“… she sings from the knowing of los ovaries, a knowing from deep within the body, deep within the mind, deep within the soul." - Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Most people, when reflecting on the menstrual cycle, think about ‘bleed week’. We’ve been conditioned to dread it, to see it as an inconvenience and a disturbance since it does not correspond to our society's standards of performance. However, there is a beautiful rising movement of awareness surrounding the menstrual cycle. This brings an understanding of our history and relationship with it and invites us to transform as individuals and together as a society.
Evolving our perception of our monthly cycle is a gradual process, one that involves unrooting our personal history and then, day by day, thinking and living through our cycle more mindfully. This article will demystify the phases of your cycle and give you tools to harmonize your premenstrual phase.
Our menstrual cycle is dictated by a hormonal symphony that takes place in relationship with many other systems of the body and fluctuates throughout the month. Our hormones are intimately related to our energy and stress levels & management. This is why it is NORMAL to feel, think and resist stress differently in each phase of our cycle.
Our menstrual cycle has 4 main phases:
- Menstruation phase
- Follicular phase
- Ovulation phase
- Luteal phase
In many cultures, the menstrual cycle is viewed as a sacred source of insight and renewal. The cycle, seen as a rhythm, can be segmented in an externalizing phase and an internalizing phase. The outgoing, social and creative essence of our cycle takes place during the Follicular and Ovulation phases, making for a pleasant and powerful time for creation (ideas, projects, fertility). It is a period that ~generally~ feels good when its energy is free and harvested. It's also a period when our left brain is more easily activated, allowing us to tend to different tasks and be productive.
The second half of the cycle (internalizing phase) is where we believe a lot of our work resides, it is the inward, hermit, introspective part of our menstrual cycle. Society is not nearly as keen on the Luteal & Menstrual phases as it is on the follicular & ovulation phases. Thus, we tend to judge our premenstrual energy, emotions, and inward mood as ‘bad and unproductive’. The information received during this is reflective and intuitive. When we routinely block out this phase of our cycle, it may come back at us as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). There is no shame to hold against our bodies if we experience symptoms during any part of our cycle. On the contrary, it is our messenger, sometimes called our fifth vital sign, bringing us awareness to a possible dis-harmony in our life.
Our cycle as a whole, especially when experiencing discomfort and irregularities, offers infinite potential (acting as a compass) to guide us toward our optimal alignment every month. Just because premenstrual symptoms are extremely common doesn’t mean that it's impossible to regulate it and thrive throughout our cycle.
* If your premenstrual symptoms are disrupting your daily life for more than one cycle, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and investigate further.
Here are some practical applications to start listening to ALL FOUR phases of your monthly cycle, helping you harmonize your PMS … because holistic healing occurs when the cycle is addressed as a whole, rather than addressing symptoms as they repeatedly arise.
Track you cycle
Know when you've entered the Luteal (premenstrual) phase and begin observing your overall state. Notice the fluctuations of your needs, energy and moods in correlation with the different phases of your cycle.
Prioritize hydration and sleep
Hydration & rest are some of the most important needs that help bring your body into harmony. People too often attempt to find the magic pill or recipe that will hack their system into balance, without addressing these two key elements. At Ode, we love the topic of sleep, which will in fact be covered in a future article. For now, if you suffer from sleep disturbances, consult a holistic health care provider to find the root cause of this dis-harmony. It will save you a lot of time and greatly improve ALL other systems in your body.
Observe and try to balance the amount of doing vs. being time in your daily life.
During your premenstrual phase, allow yourself to observe the physical demands of your body. When and what does it need to feel nourished (food)? How does it want to move and at what intensity (exercise)? All four phases will feel somewhat different to all of us. To understand our body's needs we must first pay attention and LISTEN. The intuitive ‘knowing’ will come.
“Once we begin to appreciate our menstrual cycle as part of our inner guidance system we begin to heal hormonally and emotionally.” - Christiane Northrup M.D. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdoms