Every women's menstrual cycle is unique to her and will vary in length and menstrual flow but a healthy cycle has 4 phases - Menstruation, Follicular Phase, Ovulation and the Luteal Phase. Each phase has a specific role and the flow and change of the hormones has an impact on your body as well as emotions.
These phases are often referred to as menstrual seasons - Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Understanding your cycle and how hormones affect your body and emotions can dramatically help to maintain the balance of both.
Winter - Your Period.
When: Starts on day one of your period. (Usually day 1-5)
If there isn't a pregnancy, progesterone drops resulting in the shedding of the uterus lining. Your bleed begins. (There should be no spotting prior to the full flow). At this time oestrogen and progesterone are both low, causing your energy to be at its lowest, leading you to feel tired and maybe even exhausted. You may experience some cramping on the first couple of days but your period shouldn't be painful. It should be cranberry red with no clots. The flow will become lighter and the colour more brown (old blood) over the last 2-3 days.
Your breasts may become less swollen as you lose water retention. PMS symptoms will start to reduce and you may feel introverted and have a sense of vulnerability.
How to spend your Winter Phase.
This is a time to be introspective. So save energy and rest. Over exerting yourself at the gym isn't a good idea during your Winter and gentle exercise is recommended instead. Pamper yourself and practice self care. Eat nourishing foods and spend time recharging your internal battery. Don't over stimulate yourself socialising with friends or on social media. Don't push yourself at work if you can help it.
Spring - The Follicular Phase
When: Starts around the time your period finishes. (Usually from day 6-13)
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) starts to rise, stimulating the follicles in the ovaries to begin to develop and mature. Oestrogen is secreted by the growing follicles causing the lining of the uterus to thicken. Progesterone remains low during this phase. Oestrogen causes an increase of cervical mucus and you'll probably notice your libido improving. Oestrogen will make you feel more confident, sociable and creative. Your inhibitions reduce and you'll begin to look outwards to the world around you. Your energy is increasing by the day. Your mind is clear and sharp. You may also notice your skin is clearer.
How to spend your Spring Phase.
This is the time to do presentations, interviews and speeches. As you'll have better communication around this time. Make plans with friends (but try not to make plans during your Autumn and Winter phases). Now is the time to exercise at the gym and go for those personal bests.
Summer - Ovulatory Phase.
When: Mid cycle. (Usually between days 12 - 16)
At the start of summer, theres a surge of oestrogen. Luteinising Hormone (LH) reaches its peak causing a follicle to rupture and release a mature egg from the ovary. This is known as ovulation. Your cervical mucus is now slippery or similar to egg white. Your body is at its most fertile.
This is the height of your cycle where you'll feel your best and your energy and confidence are at their peak. You'll feel physically attractive, flirty and affectionate and your libido will be high.
How to spend your Summer Phase.
Enjoy this phase. Connect more with your partner, family and friends. Take advantage of this energy and finish projects or start new ones. Be creative or do some batch cooking (ready for when your energy is lower).
Autumn - Luteal Phase
When: From ovulation to bleed. (Usually from day 15 - 28)
A cyst called the Corpus Luteum forms where the follicle ruptured, releasing an egg (ovum) from the ovary. It is the Corpus Luteum which secretes the hormone progesterone. Progesterone dominates this part of your cycle and helps develop and maintain the lining of the uterus and is essential to support a pregnancy. Your cervical mucus will thicken and become more sticky.
As progesterone increases, your energy starts to decrease and the joy of Spring and Summer have disappeared. You may feel withdrawn and even grumpy, sensitive and detached. You may start to turn inwards and focus more on yourself than others. You may gain a sense of clarity that you didn't have during your Spring or Summer. You no longer feel as desirable or flirty like you did during the earlier seasons. Your skin may not be so clear and spots may appear. Once Autumn is in full swing, around day 21, you may experience Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT or PMS) with symptoms of anxiety, irritability, mood swings, tender breasts and cravings.
How to spend your Autumn Phase.
Use your energy wisely. Be aware of your energy during the day and choose when your optimal time is to do the most challenging tasks.
Be gentle on yourself. Don't over do it in the gym or socialising with friends. Eat some of those meals you cooked during your Summer!
Accepting support from others will make your Autumn easier and more enjoyable.
Symptom tracking throughout your cycle will help you recognise your physical and emotional changes. By doing this, you'll learn to understand why you're feeling a particular way and plan to look after yourself during each phase.