If you have periods, chances are you regard them as a mild inconvenience (at best) or a severe hindrance (at worst). Our menstrual cycles can bring about all sorts of physical, emotional and mental symptoms that make our everyday lives more challenging. Each woman is unique when it comes to the way she experiences the internal seasons of her cycle. Let’s face it, some have it way easier than others. I am one of those rarely heard of women who actually loves getting her period. To get the most out of my body I have become adept at riding each phase of my cycle, looking after my women’s health and taking care of its changing needs. Every woman can benefit from tracking her cycle and learning how each phase brings with it its own gifts. The trick is to flow (pun intended) with nature rather than rail against it. For it’s this railing against nature that is a major contributing factor to PMS rather than the hormones themselves.
Our internal seasons are just as vital for sustaining life as the external seasons
The menstrual cycle can be broken down into the same four seasons that govern life on earth. Sure, you can also examine women’s health in terms of hormonal changes, but I prefer this temporal analogy. It also helps me embrace the fact that, as a woman, I am deeply connected to and in tune with nature and am not just the sum of my biological parts. Just like each season is necessary for sustaining life on earth, so each internal season presents an opportunity for the body to flourish.
By tracking your cycle, you’ll be able to get the most out of your month to support women’s health
As you start tracking your cycle, it’ll become easier to spot the seasons and get to know what your winter, spring, summer and autumn feel like. Summer in Spain is much different to summer in England (although this seems to be changing), just as your menstrual summer might differ to that of your menstruating friends. It helps, though, to have a rough idea of what to look out for. In the rest of this blog post I’m going to give a brief introduction to each season, based on my own internal observations. If you’d like to watch a funny and evocative Ted talk on the subject, check out this great video, The Power of the Period by Lucy Peach. The Red School is another brilliant resource on cycle tracking.
Winter: The first seven days of your cycle
Winter begins when you start bleeding. This is a time for rest, hibernation and integrating the month that has just passed. I use my period as a chance to be unashamedly lazy and selfish and to gather up reserves for all the activities, challenges and obligations of the rest of the month. It feels like a wonderful fresh start and a chance to leave last month’s crap behind. From a work perspective, I try not to schedule any meetings during this time, focusing more on easier tasks that can be done from home. Needless to say there’ll be times when you can’t not schedule a meeting, and that’s OK. Do the meeting, but be gentle on yourself. Go slow.
Herbal tea for winter: Exotic Camomile. Camomile is known to soothe menstrual cramps, while fennel eases bloating. This time of the month requires a tea that’s nourishing and soothing.
Spring: Days seven to fourteen of your cycle
After the winter’s rest, and as spring emerges, you feel a lift in spirits and energy. Now is the time for planning, new ideas, organising and spring cleaning. This is a great chance to plan the month ahead and start thinking about new opportunities. Enjoy the feeling of renewed freshness.
Herbal tea for spring: Rose and Ginger. This delicate tea is refreshing, with rose being brilliant for supporting female hormonal fluctuations.
Summer: Ovulation, days fourteen to twenty one of your cycle
This is usually when our energy levels and extroversion peak. This phase is all about going out, socialising, getting shit done, networking, and generally being a bad ass bitch. Now is the time to put plans into action, make presentations, pitch ideas and go in for the kill. One word of caution though: don’t exhaust those reserves or you may experience an irritable autumn.
Herbal tea for summer: Earthy Mint. Your body temperature peaks at ovulation, which makes peppermint an excellent cooling herb to drink.
Autumn: The last seven days of your cycle
This is when things start to slow down inside. You might find you’re less inclined to be sociable and those carb cravings start creeping in. In fact, I am sometimes more tired during autumn than during winter. It’s during this phase that we become more sensitive to the build up of emotions from the month that has passed. We may even release these emotions through anger or tears. Allow it. Start mindfully slowing down in preparation for winter, really listening to your body. Some months you might have ample reserves, others less so. As someone who is self-employed, this is when doubts and anxieties about my business can appear. Especially if I’ve been judging myself for not being as productive as in spring and summer. Be kind to yourself. It’s also quite normal to feel overwhelmed by tasks you’d normally execute with ease.
Herbal tea for autumn: Linden Chai. Linden (aka lime blossom) is great for anxiety, perfect for calming those irritable nerves.
Don’t wait until your next holiday to prioritise your women’s health
The menstrual cycle and women’s health are fascinating and mysterious phenomena that we never truly get to the bottom of. That’s what makes them so special. The period of rest during our monthly period is an opportunity to take our foot off the accelerator at regular intervals instead of waiting until your next stint off work in six months time. Fellas? You might not have a menstrual cycle, but you are still human, so by definition, cyclical. Why not create your own seasonal structure to make more room in your life for balancing output and input?
If you haven’t started already, I hope this blog post inspires you to take delve deeper into your cycle and support your women’s health more fully.
Already track your cycle? Share your experiences in the comments below.