What to do when your motivation plunges in Week 3 and Week 4

My Hormonology

What to do when your motivation plunges in Week 3 and Week 4

up1This morning after a night of seriously lousy premenstrual sleep, I woke up with dull, throbbing headache and the kind of fatigue that makes a sloth look like an Olympic athlete.

But, I knew I had to get on the treadmill and workout, anyway.

Unfortunately, my hormones were not making it any easier to summon the willpower to do so.

You’ve probably encountered a similar kind of slump in motivation in the two weeks prior to your period, too, for instance, you might have found it harder to push yourself to exercise, write your novel, work on your movie, code a website or do anything else that’s a bit mentally or physically challenging.

Here’s why it happens:

During the first half of our menstrual cycle–Week 1 and Week 2–our body’s level of estrogen is rising. The higher estrogen climbs, the more mental and physical oomph we get, which makes everything easier to do. We’re energetic and have the motivation and willpower that makes even our toughest, most unrealistic goals seem totally attainable.

Not so in the second half of our menstrual cycle–Week 3 and Week 4. During this phase, our body’s level of estrogen plunges not once, but twice. On top of that, we’re now churning out progesterone–a sedating hormone that makes us sleepy and foggy.

Together, this hormonal combination has the total opposite effects of the first half of your cycle: Energy is lower and motivation and willpower are scarce commodities.

So, what can you do when you have a challenging task to get done–and all you really want to do is stay in bed with the covers over your head?

You’ve got to look outside your hormones for another type of motivator.

Here’s the thing: Rising estrogen in the first half of your cycle is great motivation fuel. And it’s awesome because it comes naturally and automatically without you having to do anything.

However, estrogen is definitely not the only motivation fuel around. You can get motivated by a bunch of things outside yourself.

They take a bit more effort to use, but they all have the same result: They make you want to power through your task.

Take me, for example. This morning when the very last thing I wanted to do was go on the treadmill, I used a few motivators in my bag of tricks:

First, I reminded myself of all the benefits I get from exercise: It’s a study-proven way to reduce my migraines, it’s a known way to get out of premenstrual funk by spurring an onslaught of feel-good endorphins in the brain and it helps me feel healthier.

That was enough to help me climb out of bed. So far so good.

But, I still needed to up my willpower a notch to get on my sneakers.

So, I thought of friends and colleagues who are fitter than I am to churn up my competitive spirit and make me want to outdo them. Which is actually healthier than it sounds. Research shows that thinking of folks you know who’ve done better than you in the task you’re doing triggers a type of “benign envy” that ramps up your own motivation by making you feel like you can reach the same goal.

That was enough of a bump in motivation to get on my sports bra and running shorts and get my sneakers laced

However, to get me to actually turn on the treadmill and get moving, I needed my final motivating piece of my puzzle: I had to turn on my iPod filled with super-fast tunes that are upbeat or simply make me laugh, like Blackhorse and the Cherry Tree Workout Remix, Let’s Get it Started Workout Remix and Cotton-Eyed Joe Power Mix.

And with that, I was able to run 45 minutes today–and feel great–with no rising estrogen needed!

The takeaway here: When you’re in a motivation slump during the second half of your monthly cycle, try a bunch of different ways to get yourself moving on a task until you find the right motivator or combination of motivators that work for you.

Let me know if this helps you power through a project on your low-energy days. I’d love to hear about it!

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