Go With The Flow: How To Work With Your Hormonal Cycle, Not Against It
Have you ever noticed that sometimes it feels like nothing or no one can stand in your way? Your energy is high, your motivation is soaring, and you feel like sunshine in human form, and then BAM the following week, your energy plummets, your motivation lags, and you really just want to go take a nice, long nap?
Good news: peaks and troughs like these in your energy levels are actually a sign of good hormonal health. They are a natural by-product of your body’s natural rhythms, but we totally get it, when your period is approaching and your productivity levels have gone into hiding, it can feel like a major stumbling block when it comes to achieving your goals.
Powering through your to-do list while fending off fatigue, battling with brain fog, and caressing some uncomfortable cramps is no mean feat. But don’t fret, energy dips aren’t something to be feared. In fact, they are an opportunity to rest and recharge. They are our body’s way of signalling that it’s time to slow down, and with the right approach, they are something that can actually be used to your advantage.
But, before we dig in, let’s establish the difference between male and female hormonal cycles, shall we?
Your cycle summed up
While women’s hormone levels fluctuate over a 28-day period, the male hormonal cycle is instead spread over the course of 24-hours. Men experience a spike in testosterone, the hormone that regulates confidence, energy and motivation, in the morning. This levels out in the afternoon, before dipping in the evening.
A woman’s cycle is a little more complex and is scientifically proven to affect you more physically – it’s the very reason you might feel on top of the world one week, and off-colour the next. We have an in-built internal rhythm and working with it can allow us to get the most out of each season, whether we’re feeling upbeat and optimistic or insular and reflective.
Let’s get to know our body’s natural rhythm a little better, shall we?
The Menstrual phase
We’re all familiar with this one. During this phase, you’ll experience a monthly bleed and may intuitively feel like you need to relax and recharge. It’s normal in this phase to need more alone time. As well as being a great time for reflection, it’s also a time to set some goals for the month ahead – so grab your Productivity & Wellness Journal and get planning.
The Follicular Phase
Boom! Your energy is starting to kick back in. This is your pre-ovulation phase and you’ll be feeling energetic, focused, and inspired as your body prepares to release an egg. Now is a good time to put social occasions back on the calendar, collaborate with others, and start new projects.
The Ovulatory Phase
Your confidence is peaking, your energy is soaring, and you feel high on life. In this phase, it feels like there’s nothing you can not be or do so it’s a good time to push your boundaries, get outside of your comfort zone, and work on those goals. It’s also the perfect time for socialising and physical exercise too – so make the most of it.
The Luteal Phase
Slowly your energy starts to taper off and it’s time for PMS to begin. Your oestrogen levels drop sharply in the 10 to 16 days before your period begins, so you’ll likely feel more fatigued the closer you get to your bleed.
Consider the early days of this phase as your your preparation stage: tick off all those essential items on your to-do list, nourish your body with plenty of nutritious food, and opt for gentle movement. Done all of the above? Great. Now, be sure to schedule in plenty of rest in the days leading up to your period.
We’re all unique…
It’s important to note that we are all built differently. You might be someone who sails through their monthly cycle and rarely feels curtailed by hormonal dips, or you could battle extreme fatigue and unpredictable mood swings and find yourself struggling to function.
Wherever you fall in that spectrum, it’s normal for your productivity to dip at certain times of the month, and you may notice that it feels harder than normal to focus. The really good news is, that however you feel throughout your cycle, you can begin to use it to your advantage. Here’s how…
How To Work With Your Hormonal Cycle, Not Against It
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘what gets measured gets managed?’. It’s the same for your monthly cycle. The more you monitor it, the more you can make it work in your favour. In science, researchers call it performance indicators: only by recognising your unique patterns can you seek to change them.
How you track is up to you. You can use a tracking app that will predict when you’re ovulating and when your period is due, or you can put pen to paper and keep a record using the monthly calendar pages in The Head Plan Agenda.
Remember to make a note of how you feel too. Are you more tired than usual, feeling a little down, or noticing the onset of a migraine? Document it all, because knowledge is power. The more aware you are of the symptoms you experience throughout your cycle, the more you can plan your life around them.
Nourish & Drench
Did you know that you’re more likely to become dehydrated when you’re on your period? That’s because when our levels of oestrogen and progesterone are low our body retains more water, making us feel sluggish and bloated.
In the week leading up to your period, it’s a good idea to chug down some extra water – consider drinking three fills of your Daily Drench bottle instead of two. It can help to limit alcohol and caffeine in the lead up as well.
That’s not all. Your metabolism actually spikes in the days leading up to your period so don’t be surprised if you feel you need to eat a little more. You might have chocolate and crisps on the brain (hello, period cravings!) but by planning your meals in advance with the Nourish Meal Planner, you can give your body the nutrients it needs.
For an energy boost, be sure to include eggs (they’re packed with B vitamins and healthy fatty acids), oatmeal (rich in calcium and a great source of iron), and oily fish (loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which can fight cramps.)
You would never deliberately plan a big catch up with all your closest pals on the very week you’re feeling your most introverted and insular, just like you’d likely avoid scheduling a heavy workout when your body feels tired and sore. That’s where proper planning comes in.
Right now, you can begin to plan your monthly tasks, commitments, and social occasions around your cycle – and make a commitment to rest when you know you’ll need it.
That might look like, scheduling an extra lie in or two in the mornings, switching out a workout for a day of rest, or moving your more labour-intensive work tasks to the following week, if it’s possible to do so.
Here’s a pro tip: If you know you always feel your best, most joyful self around a week after your period has ended, then pencil in some fun social plans for that date or use that time to kickstart a new project. Pretty certain you’re gong to be feeling super sluggish the day before your period is due? Plan a day of self-care. Fluffy jammies, scented candles, and hot baths coming right up.
When you’re an ambitious goal-getter (which we know you are) it can be enormously frustrating to feel the effects of brain fog, notice your productivity dip, and be side-tracked by low moods – and it can be easy to berate yourself for not being able to do more.
But the last thing you need when you’re already feeling low is a side-order of guilt and shame. If you feel your energy plummet, resist the urge to feel badly about yourself, and instead offer yourself compassion. Repeat after us: ‘I am always doing my best in any given moment, and my best is good enough.’
Go with the flow…
You instinctively know what your body needs throughout your cycle, but so often we push back against the urge to rest and recharge, believing that we need to be constantly ‘on’. But just like nature, our body goes through seasons. Look around and you’ll see that the trees shed their leaves in Autumn so they can be lush and green again come spring.
Just like the trees, you need time to rest, recharge and replenish, so that you too can present your very best self to the world. When you tune into your body’s natural signals, you can’t go too far wrong.