Go With The Flow: Seize Your Menstrual Cycle Day by Day

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We are finally talking more about menstruation, but this is essentially only a quarter of the reality. In actual fact, if you menstruate, then little is more powerful than understanding and embracing every stage of your cycle. Though one particular week of the month (perhaps understandably) receives the most attention, the other 3 weeks have their own quirks which we could all pay a little more attention to.

From what you eat, what you wear, to how you act, your hormone balance at any given time can have a profound impact on your behaviour. As with most things in life, knowledge is power. Learn why you may think or feel certain things at certain times of the month and you can use this to your advantage…

Menstruation

Day 1-6

Your period begins. Though this isn’t most people’s favourite time of the month, the good news is that your oestrogen level hit rock bottom yesterday – so it is all downhill from here! Any nasty PMS symptoms you experienced the week before are already easing off. And although you may be feeling a little fragile, these are the best days when it comes to really kicking off your shoes and indulging in self-care.

A good time to:

Self-care – If not now, then when? You deserve it, darling. Take some time out for yourself and don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel at your physical peak – just wait until next week!

Minerals – Make sure you get plenty of magnesium, potassium, and iron – either through nutrient-dense foods or supplementation. If you experience cramping, then increasing your intake of magnesium and potassium can help. Meanwhile, it’s essential to maintain healthy iron levels following your blood loss.

Hydrate – Upping your water intake will also ease any nasty symptoms. Menstruation will also likely leave you more dehydrated than normal. And we could all probably do with drinking more water anyway – so start off the month with good habits!

Follicular phase

Day 7-13

Oestrogen is now increasing by the hour making you more upbeat, productive,  optimistic, and sociable. You are also officially most attractive during this week, as you are the most fertile. This means that your skin becomes more glowing and your face even becomes more symmetrical?!

On the psychological side, you become more adventurous and your libido increases. You are now more tempted than usual to try new things and experiences. Interestingly, you are also more likely to wear red or pink during this stage and your voice raises in pitch – as they subliminally reflect your fertility.

On the other hand, this spike in oestrogen can bring on the jitters or anxiety in some people, as the sudden energy boost and perception shift can be jarring – so make sure you watch your caffeine intake and take some time to rest in between all the dazzling!

Ovulation

Day 14-16

Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary. This usually occurs mid-cycle, around two weeks or so before menstruation starts. This is also when your oestrogen levels peak, along with your energy, motivation, and self-confidence. Strangely, this are the couple of days of the month where you even remotely resemble the women in tampon ads.

A good time to:

Take a risk – Not only are you more in the mood for some daring behaviour, but your confidence is at its peak. This means that you believe more in yourself, and that by the way that you carry yourself during this time – others do too! On top of this, you are more productive, think faster, and have a surge of creativity. So take advantage of this. It’s a great time to ask for that raise, do that audition, get stuck into a new project, or ask out a special somebody. It’s not every day you feel this fabulous!

Work out – Make the most of your energy surge whilst also helping to dissipate any nervous energy buildup by going on a run or hitting the gym. You not only will perform your best right now, meaning you will get more out of the session, but it will make you feel AMAZING.

Go on that date – Did I mention you are at your peak attractiveness at this time? And confidence? A good time of the month to pursue any romantic endeavors. Or any situation where first impressions count, such as an important meeting.

Luteal phase

Day 17-21

Following ovulation, there is a sudden hormone change as oestrogen drops and progesterone and testosterone rise. Lethargy is accompanied by oily skin, irritability, and all the emotions. While water retention and bloating make you feel larger (only intensifying said emotions…)

During this time, your body is essentially preparing for potential pregnancy – as it hasn’t got the message yet that your egg wasn’t fertilised. As such, your growing desire to curl up in bed, eat for two and watch cute animal videos is actually completely natural and justifiable – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

A good time to:

Face mask – With your skin likely doing its own thing right now, it’s a better time than ever to experiment with face masks to keep you feeling fresh.

Enjoy a hot bath – A hot bath is a great way to soothe any crappy mood. Especially when it’s of the hormonal variety, as taking a relaxing bath has actually been proven to decrease cortisol levels, which in turn makes sure that the rest of your hormones are in check. (Also, since you are likely feeling pretty sluggish right now, at least you don’t have to move…)

Meditate – Similarly, this may be a great time for you to have another crack at meditation. It should help to calm with the hormonal irritability and serve as a nice way to wind down and reconnect with yourself before your most challenging time of the month hits in a few days’ time. And if you struggle with meditation in the classical sense, then try some alternative ways to unwind and ground yourself.

Day 22-28

Oestrogen hits rock bottom meaning so do your energy and motivation levels. Meanwhile, your appetite and desire to sleep go in the opposite direction. Now that your progesterone levels are at their peak, you may experience swollen or painful breasts and your urge to cocoon yourself away from all of life’s responsibilities is hard to resist.

Interestingly enough, you are actually much more attracted by familiarity during this week – think comfort foods, known and trusted environments, and an aversion to meeting new people or trying new experiences. These desires are completely normal during this phase, as your body is in the final stages of preparing for a potential pregnancy and so you naturally crave stable environments and many calories…

A good time to:

Eat like a queen – Speaking of which, some research suggests you are actually burning more calories during this time, as your body is basically in nesting mode – and likely craving high iron and magnesium-rich foods (yes, this includes chocolate). So give your body what it needs – dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, bananas, tofu, and nuts are great examples – and should keep cravings and dizziness at bay.

Work out – Ease sluggishness and breast tenderness by powering through an endorphin-boosting work-out. It may take extra will-power to get into your sports bra this week, but the after-effect of your session will only have more of a high. If you struggle with progesterone-inflicted breast tenderness, then getting your blood pumping can ease this too.

Sleep like a baby – You are likely much more tired these days – but on the plus side, especially if you otherwise struggle with insomnia, you can now benefit from much better quality sleep. Don’t fight it! Your body needs that extra rest to get you ready for what comes next…

…Because then, you get to start all over again (Yay.)

The fun never stops, right?

So that’s a wrap on the general hormonal rollercoaster that you can enjoy as a menstruating human every single day – never mind month! Once you know what to expect each week and the reasons behind your inclinations, you can better care for yourself and give your body and mind what they really need.

This is of course only a general guideline since we are all different, with varying hormone levels and cycle lengths. But if you struggle with prolonged, unexplained hormone fluctuations, then look into underlying issues.

And if you’re not the best at keeping track of when you’re next due to bleed – never mind the rest – then get yourself an app! I recommend “Period Log” to keep track of your cycle, and “Hormone Horoscope” to get a rundown of your hormone levels each day.

What strange symptoms or emotions do you get on a monthly basis? Let us know down in the comments!

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