Cyclical Living and Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
One of the greatest things I learned during my time as an apprentice in Nicole Jardmin’s Fix Your Period program was the need to honor your body in each phase of the menstrual cycle. I’m not trying to rewrite the book on Cyclical Living. I have just been inspired by its teachings and want to share the benefits of leaning in to this rhythm of life.The female body is special in the sense that we have these predictable hormonal shifts, each month, that begin with the shedding of the uterine lining. Christiane Northrup, MD, says it like this:
“We reclaim the wisdom of the menstrual cycle by tuning in to our cyclic nature and celebrating it as a source of our female power.” -Christiane Northrup, MD, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
This is something I believe ALL women could be and should be doing because cyclical living provides you with more bodily respect, predictability, longevity and more abundance in your life.
It's no secret that during different phases of our menstrual cycle, women look and feel different. And much like the moon constantly changes and the seasons come and go, we can look to the female body for a similar pattern; that is cyclical living.
“Your menstrual cycle has a natural ebb and flow, leaving you feeling more energized and vibrant at certain times and more introspective and withdrawn at others.” -Lisa Hendrickson-Jack, The Fifth Vital Sign
So, let’s discuss the four phases:
Menstruation Phase - aka your period/Aunt Flo/the bleed...the physical shedding of the uterine lining.
Season = Winter
Moon phase = New Moon
This phase lasts approximately three to seven days, with the average being five. The intention behind this phase is to first, trust your intuition, and secondly, rest and relax.
Physically, most women associate this phase with fatigue, bloating, backaches and feeling crampy/achy. Emotionally, this is the time to withdraw and avoid big social gatherings.
Try to reschedule that big presentation if you work a 9-5, don’t go on interviews, or do anything that requires a lot of brain power. Focus on restorative exercise like walking, yoga, and/or Pilates.
You should nourish yourself with foods that are warming (i.e. bone broth), eat water rich fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugar (I know...sorry to all the chocolate lovers out there!)
Follicular Phase -
Season = Spring
Moon phase = Waxing
This phase lasts approximately seven to ten days. The intention behind this phase is renewal and creativity.
During this phase,“your follicles are rapidly growing and producing ever-increasing amounts of estrogen, which triggers your uterine lining to start proliferating as your body prepares for ovulation.”
Physically, you will have about six or less “dry” days before seeing cervical mucus, which indicates the fertile window of your cycle. If you desire pregnancy, that cervical mucus should be your get-busy sign. If you wish to avoid pregnancy, incorporate a barrier method or remain abstinent during this time (this rule of thumb also applies during the Ovulatory phase).
Emotionally, you likely will feel more energized, outgoing, and even revitalized. During the Follicular phase, it’s ideal to initiate new projects (at work or at home) and attend social events. This is also the time to pick up the pace in exercise, so focus on cardio by going for a run, swimming, or cycling!
Nourish yourself with light and fresh foods (i.e. salads), lean protein, healthy fats (i.e. avocados & pumpkin seeds), and incorporate microbiome-friendly foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Ovulatory Phase -
Season = Summer
Moon phase = Full moon
The Ovulatory phase lasts only three to five days. While this phase is the shortest, the intention behind this phase is heightened energy and seduction.
This is the time of peak fertility, and physically your cervical mucus will become watery, stretchy, and egg-white-like in consistency. The surge of Luteinizing Hormone releases the oocyte from your follicle, within your ovary, to be grabbed by the fimbriae of your fallopian tubes where-within conception may occur if sperm are present.
The building energy you felt in the previous phase will surge (physical, sexual and creative energy!), your skin will be brighter and you’ll also feel naturally attractive! Emotionally, in this phase, you’ll have lots of motivation, feel more confident and extroverted, and have heightened communication skills.
This is the time to try new hobbies, attend networking events, speak publicly, and go out on a date (or schedule date night with your partner). When it comes to movement, this is the perfect time for high impact training and weight lifting.
During the Ovulatory phase, you may find yourself craving more carbs to support ovulation. Focus on increasing your consumption of fatty fish (i.e. salmon, sardines, mackerel and/or tuna), vegetables and low sugar fruit (i.e. any non-tropical fruits).
Luteal Phase -
Season = Autumn
Moon phase = Waning
This phase can last between ten to 16 days obviously ending with the start of menstruation. This final phase is characterized as somber and introspective with the intention of self care and sensitivity.
“The length [of the luteal phase] is determined by the life cycle of your corpus luteum and its ability to produce adequate amounts of progesterone. Progesterone transforms the uterine lining and makes it receptive to a fertilized egg when it’s time for implantation.”
Peak progesterone also suppresses cervical mucus production. Estrogen declines significantly, taking with it the amazing energy you had. Additionally, some women may experience bloating, headaches, and/or sugar/alcohol cravings in the later half of the Luteal phase.
Emotionally, this phase causes most women to feel quieter and more withdrawn; you may also experience irritability, impatience, and anxiousness.
“The luteal phase of your cycle forces you to face the not-so-great stuff in your life.”
With that said, if you’re able, work from home or simply consider spacing out meetings. Prioritize self-care (get a massage, take a bath, binge on Netflix…). Your brain, during this phase, is more attentive to details, so focus on household chores, paying the bills, or simply journal more.
Recommended exercise in this cycle is half of Ovulatory and half of Menstruation; essentially, early in the luteal phase, you’ll be able to keep up with strenuous activity but will slow down in the latter half focusing on walking, yoga, and Pilates.
Nourish your body with higher protein, higher fat, and lower carbohydrate meals during this phase.
Kate Northrup, Christiane’s daughter, wrote a book entitled Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms, and in this very book she acknowledges the benefits of tracking her cycle and honoring her body during each phase. Kate says:
As I began to track my cycle, the result of the most feminine part of myself, my reproductive system, my self-compassion and self-love grew by leaps and bounds. I realized that this was the most practical way that I could love myself, and specifically my body. No other self-love practice even held a candle to the depth of understanding and honoring that I developed through the daily practice of tuning in to how my body felt, paying attention to where she was in her cycle and in her dance with the moon, and then adjusting the way I invested my time as a result. Practical as anything. Effective as hell.
If you’ve never paid attention to the details within your monthly cycle, I encourage you to try now! (And ladies, if you’re menopausal and no longer menstruating, pay attention to the moon phases and cycle with her; continue to honor your mind, body and soul in this feminine way.)
Keep a journal and document nightly before bed: what day of your cycle are you on (remember, “a normal menstrual cycle ranges in length for 24 to 35 days with an average length of 29 days”), is cervical mucus present and what it looks like, how you felt, and the current phase of the moon; think of it as gathering data on yourself and evaluating the trends you may see. Even if this is all you do at this time, by embracing your cycle, you will harness your wisdom and feel more in-tune with your body.
Are you ready to learn more about cyclical living?
Do you want help incorporating this into your life?
Or maybe, like me, you’ve struggled with menstrual issues for a while, and simply want to explore ways to break out from the fatigue and overwhelm in your life.
Send me a note on my Contact Me page! I'd love to chat with you more.
May you continue to blossom in new ways!