The Cycle Strategy
Charting your cycle is easy and unlike joining a gym, starting a diet, or quitting coffee, it requires very little effort. In fact, when it comes to making healthy changes, cycle awareness has got to be the easiest habit to start, maintain, and implement. And it’ll give you massive rewards very quickly.
If you’ve got one minute to spare a day (it can even be whilst you brush your teeth or stick the kettle on), then this is a practice that you can do because it involves the simple act of noticing how you feel and writing it down.Tracking and being aware of your menstrual cycle is the greatest act of self-care you can give yourself and it won’t cost you anything.
As you chart your own feelings and experiences you’ll start to recognise your own strengths and struggles, and with time you’ll find that there are moments in your cycle where you’re even able to predict your mood and energy down to the day.
Cycle tracking improves body literacy – your ability to read your body – which has tremendous knock-on effects in terms of self-esteem and mental health, so much so that I’m convinced that cycle awareness is the greatest untapped resource for improving the mental health of menstruating people.
It allows you to recognise whether you feel depressed or anxious at certain points in your cycle or most of the time. And if you feel that way most of the time, you may realise that your premenstrual time intensifies these feelings – a phenomenon called premenstrual exacerbation/magnification. But although the cycle can exacerbate mental health issues, it can also provide moments of relief, and tracking your cycle will allow you to make the most of them.
Menstrual Cycle 101
Before we get into tracking your cycle, let’s cover some essential information about your cycle so that we’re all on the same page.The menstrual cycle refers to the length of time from the start of one period to the start of the following, e.g. 28 days, or 24, or 36 – we’re all different!
Day 1 of your cycle refers to the first day that you have your period (spotting is usually the end of a cycle).
Menstruation is the stretch of time in which you have your period.
Ovulation is when you release an egg and usually takes place around 14 days before your period starts.
The follicular phase is the first half of your cycle. It starts on day one of your period and lasts until ovulation. The hormone oestrogen dominates this phase, and as we move closer to ovulation, our energy tends to move increasingly up and out. This is the phase of the cycle which can vary in length.
The luteal phase is the second half of your cycle. It starts at ovulation and lasts until your period starts. The hormone progesterone dominates this phase, and as we move closer to menstruation, energy moves increasingly down and in. The luteal phase is fixed in length, at around 12-16 days (14 on average).
The Four Inner Seasons
of the Cycle
The menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases, each equating to a season of the year, which gives an easy to understand blueprint for your experience of the cycle.
|• The time of menstruation is your Winter.|
• Your pre-ovulation phase is your Spring.
• The time around ovulation is your Summer.
• Your pre-menstrual time is your Autumn.
The seasons of the cycle are distinct, but they are not set lengths of time.
They can vary in length and experience of them from cycle to cycle as well as across a lifetime.
If you have a period which is long and heavy then Winter may last quite a while, if you have a long cycle then Spring might go on and on and on, if PMS or it’s extreme form premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) hits you hard then you might have a very short Summer if you enter your Autumn immediately after ovulation
Strategies for your Cycle in Action
|After 2-3 months of tracking your cycle, you’ll get a sense of where your seasons lie, as well as your personal patterns, powers and pitfalls, and be able to make adjustments here and there to improve your experience of your cycle and make use of each phase.You’ll be able to look at your calendar and make adjustments to your work and social life to suit where you’re at in your cycle, to a degree.There will be stuff that you can’t change – perhaps a lot of it – but being in tune with your inner seasons will enable you to respect where you are in your cycle so that when it comes to the aspects that you can’t move around or skip entirely, you can at least be aware of what’s going on and take care of your needs so that there are less anguish and catastrophes.|
Ultimately I want you to value the data that you collect, to appreciate and respect what you discover, to recognise your own needs and to care for them. You know your body and your mind better than anyone else and tracking your symptoms and experience of your cycle will put you in the driver’s seat of your health and life.
This is about your cycle. Your body. Your life. Most of us have been taught that our hormones and reproductive systems will hold us back in life somehow, but I’m calling bullshit on that because it’s our cycles that will get us where we want to be in life – we’ve got them so let’s use ‘em!
Next Step is easy
Pick your preferred method of tracking and get down to it.
Options you have:
- Create a Spreadsheet
- Mennstrual Track Sheets
- Phone or Tablet App
- Some wearable devices also track this information (Garmin watch etc).
The App is my preference and there are so many FREE Apps out there.
If you are stuggling with your Cycle, feeling pain and or discomfort each and every month I would love to assist you.