As a menstruating person, the most radical form of self care can be to look after yourself so that your menstrual cycle can regulate itself and you can treat yourself accordingly depending on how you're feeling. This is a great way to take charge of your mental health and hone the power of your menstrual cycle.
Why tracking your period is important
Learning about your menstrual cycle can help you understand your body and mind. Tracking your cycle using apps such as flo health or natural cycles can allow you to see how the stages in your cycle can inform you moods. When you are aware of changes in your mental state and can anticipate them, you know to take better care of yourself and use varying coping mechanisms.
The world is based on circadian rhythm which is a 24 hour cycle, however only the non-menstruating person can work well off this rhythm. A menstruating person will have fluctuating hormones so everyday is different therefore working under this system can be difficult as our moods maybe different each day. This is because there are two types of hormones: oestrogen, which gives you the good feelings that you may feel through the month and progesterone, which give us the bad feelings. When our oestrogen levels are low we may need more sleep so we might sleep in a bit later.
The circadian rhythm 9-5 schedule doesn't allow for people to work like this therefore some may fear that they are being seen as lazy or unproductive at certain points in the month, putting pressure on their mental health. Despite the fact a menstruating person could be ten times more productive than a non-menstruating person at certain points in their cycle.
Tips and tricks
This guide will give advice on how you can make your menstrual cycle advantageous, how you can eat different types of food, different types of exercise and what productivity and what kind of movement you need to focus on at certain stages of the month. Just like the cycle of seasons, each month your hormones rise and fall. There are 4 phases in the menstrual cycle. If you think of each 28-day cycle as representing a year, each phase corresponds to a season: winter, summer, spring or autumn.
Menstrual phase: your period/ winter
In this phase you may feel some sense of relief when your period starts. But your energy is at its lowest and you may feel introverted and withdrawn.
Work: Planning, brainstorming, reflecting, analysing, journalling and creating
Movement: Massages, going on long walks, yoga, swimming, meditation, rest, napping
Food: More water, dark chocolate, grass fed meats, salmon, kidney beans, blueberries, avocado, sesame seeds, warm and easily digestible foods, nutrient dense, more protein and fats , soups and stews and lots of teas e.g camomile
Love: Massages, tantric hugging cuddles, foreplay
In our menstrual phase the release of oxytocin can be a natural pain reliever. For example, walking your dog or cuddling a partner or pet can all release oxytocin helping with cramp pains. The low hormones often make us crave a dopamine hit, we may crave sugary treats or chocolate as this will also increase the release of oxytocin. So make sure your stocked up with treats when preparing for the menstrual and luteal phase!
Follicular phase: after your period/ spring
The rise in oestrogen will start to lift your energy, mood and brain skills. You may feel more confident, powerful and willing to take risks.
Work: Learning, starting new project, concentration, research and project planning
Movement: Running, dancing, cycling, HIT, strength training
Food: Broccoli, leafy greens, carrots, peas, avocado, oranges, green lentils, Brazil nuts cashews, flax seeds, pumpkin, seeds , chicken, eggs, probiotics, kombucha, kimchi, light and vibrant foods, steamed and sautéed veggies
Love: Trying new things in bed, creative dates such as pottery, cooking or painting.
Ovulatory phase: before during and after ovulation/ summer
The oestrogen surge boosts all the positive effects you enjoyed during the last phase. You may look and feel your most attractive and confident.
Work: Network, pitch ideas, meetings, communication, interviews, productivity and teamwork
Movement: High impact, spin class, group fitness class, pilates, running, kickboxing and boot camps
Food: Bok choy, brussel sprouts, red bell pepper, spinach, red lentils, quinoa, berries, raw food, salads, juices smoothies
Love: Quality time, parties, orgasmic sex, and first dates
Luteal phase: before period/ autumn
As progesterone increases you might find your energy winding down. In the second week of the luteal phase you may feel PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms: mood swings, anxiety or irritability and cravings for comfort food.
'90% of women of reproductive age experience several premenstrual symptoms varying from mild to severe."
Work: Finish projects, admin, organising , reviewing , deep work, pitching ideas, presentations, rest and reflection
Movement: Dance, time in nature, sea swims, yoga, pilates, more gentle movement as time gets closer to period like long walks and hiking
Food: Zinc, carbs, healthier fats, leafy greens, B6, magnesium ,cauliflower ,celery, cucumber, onions, squash, apples, dates, pears, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tahini, beef, turkey, fish ,batch cooking, baking and roasting
Love: Evaluate issues, date night in, slow sex with more foreplay
Hopefully these gentle solutions can help you take charge of your mental health and hone in on your menstrual cycle. Download a period tracking app today and try it out for yourself and take back control over your mind and moods!