People of a certain age may remember an advert for a brand of compact tampons where a schoolgirl has her hand up asking to be excused from the classroom. The premise being that her tampon is so small, no one can see what’s in her hand avoiding embarrassment.
Twenty-five years later and not that much has really changed. I still feel the need to carry my bag to the office toilet and periods are still talked about in hushed tones generally within the context of either fertility or irregularities.
Most of us have a basic understanding of how menstruation works on a physical level. However, changes and surges in hormones mean we have greater strengths at different times of the month.
Understanding this offers the chance to work with your cycle and use it to its best advantage.
How to harness your menstrual cycle
There are four phases in the menstrual cycle: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. Each one creating physical and hormonal changes explaining why you might feel differently throughout the month.
Phase 1 – menstruation
This is when bleeding starts and is the first day of your menstrual cycle. Your energy will be at its lowest and you may feel tired and sluggish. You’ll need to rest more than usual. Try to avoid planning events and introduce some quiet time into your schedule.
Use this phase for self-reflection: look back on the last month and set intentions for the month ahead.
Phase 2 – follicular phase
Following menstruation, your body releases the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which stimulates the follicles in your ovaries to mature. Estrogen and testosterone rise during this phase giving you an energy boost.
Use this phase for creative thinking and problem-solving. Your mind will be sharp.
Phase 3 – ovulatory phase
Your body releases an egg at this stage of the cycle. Estrogen and testosterone rise to their peak and your energy levels will be at their highest levels. You may feel more confident: physically and mentally.
Use this phase for anything that requires confidence and being able to articulate your thoughts easily.
Phase 4 – luteal phase
Estrogen and testosterone start to decline and your body produces progesterone which is a relaxing hormone. You may also feel the effects of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMT) and feel more emotional, have headaches and/or experience bloating. Try to manage this with healthy food (even when your body craves carbohydrates) and any activity that makes you feel more balanced.
Use this phase to practice self-care and prepare for the next part of the cycle ahead.
Tools to help understand your cycle
The website and App
We are Moody is an online platform designed to help you track your highs and lows so you can understand yourself better and get the most from your cycle.
The Instagram coach – Claire Baker
Claire Baker uses Instagram stories to share advice on how to use your menstrual cycle to live life in flow. She breaks down each cycle into seasons and explains how to use each one for its best purpose.