If you follow me on instagram (I post lots of useful videos there, by the way!) you’ll have heard me talking recently about the four seasons of your menstrual cycle. I find that these are such a useful way of framing our cycle and exploring our moods, emotions and energy levels. With that framework in place, you can start to identify patterns that come up, and, just as with the seasons of the year, you can then allow for the shifts and adapt to the seasons, rather than fighting them. Let’s face it, as much as we might love to be in summer mode all year round, when winter comes we just need to retreat and get cosy to keep our energy levels sustained. It’s the same with our periods.
You can get involved in some daily charting to really get to understand your cycle, and I always really recommend doing this. However, if you’re not up for that, then a little shortcut would be to take a little time over the next few months to simply note down how you feel during each season of your cycle.
This is the pre-ovulation season. It’s when we are getting energy back into our systems and the light is creeping back into our world bringing us out of hibernation. Now, for some people this may start subtly coming in from the end of their bleed (late winter, if you like), for others they may experience feeling a sudden brightness a couple of days after their bleed. It’s different for everybody, and there is no right or wrong.
What to note during the pre-ovulation spring season of your cycle:
- stress levels
- how does your body feel? Any aches/pains?
- cervical secretions.
The ovulation season. Here is when we hit our peak energy. Just as with those long summer days, we may be feeling more social and like we want to partake in more activities. Oomph levels will be higher now, and you may have that ‘seize the day’ vibe going on and find that you can juggle a lot of different things and feel quite capable. Summer can feel addictive as we want to stay in this mode (and society likes to make us feel like we should always be in this summer energy zone as well) but it’s important and helpful to remember that we are cyclical beings, not linear beings!
During the summer phase in and around ovulation, look out for:
- changes in energy
- cervical secretions
- pain – any symptoms like headaches/bloating etc
This is the Premenstrual season. Just as with the actual autumn season, energy begins retreating – we are metaphorically feeling the chill, the days are getting shorter and so is our fuse. Many women find they don’t want to socialise as much during this stage of their cycle, and there can also be a longing for the energy levels of summer and a resistance to the impending arrival of the winter season. Again, there are some societal messages around this, with the idea that we should always be in summer mode, but there is power in allowing the natural rhythm of your cycle rather than trying to resist and control it. Resistance and attempts to control can make us feel rather irritable!
As you move into the autumn season after ovulation, pay attention to:
- Energy & mood
- PMT symptoms
- cervical secretions
- temperature (feeling hot? cold?)
- stress levels
Hello menstruation. During the winter stage, when we are on our periods, full hibernation mode is activated. This is when most of us will only want to eat comfort food (preferably cooked by someone else), stay in and watch boxsets. Energy levels tend to be low. Again, try to allow this season to slow you down rather than battling to fight through it. Of course, we all have those things that we simply have to keep juggling, but put down what you can and your body, your emotions and your mental and menstrual health will all thank you for it.
While you’re on your period, jot down a few notes about how it is affecting you:
- your blood: flow, clots & colour, amount of period products used
- duration of period
- symptoms like headaches
- sleep patterns
Once you’ve made notes for three or four cycles, start looking back over them and compare your cycle season by season. You may find some good insights that you can then try to accommodate. Perhaps you struggle to sleep during the autumn pre-menstrual phase, and you can add an evening meditation to your day during that stage to help you wind down. Perhaps you have absolutely no energy during the winter stage, so maybe it’s best not to arrange a meet up with friends or a visit to the gym for a few days.
You can take all this much further with my daily charting, but this is a really good start and would be well worth doing for a few cycles between now and new year, because then, guess what, you can use that new year energy to put things in place to make your cycle more manageable and be gentler on yourself!