Do you find that your moods and your energy level change from week to week?
Do you wonder why one week you find it so easy to get to the gym whereas the next week you can barely pull yourself out of bed?
And perhaps it’s the same with food, one week you are the queen of clean eating and the next you can’t get enough pizza/cake/chocolate/all of the above.
Well a lot of it has to do with the energy associated with different stages of your menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle is divided into four stages and each of them have their own unique emotional and physical energy. Understanding this, and make a few simple swaps to when you do certain tasks, the way you eat and even exercise, can have a positive impact on your energy, mood and overall wellbeing.
Stage 1: Menstrual Phase
Day 1 of your period is considered the first day of your menstrual cycle. It is when progesterone is at its lowest, causing the endometrial lining to shed, creating your period. A healthy menstrual phase lasts between 3-7 days.
Themes: winter, rest, relax, trust, intuition, quiet time
Your energy is at its lowest during this week. You may feel tired and like you want to hide away. Take the time to rest. There is a lot of gut feeling and intuition in this week so slow down and listen. Don’t take on any big commitments and listen to that voice telling you to say no. Instead you might like to journal, meditate or even just sleep.
Foods: You may experience a decrease in appetite, this is normal. Water rich foods can help with menstrual swelling. Stay away from inflammatory foods especially if you suffer with any type of pain. Eat plenty of iron and Vitamin-C rich foods to counter blood loss and liver rich foods for hormone support.
Exercise: Gentle exercise such as yoga, stretching and walking is ideal.
Stage 2: Follicular Phase
This phase is from the end of your period coming into ovulation and usually last between 7-10 days. The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is released stimulating the follicles in your ovaries to mature. Estrogen and testosterone start to rise during this phase. Rising testosterone will see an increase in libido.
Themes: Spring, renewal, creativity, connection, new beginnings
Your mood and energy levels will start to rise in this phase. Serotonin and dopamine also begin to rise so your cognitive ability and outlook will improve. This is the time to start new projects, brainstorm new ideas and get creative. You are more like to take risks in the phase and feel more extroverted so if there is a fear you want to conquer this is the perfect time.
Food: Lots of good fats for hormone production, calcium rich foods and flax seeds for estrogen production and cruciferous veg for detoxification of excess hormones.
Exercise: With increased energy and endurance this is the time to be doing high intensity exercise: HIIT sessions, spin classes, boxing and weight training.
Stage 3: Ovulation Phase
During this phase, the egg gets released from the follicle ready for fertilization. Estrogen and testosterone are at their highest levels. Serotonin and dopamine are also at their highest so this is the time of the month you will be feeling your best.
Themes: Summer, fertile, energetic, seductive, irresistible
During this phase you will feel most confident, you will look your best and have a heighten sense of smell and vision. Your verbal skills are great and you will be mentally sharp and focused. Your sex drive will be at its highest. If you have an event where you want to impress, this is the time to schedule it: job interview, networking, public speaking, hot date.
Food: Continue with foods from the follicular phase with an emphasis on fresh fruit and veg. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fresh filtered water to stay energised during this highly productive time.
Exercise: If you are going for a PB, this is the time of the month you are most likely to reach it. But take care, high estrogen levels can make injury more likely.
Stage 4: Luteal Phase
This phase lasts 10-16 days and starts after ovulation and ends the day before your period. As you move through this phase, estrogen and testosterone will decline as you begin to produce the calming hormone, progesterone. The beginning of the luteal phase may feel like the ovulation phase before it starts slowly winding down, ready for quieter times ahead.
Themes: Autumn, slower, more sensitive, self-care, attention to detail
This is the time for nesting, doing home-based chores, admin jobs and crossing things off your to-do-list. It is a time for self-care as we can be more sensitive during this time. Spend more time alone and only engage in social events which feel right for you. This can be a difficult time for women, but when you honour this softer energy, you will find you feel more in balance during the lead up to your menstrual phase.
Food: Women often crave carbs and sugar during this phase, but it is a time when we are more sensitive to insulin. Eating protein and fat will help balance blood sugar levels. Zinc rich foods help with progesterone production and herbs such as parsley can help with water retention.
Exercise: As your energy becomes softer, do more gentle cardio and light weights. Exercise you find fun will help with mood.
We can’t be functioning at our best every day of our cycle and nor should we expect to. But our cycle should not be problematic. Yes, there are ups and downs but it should not look like a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When we can live a life more in harmony with our natural cycles, we will experience greater balance and less problems with our menstrual cycle.
If you have enjoyed this blog you might want to check out my Hormone Balancing Course at the Anahata Yoga Studio.