Making the choice to pay attention to my cycle has been the single most helpful and empowering thing I have ever done. For a couple of years I started to sync my self-care practices with the cycles of the moon. The moon served as a reminder to take a little reset each month, but I still felt my energy levels and mood were all over the place and I wasn't prepared to just accept this, I wanted to know why.
Growing up with a single Dad as my main parent, I had absolutely no idea how to navigate this part of my life. No one ever sat me down and explained how my body worked and why I would bleed each month, never mind how to deal with it.
I always put this down to my more unique parenting situation, but as I've gotten older and had this conversation with friends, it became clear that my experience was far from a lone one. So why do we find it so hard to talk about periods and hormonal health and why is this information not more readily available?!
As I got older some things did improve. I had plucked up the courage to stop pinching sanitary products from relatives bathrooms and instead just stick them in the shopping trolley, but unfortunately the problems didn't stop here. For years I dealt with fluctuating moods and hormonal acne, yet still I knew nothing about what was actually happening to me hormonally.
Knowledge is power
As women we go through 4 phases during our cycle which are:
Winter - Menstrual Phase ( 3 - 7 days)
Autumn - Luteal Phase ( 10 - 14 days)
Spring - Follicular Phase (7 - 10 days)
Summer - Ovulation Phase ( 3 - 4 days)
During each season of your cycle your body produces different levels of different hormones, which is why many of us experience big fluctuations in our mood. It is also worth noting that we all experience different levels of these hormones, which is why despite some common themes every women's experience is unique to them.
Generally speaking your Follicular phase is more oestrogen dominant - In her book Period Power, Maisie Hill describes this as your 'Beyonce hormone', which paints a pretty great picture of how some of us may feel during this phase.
Your Luteal phase is when most people feel a low this is due to a peak in progesterone, which can be responsible for those funky feelings you get before you get your period.
Through tracking your cycle you can have a better idea of what to expect. This allows you to adjust your plans accordingly or at least be more forgiving with yourself. We also all experience these phases differently and whilst one person may thrive in their Summer another may find they prefer their Spring.
When I first began tracking my cycle, the data I gathered on myself blew my mind. I could match how I felt each day almost perfectly to how I had felt on that day the previous month. This information was liberating, as just knowing that there was a reason to feeling low and that it would shift like the seasons, comforted me enough to start managing my way through these times with more ease.
Your cycle begins on the day you begin menstruating and lasts until the next time you enter your Winter.
There are tons of different ways to track your cycle, you can use an app such as Flo or Natural Cycles or classic pen and paper. Your recordings can be as detailed or brief as you wish - personally I tend to write page after page during Autumn and Winter then come Spring and Summer I've forgotten for a few days!
If you would like to learn more two fantastic books are Period Power by Maisie Hill and In the Flow by Alisa Vitti.
Let me know if you've found this helpful and I hope to soon create some yoga practices designed for different stages of your cycle.