It seems to me that after 26 years of semi-regular visits by the painful process of sloughing off inner uterine lining and passing it through my vagina that I would have created a system of self-nurturance that would be well honed and perfected by now. I would like to report to you that I have developed a well-tuned ritual of self-care that is unwavering in its capacity to envelop me in a loving cocoon of safety. This is simply not the case. How do you experience your menstruation or that of others? What do you do when faced with moments where you need to take care of yourself and make boundaries for how much energy you have available to expend on others? I find that this can be a real challenge. How do you let yourself and others know what your limitations are, even when you want to be able to do more than you can?
Sometimes it’s not really about whether or not I can do something. I have the capacity to push myself and perform whatever duties I am obligated to do or are expected of me. The real issues is – What is the price that is paid for pushing yourself beyond your limits?
1. Choosing Your Battles
When energy levels are low, I think it’s important that we discern what is really worth fighting for given the reserves you have. In times of high stress, multiple life changes, traumatic triggers, and hormone imbalance it can feel as if EVERYTHING is a struggle and needs to be wrestled with. I think that throwing myself into every boxing ring that presents itself is taunting burn-out to lay waste to my life. Putting yourself first, sometimes, is the only way to have the energy to give to others later. This means backing away from conflict when you don’t have the energy to be your best self. You deserve to choose you.
There is a common acronym used in 12-step recovery fellowships, that I know you’ve seen me refer to before, and I think it is absolutely pertinent now: H.A.L.T. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? When I am faced with one, much less many of these factors, I don’t have any business trying to solve major issues for myself or others. Chances are that if I do engage in conflict when I am in a state of H.A.L.T. then I am probably buying myself a one way ticket on the cray-train to angry-ville. Nobody wants that. It is worth stopping, taking a breath, and re-centering to refuel your empty reserves. When I pause, before reacting, I rarely have something to regret or make amends for later.
3. Keeping the Focus on Yourself
During menstruation it is easy to become triggered and sensitive to the behavior of others. Many survivors feel as if they are an open, exposed wound when vulnerable. By giving yourself a break, from keeping on the lookout through your social binoculars, you can get much needed rest. What can you do to construct a relaxing and rejuvenating environment when you need to refill your internal tanks? Give yourself permission to take a personal stay-cation from the outside world.
Please feel free to share your menstruation experiences with self-care and what challenges you face in relationships during your cycle.
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