops - check out my Eventbrite page to register for the next upcoming workshop, or download my Cycle Tracking for Beginners EBook here to get a head start.
Setting boundaries - If it’s not a ‘fuck yes!’ it’s a no
…and that’s okay!
If you’re anything like me, the temptation when feeling the energy waves of ovulation is to plan social events for every spare evening for the next few weeks, riding the highs of your energised and outgoing self. The issue with this being that when the cocktail-night-with-old-school-friend-you’ve-not-seen-in-a-decade comes round ten days later, you’re feeling like a whole different person in your luteal phase as menstruation approaches.
So what do you do? Unless, unlike me, you’re comfortable being labelled President of the Flakers club, resist committing too far in advance. For those hard-to-pin-down friends that insist on advance booking, have a look at where you’ll be in your cycle at the dates suggested, and plan for a time that works best for you. For many menstruators, one to one and intimate female energy feels more comfortable during pre-menstruation, whereas larger groups and meeting new people can be approach in follicular and ovulatory phases. And for those events you’ve already scheduled at the time of reading this? It’s okay to postpone for when you’re feeling up to it; good friends understand.
Setting boundaries is an essential part of combating chronic stress.
Many of us feel pressure to do or say as others prefer, rather than what we really want. This comes at the sacrifice of spare time to sit with ourselves and enjoy the things we love doing, and overtime can result in losing our sense of self, forgetting what we love doing. On top of that, these behaviours are exhausting. The roller-coaster ride of emotions that we experience is unhealthy and it can contribute to chronic stress, which we know can lead to mental and physical health issues.
Top tips from Laura Gravenell, The People Pleasers Coach:
Start to explore the idea that you are not responsible for other people's happiness and emotional wellbeing. We often feel over-responsible in this area. 'If I don't do it then non-one will!' or 'It will all fall apart if I take a break'.
Boundary setting can help to communicate what you are willing to commit to to others so they learn not to invade every part of your life. Start gently: suggesting something else for dinner. Recognise the uncomfortable feeling around this but do not back-track. The more you get used to this uncomfortable feeling the less you will fear it.
Scheduling time to explore and discover yourself so you can get to know what your preferences are. What hobbies do you enjoy? Then allowing yourself to partake in these things without the guilt you would normally feel. Again, go gently- 20 mins will do.
Laura’s mission is to help clients recognise their people-pleasing tendencies and gently edge them away from those inclinations, without disrupting their kind, loving and generous person nature.
Laura's coaching helped me realise I'm a 'yes' person in a good mood & I tend to over commit myself. this leads to feeling stressed out & overwhelmed, so when I start to implement boundaries it can come across blunt. Others associate me putting boundaries in place as me being in a mood.
Find out more: https://www.lauragravenellcoaching.com/
Sleep Tight - Sleep is vital for health!
It’s when recovery happens - both mental (memory) & physical (muscular).
Poor sleep can increase stress (including PMS) and vice versa - the stress hormone cortisol and sleep hormone melatonin have an inverse response; meaning that in order for melatonin to be released, cortisol levels must be low. High cortisol equals poor quality sleep!
So anything that impacts melatonin - such as blue light from screens, working out late, eating late - will affect sleep quality and levels of stress hormones.
Not sure where to start? Check out my previous post which includes a Sleep Audit Quiz and tips to improve sleep quality to find out more how your current routine could be affecting your sleep quality.