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Written by my Spring 2019 apprenticeship participant, Tamika Woods, this post discusses the phases of your cycle and how to live according to each for optimal wellbeing.

A recent 1500-person survey found that 58% of women feel embarrassed when they menstruate. Forty-two percent of these women had experienced ‘period shaming’ by male friends, and 51% of men believed it was inappropriate for women to refer to their menstrual cycles in the workplace. Despite the progress we have made in women’s equality, this study revealed we still have some work to do in normalizing periods.

How many of us grow up ashamed of our periods?

The momentous occasion where you experience your first bleed is often clouded by shame, embarrassment, and taboo. This experience can be critical in shaping your relationship with your cycle and womanhood for the rest of your life. Many of us begin our menstruating lives in secret, being taught that this is something shameful to hide from the world. This can shape the way we feel about being a woman in today’s world and how much we tune in to our innate wisdom.

My own story isn’t dissimilar. My first bleed happened two days after my thirteenth birthday. I remember telling my mum who handed me some bulky pads and told me I’d be dealing with this burden “for a long time.” The next day I was back at school, desperately trying to hide the enormous change that had happened overnight. I didn’t tell a single friend I had gotten my period, and had no idea if they had started theirs yet.

I vividly recall stashing tampons up my sleeve for years in fear that anyone would know I was bleeding. I remember boys making snide remarks about girls who “must be on their period” because they were irritated by something they’d said. Having a period felt like a gross burden that we had to suffer through silently each month.

It wasn’t until the end of high school when my best friend (who suffered from horrendous cramps each month) and I had my first ever conversation about periods. It wasn’t very deep, and all we shared was our mutual stories of hiding crippling pain from everyone around us. We questioned why we even had to have periods and cursed being a woman for its inconveniences.

Periods are powerful.

Over the past decade I have come to deeply appreciate the power and gift menstruating brings. This was a gradual process for me, and intricately tied with my journey of resolving my own menstrual issues of pain, irregular cycles and acne. I now see being a woman in tune with her cycle as one of my greatest assets, and I use my cycle to ground me throughout each and every month.

Ladies, it’s time to stop fighting your cycle and hiding it from the world as if it were shameful. When we live in harmony with our cycle, we have access to an infinite source of wisdom, energy, and clarity. This is the key to being your most creative, productive self and living a life in line with your desires.

So, how do you go from dreading your period to celebrating your cycle? The key is to understand the four phases of your cycle, referred to as your ‘inner seasons,’ and how to best support yourself in each.

I have provided days of each phase as a rough guide, with day 1 being the first day of your bleed. Please note that every woman is different. You may spend shorter or longer in each phase.

Inner Winter (Menstruation): Days 1-6

A time for shutting out the world, and turning inwards.

The beginning of your bleed signifies the beginning of a new cycle, and the start of your inner winter. This is a time for rest, drawing inwards, and prioritizing self-care. We are naturally most introspective and intuitive at this time, so this is a good time to reflect on the past month and whether or not you were living in line with your values. As you shed the lining of your uterus, it’s helpful to think of letting go of anything that no longer serves you.

How to tune in:

Clear space in your schedule during your menstruation time. As much as possible, say no to extra commitments, try to organize a work-from-home day and dial down exercise and other strenuous activity. Prioritize rest and renewal.

Activities to try at this time:

  • Journaling and reflecting
  • Reading
  • Drinking tea
  • Minimal exercise e.g. slow walks or yoga
  • Movie nights
  • Naps
  • Time alone and in nature

Inner Spring (Follicular Phase): Days 7-13

Rising energy and focus.

As estrogen begins to surge and your ovaries are busy producing an egg that will be released at ovulation, you will find that you start to emerge from the cave of menstruation and are ready to be back in the world again. You will notice your energy levels creeping back up and may feel more inclined to socialize and be productive. The follicular phase is the time that we are most creative, so starting a new project or taking a new direction is a good idea. This is also a time when your body may respond well to higher intensity exercise like running or HIIT.

How to tune in:

Utilize this rise in energy to plan the month ahead, start a new project and get good quality, focussed work done.

Activities to try at this time:

  • Plan and organize
  • Try higher intensity exercise
  • Schedule big tasks that require focus
  • Add some social events to your week

Inner Summer (Ovulation): Days 14-21

Contagious energy and attractiveness. 

As you reach ovulation, you enter your most vibrant, energetic and fertile phase of your cycle. You may find yourself feeling very social, wanting to serve others rather than yourself. This phase is just like the season of summer—you will likely want to be out for longer, connecting with others, and find a seemingly limitless amount of energy. Physically, estrogen is at its peak now and your egg has just been released. Your skin will be glowing, your energy is magnetic, and your libido is at an all-time high!

How to tune in:

Notice your feminine energy and the attraction it creates around you. Harness this energy for good, rather than letting it spiral you out of control.

Activities to try at this time:

  • Schedule big presentations at work
  • Speak up in meetings
  • Ask for what you want from your partner and work—your energy is so attractive at this time that you are more likely to get what you want!
  • Organize social events
  • Enjoy higher intensity exercise
  • Go on a first date or enjoy sexual time with your partner (make the most of that strong libido!)

Inner Autumn (Luteal Phase): Days 22-29

Time to slow down again.

As you enter the final week of your cycle, all of your hormones begin to drop off in preparation for menstruation. You may notice your energy starting to dip, and feel intolerant of people asking you to do things for them. This is a time to prepare for the solitude of menstruation: Finish off any projects you have been working on, batch cook some food to save you energy during your bleed, and create space in your schedule for the week to come.

How to tune in:

Be aware of this change in energy—fighting it and trying to keep up your productivity can worsen PMS and mood swings.

Activities to try at this time:

  • Bring projects to a close
  • Batch cook meals and snacks for menstruation week
  • Clear space in your schedule for the week to come

What if you don’t currently have a period?

You can still follow along with each of the inner seasons using the moon cycle: The new moon correlates with menstruation, and the full moon with ovulation.

Final Thoughts

Creating space for introspection at menstruation allows us to connect with our innate wisdom, giving us clarity on the next direction to take in our lives. This powerful tool will guide you towards achieving your deepest desires. Next bleed (or new moon), clear some space for some of the activities described and notice how this pause increases your productivity and drive for the rest of your cycle. Charting your cycle is a key way of getting to know your individual patterns and experience of these four phases. You can grab my menstrual chart here, or simply pull out your favourite journal and start recording how you feel each day of the month. You may be surprised what you uncover!

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About Tamika

How to harness your inner superpower: your periodTamika is a Women’s Health Clinical Nutritionist who empowers women to uncover the root cause of their menstrual cycle challenges and live in harmony with their cycles. She works with women 1:1 all over the world and creates eBooks, eCourses, and blogs to spread the message of natural hormone balance further. You can connect with her on Instagram and at her website.