It’s no secret that our menstrual cycle affects our mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, concentration, and many more unavoidable affects. These can catch us out as our bodies move through the different phases of our monthly cycles, despite happening every month, we can still feel out of control of our own bodies and minds.
The hormones that are in rotation throughout our cycle, despite having negative connotations to ‘feeling hormonal’, can actually be used to our benefit. We can learn to work with our hormones, use them to our advantage, regain control and tip the scales back in our favour.
WHAT ARE THE PHASES OF OUR CYCLES
To some people tracking their cycles is not new information, some menstruators have been getting familiar with their cycle for a long time, however for many this is still new. We often learn about the menstrual cycle in schools, fill in diagrams and charts and get told all of the necessary biological information, but not always the ins-and-outs of the cycle phases, and most importantly how they affect us. So, that being said, let’s have a look at the phases themselves, before we dive into their inner power.
Our Menstruation phase lasts anywhere between 2-7 days. Our uterus is shedding its thick lining, due to no fertilized egg being implanted, which results in bleeding. The first day of our period is marked as day one of our cycles. We should try to keep our focus on rest and nutrition during menstruation, and prepping for the month ahead.
The follicular phase overlaps with our period. It starts on the first day of the period and ends with ovulation. Oestrogen levels start to rise a few days after our period starts, as the follicle inside one of our ovaries is maturing. As a result of the oestrogen rising and then spiking half way through, we are likely to feel upbeat and optimistic, and our skin will also be in its best shape. This spike triggers the beginning of the growth of our endometrial lining, which is where an egg will ultimately implant itself, if fertilized.
Ovulation happens when the ovary releases the matured egg around day 14 before our next period starts. The egg falls into the fallopian tube and awaits the sperm, if no sperm arrives in 24-36 hours, an unfertilized egg will dissolve inside the uterus, the oestrogen and testosterone levels deplete, triggering the luteal phase of the cycle. The day of ovulation our oestrogen levels are at their highest and we’re full of energy and confidence.
The Luteal phase is the longest of our cycle and the one with the worst reputation. When the egg isn’t fertilized, our oestrogen plummets, leaving room for its heavy-eyed friend progesterone to take hold, often cueing the heavy emotions we know too well. Our body begins to make more progesterone, creating a thicker uterine lining. Near the end of this phase, all hormone levels decrease. This leads to the breaking down of the endometrium and the onset of the PMS symptoms, closely followed by the start of our period and the cycle begins again.
WORKING WITH OUR CYCLE
We can often feel like we’re on the back foot during our period due to nausea, cramping and the overall mood swings, feeling completely energy-less when we need to burn through 6 meetings, a one-on-one, a social event and a dinner date all in 12 hours; yet burning with energy and confidence on a day that our stay-at-home puppy is the only one to benefit from it all at.
This is normal, unavoidable some say, however, could you imagine if we could co-ordinate the high-energy days with the high-expense days, align the lacking energy with work-from-homes and shift the balance to optimise the hormonal tracks we’re on?
Altering lifestyle habits and events around our monthly cycle has been around for centuries, pre-dating modern medicine, being in sync with our cycle has benefits that we’ve been tapping into for a long time. It’s a daunting task to contemplate, and if you’re not yet tracking your cycle, this is the place to start first. Get to know the ebbs and flows of your hormones, energy levels and routines. It can take up to 3 months to begin to see patterns emerge and succession through each cycle to the next. If you can get a handle on understanding where you are in our cycle first, this will be a great foundation to capitalise on those shifts and changes.
Our period usually comes with cramps, nausea, emotions and sometimes feelings of wanting to be far away from any other humankind! This is the time to focus on organization tasks. At work, this is a great time for organizing our workspace. Productive rearranging, simplifying and establishing new, more efficient organization systems. We can also prioritize scheduling and planning the next few weeks ahead.
Personally, our body is going through a sort of cleanse and can really lend itself to emotional and self-improvement, time to focus on you. Luckily our oestrogen is slowly rising through the menstrual phase and our days will only be getting better.
During the follicular stage of our menstrual cycle, after the first half, which overlaps with the menstrual phase, we should feel energized and inspired. This is a great time to start a new project and deal with more difficult working tasks that will require more inspiration, enthusiasm and creative energy. The high oestrogen levels that grew through the first half of the follicular phase can be utilized to give us drive to lead and move forward with projects, ideas and productivity. The follicular phase ends on the day of ovulation.
The ovulation phase is the shortest of the month, with ovulation peaking at one day, and we can’t control when it will be.
For most menstruators, ovulation is when our energy peaks due to spiking oestrogen and testosterone levels and lowest levels of progesterone.
If we don’t have too much ovulation pain, this is when we are usually most persuasive, confident, and basically high on hormones.
You’re at the top of the oestrogen roller coaster and you’re about to drop, real fast, so if you can identify it, take advantage of it!
The Luteal phase, the longest of our phases, and usually the most arduous. The hormonal fluctuations will likely make us more introverted and point our thoughts towards self-reflection. Our oestrogen plummets, which triggers the beginning of the effects of PMS: anxiety, mood swings, crying, fatigue, sleep disturbances and appetite changes. Really fun times!
But instead of complaining, We are going to turn around and decide to use this phase to our advantage in our personal and business life.
If there are profound changes we need to make in our lives, re-think (personal and business) relationships and make vital life decisions - this is the time. During this phase, we are looking most inwardly and are most sensitive to the things we were blind to when we were riding the high wave on oestrogen. This is when we notice things that have been really bugging us, this is the time to write it all down and reflect. Acting on big decisions now should be avoided, but making a note of things we want to change is good. We need to talk about it during the next follicular phase!
During the first half of the Luteal phase we can try to focus more towards non-social tasks and requirements, examine our work flow and see if there are any gaps in our proficiency. In the second half of the phase, allow ourselves to focus on us. Get to bed early, make sure we have some non-business related social interactions, but don’t over-extrovert ourselves. Prioritise down time, and us.
WORKING WITH OUR BODY, NOT AGAINST IT
The menstrual cycle is a beautiful thing that we can choose to work with, instead of against and draw power from, instead of giving it the strength to take energy and power away from us. Working with it will help us be more productive and not feel so bad when we have naturally changing hormones that allow us to do and see different things in different ways.
When tracking our cycle, and once we see the pattern of our own phases, we can make a cycle-phases ‘do’s and don’ts’ list, compile a list of things that are great to do versus those we should avoid during different stages of our cycle. This can utilise our strengths and support our body’s natural rhythm.