“I’m not an early bird or a night owl, I’m a permanently exhausted pigeon.” — have you seen that lol-worthy meme on Instagram? I giggled when a mate posted it recently, then felt a pang of sadness in my belly. Why is everyone burning out?
We could take a few easy guesses, yeah? Busy busy lives, technology, familial demands, and the irksome #hustlemode trend that WON’T SEEM TO END. A whole lot of caffeine and not much sleep?
When I find myself wanting to crawl into bed at 7pm and blinking away exhaustion for days, it’s usually one of two things: I didn’t get enough rest at my last bleed, OR I powered out of the gates as soon as I hit pre-ovulation (the ‘inner spring’ of the menstrual cycle) and burnt my inner resources up too soon.
It’s the second point here that I want to chat about today, but if the first point ding-a-lings with you, you’re not alone. May I quickly say to that: menstruation is the natural point in the cycle for rest. So, stop. Refuel. Reset. And check out this blog post for period self-care tips, and this one for when you need a reaaaalllyy restful bleed.
When I first started charting my cycle in 2013, I fell in love with my inner spring.
I adored the lightness that I felt after bleeding, and how energetic my physical body was between days 6 and 13. I realised that I could be very, very productive and focussed at this time, and so I’d schedule a great deal onto my plate: work commitments, gym, social plans. And then about 18 months ago, this phase of the cycle began to feel… a bit shit.
As I crossed over into my inner spring, anxiety, exhaustion and overwhelm took the place of excitement and possibility. This phase felt too raw, too tender, too vulnerable. I’d dread my bleed ending, sensitive to light and noise, sensitive to people and work and stimuli. The recurrent anxiety around days 5 or 6 became so intense that I cancelled a trip I had planned to New York. I realised I’d be flying on day 4, and the idea of being in the Big Apple at what had become my most vulnerable point in the cycle terrified me.
So what had changed?
The beauty of journaling my cycle means that I have this delicious, unique resource that I can look back on to identify what is working for me, and what isn’t. By looking back at the past year of journal entries, I realised that I was acting like I was in my inner summer (ovulation) when I was actually still in my inner spring (pre-ovulation). I was going from 0-10, without giving myself space and time to wax and grow.
When it comes to the inner spring, it’s natural to GET VERY EXCITED when menstruation ends. We bust out of the gate too soon; do too much, say yes too early, give more than we have to give. We feel that yang #getshitdone energy rising within us, and revel in the joy of leaving the period cave and re-entering the world. “I’M BACK!’ we exclaim, “HERE I AM! LET ME AT ALL THE THINGS!”
And let’s say you do indeed press pause and rest at menstruation. You then get to day 4 or 5 of your cycle and take one look at your inbox and all the bits you’ve happily surrendered the last few days of blissful bleeding… and suddenly your inner critic is shouting, “DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW MUCH THERE IS TO DO? FORGET DEEP BREATHS OR YOGA OR MEDITATION OR ANY NICE SELF-CARE THINGS: YOU HAVE THINGS TO DO!!”
Maybe you’re feeling me?
Let’s look closer at the inner spring of the cycle.
Your inner spring is a transition season, the space between menstruation and ovulation. The inner spring is a preparatory phase for ovulation (ovulation being the peak of the cycle), while also being the natural continuum from the very restful, potent phase of menstruation.
You’re moving forward in your inner spring, taking action on the intentions that you set in your inner winter, and experimenting with a curiosity and self-motivation to make things happen. You’re building, playing, experimenting, waxing, growing, expanding. The linear increase in oestrogen will likely support you to feel more focussed in your inner spring, and you may be able to retain information more easily.
Certainly, as the outside lights of the world become more appealing, it’s easy to forget to check-in with ourselves, move mindfully, and tap into the ‘powers that be’ as the yang energetic current of the cycle sweeps us up and away!
So here’s 5 things that I’ve implemented over the past year that have helped me optimise my inner spring, without burning out:
Bringing myself with me!
I do this by continuing with many of the rituals from my inner winter. Spending less time on technology, going barefoot on some grass, and scrawling a few notes in my journal helps me to stay connected. I also find that moving my body with yoga and dancing are my spiritual gravitations as I catch the wave of the inner spring.
Saying au revoir to coffee!
Journaling my cycle showed me that I don’t metabolise caffeine well in the second half of my cycle. For a long time I’ve only had coffee between days 8 and 21. But I’ve decided to have a possibly permanent break from it, as my sense is that — tragically — it’s depleting me big time. I’m feeling more stable in my energy levels in my inner spring, and as a bonus: my breasts aren’t doing that swollen-tender pre-menstrual thing they’ve been done the last few cycles.
Setting firm boundaries!
I know that I’m still introverted AF in my inner spring. So I slowly increase how available I am for friends and clients. As I revisit my to do list and the online world, I have to be boundaried around the times I start and finish work; I know that overwhelm is a vulnerability of mine here. While I am quite prolific at work in my inner spring, I work best here when I can be focused on one or two projects, rather than dispersing my energy across lots of different areas.
As I blossom back out into the world post-menstruation, I’ve been handing the mic to my inner cheerleader, and giving my inner critic the week off. We let children mess up as they find their footing in the world. I believe we could all adopt this same approach as we assemble ourselves after the deep surrender of menstruation. Repeat after me: “I release expectations, I embrace play, and I’m ALLOWED to make mistakes!”
- Remembering that ovulation is coming! After the inner spring comes the inner summer, the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. Ovulation is ALL about being seen, bringing things to life, being with others, and being in that superwoman energy. And so this helps me to be more playful and less demanding on myself in my inner spring. I can look forward to the emotional resilience, extraversion, improved physical energy, and fruitful energy that’s on its way. Which means scheduling those group presentations and dinner parties for the week to come.
Tell me in the comments: have you noticed a tendency to blow your reserves too soon in your inner spring? Is there something you’d like to experiment with to help sustain your energy levels and prevent burning out?
Do you know someone who’d benefit from this post? Please use the links below to share!
Perhaps you’re ready to learn how to journal your cycle? Keen to deepen the communication line between you and your body? The next class of FLOW starts next Monday 1st April 2019! I’d love to have you join us.