This post is well overdue.
I talk about menstrual cycle awareness (MCA) with anyone who will stand still long enough - male or female, friend or client, asked or didn't ask! I talk about it in DMs, over email, during sessions. I've even designed a cyclical living planner based around it! Back before lockdown I was known to chat to cashiers about it as I paid for my goods. And yet I rarely post publicly about it. There's a huge gap between what I know and what I'm sharing.
So let's get into it shall we?
Following The Menstrual Cycle
Following your menstrual cycle can be as simple as jotting down a word or two each day to track the ebb and flow of your energy, or as involved as daily journaling and charting of your varying hormonal symptoms.
It is completely up to you how much detail you observe. You can start simply with a single word at the end of each day (there is a free Period Planner in the Silly Heart Library for exactly this), but you may find that over time you become fascinated by the many different rhythms of your own body and want to record more!
It can also be interesting to track the lunar phases with your cycle as they too can affect your energy levels. I'll be sharing a lunar living post as well soon!
Most of us are familiar with recognising and discussing PMS - low mood, cravings, lethargy, cramps - all the fun stuff (all the stuff that can be almost entirely avoided by the way. More on that another time). But our hormones affect everything. Our confidence, creativity, sexuality, intuition, our focus. Even how articulate or organised we are changes throughout our cycle. Learning to recognise and predict these patterns gives us the opportunity to plan our work for exactly when it will suit us physically, mentally and emotionally.
It should not sound that revolutionary. After all, we tend to know what time of day we'll find a certain task easier: “I’ll exercise in the morning as that’s when I feel most energised”, “I’ll finish those designs this afternoon when I can sit down and focus.”, “You want to meet at 9pm? Are you high? I’m in bed by then.”
This 24 hour day-to-day cycle is ingrained in us and we accept our own strengths and limitations within it. Now it’s time to harness the different strengths throughout your own inner cycle.
The Inner Seasons of the Menstrual Cycle
The concept of the inner seasons was originally created by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, authors of Wild Power and the founders of Red School. I am honoured that they gave me permission to write about the inner seasons for my planner, and thrilled to be attending their globally sought after menstruality leadership training next year.
If you don't see your own cycle reflected below in the inner seasons, that doesn't mean yours is abnormal. Every body and every period is different. For example, it may be that the phase some feel most confident in, is actually anxiety inducing for others, and vice versa. The best way to learn how you feel and what you need in different phases is by tracking your cycle.
Menstrual | Winter | New Moon
This season lasts from day one of our bleed through to day four to seven. Hormonally both oestrogen and progesterone are at their lowest (plus, you know, we're bleeding) leaving us feeling depleted. We need to rest and be kind to ourselves wherever possible. This is the inner winter of your cycle. Think hibernation! Sleep, nourishment, and self care should be top of your priorities.
If you do need to work, make it quiet, behind the scenes tasks. If you need to do something more physical or intense, then plan ahead to give yourself more time to do it and schedule in breaks. If you want to exercise, stretch gently and move slowly.
You may feel a surge of energy and creativity as early as day two, but practice restraint. The longer you rest and give your body a chance to recover from the hardcore metamorphosis it has just been through, the more you will reap the benefits later in your cycle.
Your inner winter is the time where, if you surrender to the quiet, your wisdom can float to the surface untethered by the usual mental load. You may have your best ideas, or be able to see the solution to a problem you've been trying to overcome for weeks.
Follicular | Spring | Waxing Moon
Following from our bleed, this phase can vary in length from person to person. If you have a 28 day cycle (and only about 13% of us do. The average is actually anything between 21 and 40 days) then your follicular phase will last about seven days.
Oestrogen, testosterone and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are rising to support your ovaries in growing follicles, and thickening up the uterine lining ready for potential pregnancy. Outwardly this rise can make you feel more creative, playful and social.
All of the wisdom and clarity of your winter can now be sifted through, the best ideas and realisations plucked, planted and encouraged to grow through the rest of your cycle.
Ovulatory - Summer - Full Moon
Oestrogen and testosterone are at their peak, and we get a boost of luteinising hormone (LH) here to encourage ovulation, which makes us feel pretty confident, enthusiastic and a little bit sexy. Hello!
This is the inner season for sharing your ideas, promoting, connecting, collaborating, networking - putting yourself out there so others can bask in your general gloriousness. If you need to have a tricky conversation, this is the time to do it. With regard to exercise, dance or go for a run. Run up to your loved ones and dance around them! Use that energy!
But a word of warning: honour your own boundaries and don't say yes to everything in the heady high of your summer. It could leave you completely overwhelmed and overbooked when autumn comes to call.
Luteal - Autumn - Waning Moon
At the head of the ovulatory phase, the follicle which produces an egg morphs into a gland called the corpus luteum. We grow a temporary gland! It's this gland that produces progesterone to support a potential pregnancy. Progesterone also relaxes us and can make us want to stay home more in this season.
When pregnancy doesn't occur, oestrogen and progesterone drop causing the shedding of our uterine lining, and the corpus luteum gets reabsorbed into the body. Our energy wanes with our hormones and our focus turns inward.
You may find you want to tidy and sort everything in your home and life. You may feel more organised, analytical and introverted. It's a good time to focus on the detail and on finishing up projects you've started. It's also a good time to avoid any irritations or emotional triggers as we tend to be more sensitive and on edge during this literal hormonal low.
The inner critic can also come out in full force during your autumn, throwing shade on all those great ideas you had earlier on in the cycle. Do not be talked down. The wisdom and intuition of your winter is far more trustworthy than the critic of your autumn.
If you suffer from PMS or PMDD in this season please know that your symptoms are not inevitable. Consider speaking to a nutritional therapist and menstrual coach like Le'Nise Brothers who specialises in hormonal and menstrual health.
And then we come full cycle back to winter again. If you have taken care of yourself and been able to carve out time to rest throughout the rest of your cycle, you will hopefully find you are not so depleted.
Recognise and work within your own rhythm wherever possible (I know as the mother of three year old twins that it's not always possible to shift everything, but start with 1%) and soon you'll reap the benefits.
Join The Community
If you're interested to learn more about your cyclical nature and working with it, we'd love to have you in the Life, Aligned community. A free, private Facebook group with a warm and welcoming vibe!
And of course, you can get your hands on one of the first Life, Aligned planners via my Kickstarter which just launched this week!