When it comes to self-care among women, there is one tool that is constantly overlooked and under-utilized-our menstrual cycles! It may sound crazy given how our cycles are often portrayed as a burden, but I’ll let you in on something… it’s our secret weapon.
Getting in touch with your body and its natural cycles is a great way to get feedback on what parts of your life are working and which ones need more fine-tuning.
As a period coach, I show women that our bodies speak their own language and communicate via symptoms and changes in the menstrual cycle. Learning how to speak this language allows you to start a conversation with your own body about how changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle, and sleep might be affecting you.
Not only does this allow you to get feedback directly from the source, but it’s also a great tool to feel grounded in your experiences, needs, and desires. Your self-care needs are dynamic. They shift and change with your cycle and throughout life.
Do you ever wonder why sometimes you just want a warm bath and a book, but other times self-care means brunch with the gals? It might have something to do with your menstrual cycle!
Understanding yours could help you figure out ways to best support yourself. Tell me a better form of self-care than that?! I’ll wait
You may be asking: “How exactly do I use my menstrual cycle as a health and self-care tool?” To do this, you have to understand the phases of the menstrual cycle, how they show up for you, and plan self-care accordingly. Let’s break it down:
Your cycle starts on the first day of bleeding. Estrogen and progesterone, the two main hormones orchestrating your cycle, are both low at this point. Do you know the feeling of being super low-energy and maybe even a bit anti-social the day Aunt Flow comes in? This is due to the drop in hormones as well as the blood loss during your period.
Self-care during menstruation:
Instead of working your way through your period or forcing yourself to be active, this time is great for slowing down and letting yourself REST. Your period is the time for those chilled-out self-care nights of staying in and enjoying much-needed downtime. Turn off your computer, put your to-do list away, and relax.
This is the phase between your period and ovulation. Estrogen is rising in preparation for an egg being released. This phase feels like an increase in buzzing energy inside you. For some, this energy can feel overwhelming, and for others, it’s like having a cup of coffee, giving you pep to your step.
Self-care during pre-ovulation:
If the energy during this time often feels overwhelming to you, be aware of over-scheduling and spreading yourself too thin. Do active things that you enjoy, like taking a walk, hike, bike ride, etc.! This is an opportunity to go outside and soak it all in. If you thrive from the injection of energy this phase gives you, this is a great time to do those high-energy self-care things. Maybe this looks like a fun weekend getaway or pumping it out with fun cardio or that intense HIIT class. Rock out and enjoy the ride!
This is the zenith of your cycle, and this fertile time starts with a few days leading up to ovulation. At this point, your hormones are at their highest (especially estrogen), so it’s a time when you likely feel most social and magnetic.
Self-care during ovulation:
Don’t be afraid to feel yourself! Wear that outfit you love and check yourself out in the mirror. Pour love all over your beautiful self. This is a great time to enjoy social things. Think of a night out with friends or a dinner date. Don’t forget to have fun!
This is the phase between ovulation and the day before your period starts, and you enter a new cycle. After ovulation, your hormones suddenly drop, and progesterone slowly rises again throughout this phase. This drop often feels like a drop of energy and a need to retreat back into yourself. For some, this can feel disorienting after the “high” of ovulation, and for others, it’s a comforting “coming home” feeling.
Self-care during pre-menstruation:
This is a great time to start slowing down again and take stock of the last couple of weeks or so. If you’re feeling disoriented or even a bit depressed when dropping into this phase, use this time for the “classic” self-care rituals. Light some candles, pull out your journal, do some yoga, and start to get re-connected to yourself and feel yourself getting grounded. This is a great time for self-reflection, but remember to keep it a no-judgment zone for yourself or others.
For those who love dropping into this phase, you might feel your creative juices flowing. Set up a comfy cozy environment and get to those creative projects you’ve been meaning to do. Write, paint, cook, mood board, dream, and let your imagination go wild.
One final thing to remember about using your cycle for self-care is that everyone’s cycle is unique. How you experience your cycle is very personal, so remember that it’s not about following a specific and set self-care routine. It’s about learning to listen to your body’s needs and honoring those by adjusting your self-care.
Once you establish this practice, you’ll find that your cycle is like the life-long BFF who always gives you the hard and honest truths and never leads you astray.