The four seasons of your menstrual cycle
Everyone’s experience of their cycle is different; what matters is your experience of your cycle.
Whatever it’s like, I recommend using the framework of the four seasons of the year to help you to understand how you evolve through the four phases of the menstrual cycle.
At the beginning of the cycle, hormone levels are low. Some people might not be affected by this, but others will feel it acutely and may feel a deep need to lay low. This is a time for you to rest and recalibrate, and to focus on activities which centre your interests and needs. From day 3 there is a gentle upswing of oestrogen which some menstruators are sensitive to, resulting in an increase in energy and positivity. If this is you then I recommend not putting your pedal to the metal just yet, your energy is gathering and if you can hold back from expending it all, it will continue to grow so that in the coming weeks you’ll be able to make full use of it during the subsequent seasons.
Is there a seed of something within you – an idea, an insight, or calling – that is vying for your attention? Be aware of it and get curious, acknowledge its presence even if you have no idea what to do with it. It is enough to notice it. This isn’t about forming a plan that can be followed and completed in one cycle, it is simply the act of noticing what rises to the surface in you during this phase and deciding to work with it as you move through the phases of the cycle.
Around the time that your period ends, you’ll enter the Spring phase of your cycle. This is where oestrogen really gets going which will hopefully leave you looking good and feeling good! In every cycle, oestrogen’s plan is to get us laid and knocked up, regardless of whether that’s something you want or not. Oestrogen does this by making us interested in other people and this is often the phase of the cycle where sexual desire increases too, because oestrogen stimulates blood flow to the genitals which can result in tingles when you least expect them and an increase in cervical fluid which is what that wet patch in your underwear is all about. Though interestingly and unsurprisingly, research tells us that feeling desire in the run up to ovulation doesn’t always result in sexual behaviour with others. #girlswanktoo
This is the phase of the cycle where ideas might pop into your head and you could feel curious about all sorts of things, so it’s a great time to experiment and have some light-hearted fun.
If you are tired in this phase of your cycle, then something has gone awry. It may be that your experience of bleeding leaves you in a depleted state, in which case, please seek out help from qualified professionals and prioritise your very real need for self- care throughout your cycle – this is non-negotiable.
As oestrogen peaks – around day 12 in a 28-day cycle – you transition into the Summer phase of your cycle. Your ability to communicate with the world is heightened, making it the perfect time to speak publicly, schedule an important meeting or interview, go on a date, showcase your talents, and generally let the world how friggin’ amazing you are.
Testosterone also arrives on the scene for a few days which can make you more likely to take risks and try things you haven’t done before, and it can also contribute to an increase in desire. Summer is the season to stretch yourself somehow – to push things forward and take them to the next level, and to be visible in the world before entering the more introspective seasons of the cycle.
For the day or two after ovulation, hormone levels are low again and some menstruators find that their energy and mood plummets, the high of ovulation suddenly feeling distant. But once progesterone – the hormone which dominates the second half of the cycle – gets going, and oestrogen rises again, you’ll hopefully feel your energy returning and your mood calming.
Progesterone peaks in the middle of the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase), which is around day 21 in a 28-day cycle, and often results in a need to sort things out and get shit done. That might mean focussing on a project, editing and refining it so that it’s in a finished or good enough state before this cycle comes to an end, or it might be about getting on top of life admin so that you feel a sense of completion before the cycle ends and perhaps go to ground in some way when your period arrives.
Feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and depressed are common in Autumn, but when we write them off as PMSing we do ourselves a disservice. What you feel here is real, and what bothers you here probably bothers you all the time. Anger in particular can instruct us that something isn’t right, and that change is needed. But in the first half of the cycle, we gloss over the little (and large) things that bother us because oestrogen doesn’t want you to be disgusted by your other half talking with their mouth full – oestrogen wants us chatty and horny, so it’s the second half of the cycle when you find yourself wanting to stab your other half with a fork.
If you haven’t started tracking your cycle, then now is the time to start. That way you can begin to collect data and get to know your experience of the seasons of the cycle as well as the timing of them. You can get started by downloading this free PDF and if you want to know more, check out my book, Period Power.
It was through attending workshops and completing an apprenticeship with Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo-Wurlitzer, the creators of Red School and authors of Wild Power, that I learnt about the seasons of the cycle. It was their pioneering work that revolutionised my experience of my cycle so I can’t recommend their book and opportunities to learn from them enough.