Lots of us know when our periods are due because we may feel a little tetchy, tearful or bloated. But did you know you’re actually at the end of autumn and coming into winter when that happens?
Whereas our main focus used to be on those 3-7 days where we had our period, there is more power and meaning in the other weeks of our cycle than we really notice. There are more press articles about periods and our menstrual cycles than ever before and there are lots of us who are becoming more in tune with how our hormones affect us. And a huge benefit of this is that we can make our cycles work for us; maximising the best times to take on tasks, work to deadlines and multitask, network, socialise and have quiet reflective time to recharge.
In Red magazine (July 2018), a menstrual cycle coach, Claire Baker, explains how she uses the menstrual seasons to work for her clients. It can be enormously helpful and empowering to check in with how you’re feeling, what your body is doing and then relating it to where you are in your cycle.
“Women understand they are on a rhythm, but they don’t know how to work with it. We can use how we’re feeling at different times in our cycle to live and work in an optimum way; with our bodies rather than against them.”
I have to admit that before I attended my abdominal massage training (previously known as Fertility Massage), I’d never related my cycle to the seasons before, but since I have? Well, it can make life so much easier and means I’m so much more in tune with what’s happening to my hormones and my body and can try and plan events in my life to when I know I’ll be in the stage of my cycle to make the most of them.
So how do the seasons of the year correlate to your menstrual cycle?
Winter is when our period arrives; Spring is from the end of our bleed until ovulation; Summer is from ovulation and lasts until the week before our next bleed is due; Autumn is the 5-7 days before our next period, typically associated with PMT for those of us who suffer from that.
Let’s think about this: what do we tend to do in winter? We want to get cosy and hibernate. I’d quite happily spend all of January curled up under a blanket at home every evening with a hot drink, chocolate and a good book. And at the end of winter and start of spring? I feel energised and ready to see friends, be hugely sociable and chatty, I multitask like a demon and am both excited and motivated about what I have to do. I’m a lot more relaxed in summer, still happy but more likely to take a laidback attitude to life and enjoy myself. And in spring and summer, your libidos are likely to be much higher too. When October and autumn begins, it’s a time of shadows and your shadow side is more likely to show its face: those less cheery aspects of your personality. Life may feel overwhelming, you’ve had enough and want everyone to leave you alone and give you a break.
This correlates to each week of your cycle. So, as a brief and simple overview of the typical hormonal changes in our cycle, this is what tends to happen:
When our period arrives our oestrogen levels have dropped to their lowest point and are about to begin gradually increasing again. This can leave us feeling fatigued but you know that as your oestrogen begins to climb back up, you will start to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel again! This may take a few days but your rising oestrogen makes everything feel lighter, brighter and more optimistic. And by the second week of your cycle, your oestrogen levels will help your memory and creativity but can sometimes make concentration more difficult as its harder to focus on one thing for a long period. And high oestrogen can make us slightly more sensitive to stress. As we move from spring into summer, our oestrogen levels begin to drop and our progesterone levels increase which can make you feel a little quieter and more connected to your emotions. Oestrogen continues to decrease as we move into our autumn so for those of us who are more sensitive to our hormonal fluctuations, it can see some pre-menstrual symptoms start to appear until our period appears and the cycle begins again.
One of Claire’s tips that I try to never forget (and I’d advise every women to do the same!) is this:
“The key quality to exercise in ‘autumn’ is discernment. The ‘summer woman’ is not to be trusted with a calendar – she feels so great she’ll fill it, but when autumn comes she won’t want to do half of it!” (I do this a lot!)
Knowing this, it’s easier to track how every aspect of your physical, emotional and mental health is affected by these seasons. If you’ve got a big event in your autumn or winter then you know that your body and your hormone levels are not going to make it the easiest thing, but these things can’t often be avoided. “Oh I’m sorry I can’t hit that deadline this week, I’m in winter so it just won’t work” isn’t massively realistic. But knowing you have to do it allows you to plan for it and to make sure that you can have your much-needed quiet time afterwards – probably with chocolate and a big mug of tea somewhere where you aren’t disturbed! Whereas spring brings a surge of productivity and positivity where everything feels so much more achievable.
The power of your menstrual cycle isn’t just about knowing when your period is due, it is possible to harness the power of each season of your cycle too and make it work for you.