The menstrual cycle can be broken down into four phases with each phase having distinct energetic and hormonal differences. In this post I’ll be breaking down the menstrual phase.
The menstrual phase of the menstrual cycle (a mouth full, I know) is both the phase that dominates everyone’s minds when they think of the menstrual cycle, I mean it’s in the name right? And simultaneously it is the phase that is most overlooked. You may ask how can it be both the focal point and the most neglected part of the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual phase is the actual bleed, the time when you can’t help but be aware of it. But, I claim it to be the most undermined of the 4 phases because, too often the perception is to bear down and survive it, put a smile on and pretend like it’s not happening. The general consensus is to put your game face on and go; don’t ever consider slowing down or doing less because if you do you are failing. Failing at life, your fitness goals, as a mom, entrepreneur, housewife, friend, the list of failings is endless.
However, when we do honour the menstrual phase, the slowing down and the release there is so much more for us to gain.
How do you feel on your period?
For those of you who find they need an extra cup of coffee to get going on their period, this is for you. For those of you who are irritated when another human looks at you when you’re on your period, this is for you. If you feel like you aren’t enough, you should be able to keep up, that you’re failing while on your period, this is for you.
This blog is for you because all those examples show us that you are overdoing it. You’re exhausted, you’re irritable and the idea of doing one more thing makes you want to scream. These are all clear indicators that slowing down on your period is exactly what your body is calling for.
Depending on what your period looks like, this timeframe may be a miserable one. It may look like puking from pain, popping pain killers or curling up in a ball on the couch with a hot water bottle. If this sounds like you, there may be some hormonal imbalances going on, check out my free Healthy Hormone Questionnaire to see where the imbalance(s) lay.
However your period week unfolds the one piece of advice that will ring true for most women on their cycle is to turn back the dial a notch or two and surrender to the low energy.
Breaking down the menstrual phase
The menstrual phase starts on day 1, the first day of your bleed aka your period. Often your period will last for 4-6 days but anything from 3-7 days is considered normal.
The general energetic themes of the menstrual phase arevrelaxation, hibernation and release.
Physiology of the menstrual phase
There is a natural dip that happens during your period. Physiologically when no egg was fertilized (no pregnancy occurred) estrogen and progesterone drop, triggering the release of the uterine lining, your period. As your hormones dip you may also notice a dip in your energy too.
The 4 phases and nature
There is a direct reflection in the way the year and menstrual cycle breaks down into 4 seasons and phases. They share the same energetics of these seasons and each phase has its own unique offerings too.
Week 1: menstrual phase, winter
Week 2: follicular phase, spring
Week 3: ovulation phase, summer
Week 4: luteal phase, fall
The energetic and symbolic properties that each season carries can be felt within each respective phase of the cycle. Syncing with the physiological and energetic changes of your menstrual cycle is known as cycle syncing.
The overlap between the menstrual phase and winter is like a hand fitting into a glove. They are both a time to slow down, go inwards and reflect. They are a time of release and relaxation.
Stop going non-stop and rest like winter. Hibernation is a natural state during the winter for many animals and plants. Although you can’t completely shut down and sleep for a week (wouldn’t that be nice!) it is essential to honour your bodily cues.
Are you ready to slow down?
I’ve found that there is an undercurrent of fear in our society that if you slow down, you won’t be able to start again. When you get out of sync with your cycle you may feel like you’re failing at your goals. When you aren’t taught to understand that your energy input and output ebbs and flows throughout the whole month(ish), you might feel as if you’re not giving enough.
From day one we are taught to live by a 24 hour cycle, which is wonderful if you are a man who has a 24 hour hormone cycle. But women don’t live by a 24 hour cycle, we live by a 28 day(ish) cycle. Therefore, when you can’t keep up day after day the way you’ve been taught you carry fear and shame around with you. Fears of I’m not doing enough, I’m not working hard enough or I’m failing. We are taught very early on to ‘man up’ wear tampons or a cup, pop meds and get on with your day. Feelings of inadequacy are prevalent if you do slow down because just can’t measure up. My dear, that is farthest from the truth.
When estrogen and progesterone dip your energy will follow.
The reality is there is a natural dip in energy during the menstrual phase. When estrogen and progesterone dip your energy will follow. It’s not your lack of will power or determination, it is a physiological response to the decrease of your hormones.
When you honour the cyclical nature of your period and the cyclical nature of your energy you will see the grace and beauty of going with the flow of your hormones. Slowing down and restoring your energetic reserves for a couple days means you will be more capable to use your creative forces, show up with authenticity and clarity in all areas of your life later in your cycle.
By surrendering to the relaxation you are trusting in the process that your energy will pick up again in a couple days. You trust that as your hormones start to ramp up again (usually starting by day 3-4 of your cycle) your motivation will too.
Giving yourself the space to rest and restore your energy reserves is self-care and self-love. Be purposeful in this action, consciously set time aside for a bubble bath, a walk, nourishing dinner, pedi, movie, journalling or anything that fills your cup.
However, when you choose not to rest when your body is calling for it, you will eventually hit a breaking point. One day your body won’t be able to keep up any longer. Along the way of stubborn neglect you may notice weight gain that isn’t easily lost, slow to start mornings, brain fog, lack of mental clarity, digestive upset, thyroid issues, trouble sleeping and sugar cravings. Grab my free 3-Day Hormone Balancing Meal Plan to Beat PMS to start nourishing your body through this process.
If you’re a go getter who does all the things for everyone, take it one step at a time. A great first step is not over-schedule yourself during your period. Pro tip: if you have a regular period mark it in your calendar for the next 6 months so you know when it is and how to schedule around it as much as possible. It may seem silly, difficult or weird at first but be consistent with it for a few cycles.
During your period there is a physical release but there is also an emotional and energetic one too. Do you notice that your emotions are more on the surface during your period? It is a running joke in our society but, it holds a powerful benefit if you allow it. This gift of forcing you to work through your emotions helps to prevent emotional stagnation.
If you’ve been holding onto a grudge, painful memory or behaviour that isn’t supporting your growth the menstrual phase is an excellent opportunity to review it and ask your intuition for guidance. During this phase the left and right hemispheres in your brain are the most connected leading to heightened intuition.
When you choose to release the old it makes room for new and transformative experiences to happen; it creates space for change to occur, space to rebuild a life that you desire and deserve.
Furthermore, it is a great time to meditate. The natural inward pull of your energy during this phase creates a wonderful invitation for meditation. If you’ve never meditated before I suggest trying on your period to optimize on the energy that is working in your favour.
I highly recommend scheduling in the slow down and creating a ritual. This way you are never too busy to meditate for 5 minutes or have one night where you watch your fave movie.
My personal rituals during my period is to minimize the amount of work on day 1-2. With my freed up evening (the time I do most of my work when the kids are in bed) I journal, meditate and do a tarot spread. These are my non-negotiables.
Key themes to consider during the menstrual phase
- day 1 – 6ish, the first full day of flow, not spotting
- inner winter
- new moon
- low tide
- plant seeds
- light exercise or stretching
- be open to inspiration with heightened intuition
- foods that are nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory ie) cold water fish/omega 3s, seaweed, pineapple, lentils, pumpkin and flax seeds, collagen, turmeric, broccoli, leafy greens, berries
- inner reflection
- mental/emotional/spiritual release
- high energy output
- detailed planning and organizing
- big social events
- alcohol, caffeine, refined foods and too much sugar
How you introduce yourselves to cycle syncing will look different for everyone. What you can incorporate will depend on many factors such as how much time you’re willing to set aside for it, what you’re already doing, family, job, resources, how much you’re willing to get outside of your comfort zone etc.
When you optimize in ALL 4 phases (the follicular, ovulatory and luteal phase breakdowns to come) you have the ability to reach your peak potential in every aspect of your life. It is not about making yourself do something you never would. It is about letting go of the resistance and going with the flow of your cyclical nature to optimizing your energy output and capabilities.
It’s not about making the world bend to your cycle. It’s about celebrating your differences that each phase brings to maximize your potential. After a few months of cycle syncing you may see ideal times to schedule dates with your partner, friends, schedule a work meeting, when to start something new and when to sit down to reflect on the month ahead.
It may take some time to bring the awareness into different parts of your cycle when it’s been ingrained in you to feel, think and BE the same everyday, all day no matter what. But I promise it is worth the momentary discomfort.
**These are generalizations of the average experience a person who experiences menstruation, your own experience may be similar or very different and that is OK.**
By skipping over the menstrual phase you are ignoring the quiet within. The deep calling of coming home, of nurturing ourselves on a soul level. Self love is the greatest expression of love and compassion you can give yourself. Because when we love ourselves we can better show up for others, follow our dreams, shine bright and teach our kids/friends/neighbours to be present and authentic.
This is a time to give to yourself and not others. It is a time of self-care and love. Tap into that intuition and sensitivity, what is it trying to tell you?
Your cycle is powerful. Are you ready to reclaim it?
Leave a comment about your menstrual phase rituals or what you learned today.