The Real Cure for PMS Fatigue

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There are certain times of the month when I get so tired that all I can do is cry. One of the most frustrating symptoms of PMS (particularly if you have PCOS) is fatigue. While some women can play tennis and do their spring cleaning the week before and the week of their period, other women can do little more than brush their teeth and apply deodorant without feeling overcome by the desire to go back to bed.

However, the real challenge is that we feel like we have to stick to our schedule. Most of our days are filled with work, errands, and children. We have to schedule in our relaxation time, the same way we pencil in a teeth cleaning, or else weeks will pass, only to find that we have not had single day to sit and rest, to just be instead of always having to do.

The world would suggest that we are successful women when we fill every moment of our life with productivity; that we keep a tidy house, stay late at work to prove our value, and never refuse an invitation to a social engagement, all the while maintaining a perfect manicure and blowout. The world would suggest that on the days when we can’t get out of bed, when all our bodies want to do is rest, when we’re emotional and in need of recharging, that we should persevere, pop a ginseng, go for a run, and press on.

Well, they’re wrong.

The real cure for severe fatigue, the one that no one ever says, because there’s too much guilt and shame associated with “doing nothing,” is simple: rest. Stay in bed. Cry. Write in your journal. Uncover what fears and sadness have gripped you that month, and release them. Honor your body, and love yourself. Cancel your plans, put on your robe, and give yourself permission to stop being productive, stop doing things for others, and tend to your body. This is the natural cycle of being a woman. There are times when our bodies simply need to rest and rebuild.

As women, our minds tell us that if we’re centered enough and have done enough yoga and meditation, we should be able to continue our days as if everything’s okay. We should be able to keep our dinner plans and still vacuum our floors, even while we’re experiencing anxiety and fatigue. Our minds tell us that we’re not good enough for wanting to crawl back into bed, and that we’re going to let our family and loved ones down. Our minds will tell us that we’re selfish for wanting to spend a full Saturday in bed, eating pizza and reading books on how to heal our emotional bodies.

The antidote to this insanity is to declare it as such: insane. We are insane for trying to be superwomen. We are insane for refusing to listen to our body when it’s clearly going through hormonal changes and begging us for rest. We are insane for thinking that things like social engagements or driving kids to soccer practice are more important than our physical and emotional well-being.

The cost to not listening and honoring our bodies is that we get into fight with loved ones because we should’ve stayed in bed, instead of hauling to the subway to get to that dinner with aunt Betty. The cost is we don’t sit and process the emotions that are surfacing, and because of this, we don’t release what’s built up that month. The cost is we feel just a little unfulfilled, just a little ashamed because we’re exhausted, just a little frustrated because we have unrealistic expectations of our body that we can’t meet. The cost is the sense that we’re not holding it all together, because we’ve set an impossible feat before us: to fulfill the unrealistic expectations the world places on women.

A woman’s body (the human body, really) needs to be honored, because it’s wiser than our minds and communicates exactly what it wants. When it’s thirsty, it tells us, and we drink. When it’s hungry, our stomachs tell us, and we eat. However, when we’re so fatigued that it’s hard to get out of bed, we don’t listen. We try to power through. We feel guilt and even shame, like our bodies are failing us. We google “cure for PMS fatigue,” only to find that we need to eat more omega 3s, take vitamin D supplements, or, if we have PCOS, take diabetes medication to balance our insulin levels.

I’m not saying that there are not helpful supplements or time when we need to listen to a doctor, but rather, that we use a little common sense and stop fighting our bodies’ natural rhythms. Sometimes it’s the simplest solution that feels the most peaceful and is the easies. Stop. Stop your life. Pause your calendar. Rest. This world is crazy, with its constant activity, and while it can be exciting, it’s also exhausting.

There’s an unspoken pressure to go, go, go, even when our bodies are telling us that all they want to do is go to bed.

So, there it is - the cure for PMS fatigue: rest. It’s not groundbreaking, but it needed to be said, because the guilt and shame that can be a result of trying to power through an unrealistic schedule to meet the needs of everyone else but yourself is a lunatic idea, and we need to stop beating ourselves up for not being able to keep up with thought systems that are rooted in lunacy. When your body wants to rest, let it. When you want to cry, let your tears fall. When you’re feeling anxiety and fatigue, let yourself stay home, and breathe. Love yourself, even when you’re not keeping up with your schedule. Make this shift, and you will find that you feel more peaceful and less stressed about your body and your lack of energy, and you will give your body what it actually needs, which is rest.