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Synching Your Menstrual Cycle with Your Life


Synching your menstrual cycle with your life with each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle has been all the rage on the internet these last few years. There’s been more of a pull and awareness collectively to want to live in tune with the body’s cyclical needs rather than working against it like so many of us have been conditioned to do. I’ve been integrating cycle synching with my lifestyle for over six years as a reproductive health educator, and I’m going to break down the basics for you here!


Graphic from Elephant in the Womb describing the phases of the menstrual cycle
Getting to know the phases of your menstrual cycle is the first step toward synching your life (image courtesy Elephant in the Womb)

Why Synch Your Menstrual Cycle with Your Life?


While our hormones uniquely ebb and flow, the menstrual cycle consists of four phases:

  • menstrual

  • follicular

  • ovulatory

  • luteal

Our bodies aren’t meant to feel the same every day—it’s natural that our mood, digestion, and overall needs are different from day to day.


So, let’s dive into some ways you can better serve your body and mind throughout your menstrual cycle.


Menstrual Phase (Day 1-7ish)


During the menstrual phase of your cycle, the body physiologically needs rest. Take time for restorative activities, like reading or listening to comforting podcasts for recovery. Take time to The hormones have just undergone a huge dip and the energy reserves are at an all-time low. This is why you may feel like you need more sleep at this phase of the cycle!


Ways to Support Your System in the Menstrual Phase


Food

You may notice during the menstrual phase of the cycle that digestion and bowel movements are impacted, leading to bloating, increased gas, and sometimes both diarrhea and constipation can show up. This is due to prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds) the body releases to help contract the uterus to expel the uterine lining.


These prostaglandins don’t just contract the uterus, but the tissue around them in the bowels as well, leading to inflammation and spasms. To support the digestive system during this phase, easy-to-digest foods can help relieve the less pleasant symptoms.


Foods like soups, stews, chili, and cooked vegetables all help to support easier digestion. It’s also helpful to know your triggers! For many folks, things like caffeine and spicy foods may trigger poor digestion and even worse cramps during the menstrual phase. Listen to your body and do what feels best!


Movement
A person relaxes  in bed reading a book during menstruation to get the rest she needs.
Rest during your menstrual cycle if you need to!

As energy reserves are low at this time of the cycle, the body benefits from more intentional, restorative movement rather than high intensity.


For those who frequent the gym, kickboxing, or other classes, be mindful that your body’s needs will change from week to week.


Many people find this time is best suited for low-intensity movement like yoga, walks rather than runs, and low weight/higher repetition (rather than high weight, low repetition).


Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body, and do what feels good! While some people find movement helps their cramps, for others it may make them worse. Ensure your body is getting the adequate rest it is asking for and use the period care that best supports your body.


Mindfulness

During the menstrual phase, our body needs much more rest and quiet time than the rest of the cycle. To help support yourself during this time, try to keep your agenda clear and don’t overcommit yourself! Leaving room for added rest, and downtime makes a world of difference.


If possible, try to lighten your load at work as well. If you’re able to get ahead with projects so you can have a gentler week during your period, do so mindfully! If you’re someone who lives with conditions that make your period very painful and difficult to live with, remind yourself that needing to cancel plans or take a sick day is completely valid. The kinder you are to your body, the less stress is placed upon your system.


If you have children, ask a friend/family member to watch them for a few hours so you can sneak in an extra nap and a bath! Prioritize taking care of yourself and shifting your mindset to accept that your needs are different.


Follicular Phase (Day 7-13ish)


This second phase of the menstrual cycle is when the hormones start rising again, and as they do, our energy follows! This portion of the menstrual cycle is typically a breath of fresh air. Mood improves, as does energy and sleep. Utilizing this and staying in tune with your body can work to your advantage!


Ways to Support Your System in the Follicular Phase


Food

As your menstrual phase finishes you may often find the body is processing everything much better, both with digestion and mental well-being. Listen to what your body craves as it may want more foods that help metabolize excess estrogen as hormones rise, such as leafy greens, brussels sprouts, and cruciferous veggies!

A woman dances in her underwear and cardigan as she enjoys movement during the follicular phase of her menstrual cycle.
Dance it out! The follicular phase is good for movement.
Movement

Use your upswing of energy to your advantage! As you are able to, do what feels right. Maybe it’s taking a new class at the gym, a hot yoga class, or going dancing with your friends. Stay in tune with when your body needs rest but use the increased energy levels to your advantage!


Mindfulness

It can be easy to overwhelm yourself as you exit the menstrual phase and enter the weeks where the body likely feels its ‘best’. Be mindful of where you prioritize your energy by ensuring a balance between work and personal life. Channel creativity into your relationships with friends and family, as well as passion projects like art, writing, or hobbies!


Ovulatory Phase (Day 14-20ish)


The ovulation phase is a short window of time when the body releases an egg into the uterus for potential fertilization. Progesterone is on the rise at this phase of the cycle and many people feel this pocket of time is their ‘superhuman’ phase where energy, libido, and mood are heightened!


Ways to Support Your System in the Ovulatory Phase


Food

Digestive hormones are typically at their best during this phase. Try new foods, listen to what your body wants, and nourish it accordingly! Healthy fats are great for the body for supporting ovulation so you may be drawn to foods like avocado, salmon, eggs, and nuts and seeds.


Movement

With hormones on the rise, energy levels during ovulation are typically at a peak! For those training, this is the optimal time for high-weight, low-repetition training, more rigorous movement such as long-distance running, intensive yoga, or whatever floats your boat!


Mindfulness

Planning big days during this time of your cycle can be beneficial as your mood and energy levels peak. This is a great time to travel, pack meetings into your schedule, and get together with your pals to try some new restaurants or classes. Learn how to track your ovulation here.


Luteal Phase (Day 20-28ish)


The luteal phase brings the cycle to a close once again when the body realizes an egg was not fertilized and wants to shed its lining. This is when hormones start to drop, which is what ultimately triggers the menstrual phase to reoccur. The end of the luteal phase is typically when those “PMS” symptoms start creeping in such as cramps, insomnia, mood imbalance, and poor digestion.


Ways to Support Your System in the Luteal Phase


Food

As you enter the luteal phase listen to your body and digestion needs as you transition back to easier digestible foods. This can also be a helpful time to ensure you’re getting lots of iron and magnesium-rich foods with natural sugars like bananas, sweet potatoes, lentils, spinach, and red meats!


Movement

As you get closer to returning to menstruation, listen to your body by slowing back down into restorative movement to prepare for the turbulence ahead. Yoga, stretching, and low-intensity classes can help better support your body in this phase.


A woman contemplates life as she sits on a chair and looks our the window, enjoying a cup of tea, during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
Mindfullness is your friend during the luteal phase.
Mindfulness

Align your life with the shifting energy once again. Start limiting what you say yes to, and protect the limited energy that sets in. The inner critic can also start to creep in with the drop in hormones leading to negative self-talk.


Ensure you have a good support circle, journal, schedule therapy for this time, and remember to reach out for help if the dark clouds seem overbearing.


Communicate with your family/household on how they can best support you during this phase. This could look like a partner/roommate helping more with the cleaning tasks for a few days or assistance in meal prepping. Remember that it is more than okay to ask for help.


Attune to Your Body


Cycle synching is a guideline based on the body’s physiological needs for how you can best support your system week to week, but it isn’t something set in stone. At the end of the day, the best way to live in tune with your cycle is to start listening to your body and its needs. You may even find that tracking your menstrual cycle makes your more attuned.


Each menstrual cycle and body is different—the best thing we can do for ourselves is to accept this by embracing our own self-care as we see fit!



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