For some of us, our first period is and was utterly horrific. Nothing can really prepare you for the swift arrival of your adulthood and the clear sign that you are no longer a child. Without realising, it quickly becomes a source of shame, something that you will discuss with only your closest friends and family.
In general, most people aren’t comfortable discussing their menstrual cycle and prefer to ignore the signs of post-menstrual syndrome (PMS), push past the cramps and fight against the extreme fatigue that accompanies their period. There are actually group of people out there who are dedicated to embracing their cycle, rather than battle it.
Menstrual Cycle Awareness is a movement which seeks to educate those who menstruate about their cycle. It discusses how to adapt to different stages of menstruation, when to utilise certain emotions, and finally when to rest. It turns out that feeling tired, overwhelmed, exhilarated or even horny are all natural aspects of our hormonal cycle and the key is to track these emotions in order to regulate them.
Holistic health coaches like Alisha Rose Kruger or Rachel Dutton (otherwise known as The Period Whisperer) have spent years learning about the menstrual cycle and are eager to help others on the path to menstrual awareness. They encourage you to embrace natural times of creativity and productivity, whilst also paying attention to your feelings when you need to become relaxed and introspective.
In Kruger’s case she likens these different stages to the seasons, referring to them as ‘inner winter,’ ‘inner spring,’ ‘inner summer’ and ‘inner autumn.’ Much like the seasons, we have natural inclinations towards different activities or emotions during our cycle, typically ‘inner winter’ denotes rest and reflection, whereas ‘inner summer’ is a time of great creativity and productivity.
Learning to work alongside these changes can greatly improve not only your mental health but also contribute to your exercise routine or fertility. When you’re aware that a certain time in the cycle will make you feel more anxious, then you can be prepared for the drop in mood. Alternatively, if you know a productive time is coming up, you can plan and execute your ideas for maximum output. Being more aware of your body can only help your progress as you learn to iron out the ebbs and flows.
For anyone hoping to get some clarity on a topic that is so frustratingly lacking in information, the knowledge below could prove life changing.
Inner Winter: Day 1-5, Menstruation
At this point in your cycle, you are on your period. The stage revolves around rest, relaxation, reflection. You’re feeling less creative and productive, instead preferring to look inward and ahead to future projects. It’s best to leave the more intense workouts behind and switch to calming exercise like yoga & pilates. This is the peak time in which you want to eat comforting food, whether it be chocolate or takeaways. To curb these cravings you can batch cook healthy but filling meals.
Inner Spring: Days 6-13, Follicular
Over these days your body is preparing for ovulation and the ovaries are being stimulated to release an egg. Period specialists have previously suggested this is a time for trying new things or starting new habits. At the beginning of this stage you can feel anxious or overwhelmed but this will gradually make way for more creative energy and the desire to be productive. Kruger suggests reducing carb intake and eating more healthy fats as well as starting to incorporate more intense workouts.
Inner Summer: Days 14-20, Ovulatory
This is the shortest phase in your cycle, when you are most likely to get pregnant as the egg is released. This is often referred to as the ‘superwoman phase’ as you generally feel super motivated. This can be a great opportunity to express your creativity or act on plans you started to initiate during the winter and spring phases. You will naturally want to eat more fruit and vegetables and enjoy being more active.
Inner Autumn: Days 21-30, Luteal
During this phase your body prepares to either accommodate a fertilised egg or shed its lining.
As you can guess, this is when a lot of people are affected by PMS, so you can expect to feel changes in mood and emotions. Many experts suggest exercising gratitude and trying mindfulness to help regulate the emotions. This stage is best for admin tasks or editing the work you achieved in the ‘inner summer’ phase, completing these tasks will allow you to relax during the upcoming winter stage when it’s best to rest. Your energy will typically still be high for HIIT style workouts but you can peter these out as the ‘inner winter’ approaches. In terms of food, it’s best to eat foods rich in fibre, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins in preparation for your period.
Incorporating this knowledge into your daily life takes minimal preparation but can make a huge difference to your overall well-being. Your period is something you will have to work around for the majority of your life. So it makes sense to pay attention to it and use the differing stages to your advantage. There are many resources out there to help on your journey and endless benefits to be reaped. If you’re interested in incorporating Menstrual Cycle Awareness into your daily routine, then check out The Period Whisperer and Alisha Rose Kruger.