I haven’t posted for a while but today is the first day of my period and after a hellish week of crazy PMS I feel inspired to write about how to manage your “inner Autumn” to avoid this kind of situation. Also known as the luteal phase, your inner Autumn is the time between your ovaries releasing an egg and the start of your period (assuming you don’t become pregnant in between!). Of all the stages of the menstrual cycle it’s the one that tends to have the worst reputation. Mood swings, cravings, fatigue, depression and anxiety are all symptoms that can arise when we don’t look after ourselves properly during this phase. And this week I had the whole lot thrown at me.
I’ve been so busy lately with finishing up things with my current job, planning my relocation, writing my final research project for my uni degree and supporting my partner through a tough family situation that I haven’t been paying too much attention to my hormonal health. My cycles have become irregular again, ranging from 25 to 48 days in the last few months. My boobs have been so sore for weeks that I even took a test to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. My insomnia is back with a vengeance and I have fallen back into the old caffeine trap so that I can carry on doing all of the things even though my body is clearly telling me to slow down.
The last couple of days I thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was so exhausted, running on caffeine and adrenaline. No wonder I was tired with busy days in the office and evenings writing my thesis with 200 mile drives at the weekends to view houses. But when I suddenly lost control of my emotions and cried in the office, in the car, at home, at university, argued with my parents and felt an overwhelming sense of despair, I couldn’t understand what was going on. However, this morning I started my period and it all became clear. No wonder I was burned out! Being so busy would be overwhelming at any time but at the end of my luteal phase it is a recipe for disaster.
So as of today I have felt a new wave of motivation to get back into cycle synching and really tune into what my body needs during each phase. I just love that wave of relief that comes on the first day of my period. I felt so much better today even though I am still exhausted and spent the day resting and organising things at home. I’ve been reading Wild Power my favourite resource on menstrual cycle awareness and I feel called to share some of the insights on this interesting time of the month.
Inner Autumn is the time when we have to pay the price if we have neglected our needs during the first half of our cycle. Often we feel limitless after our menstrual phase ends and we take on too much. We can handle some extra pressure during this time as we naturally have more energy and we might still feel ok after working too hard or burning the candle at both ends. But if we overdo it or try to keep going when our energy starts to decline and ignore the call to turn inwards after ovulation we can easily feel overwhelmed and overworked.
Our intuition is heightened during the luteal phase and we can feel extra sensitive. Our inner critic is also most alive at this time which can show up internally through negative thoughts and anxieties or externally as we need to tell the truth as we see it, whether people like it or not. We stop caring so much about being a polite, functioning member of society and the rebel inside us is getting stronger. If not managed well we can find ourselves picking fights with loved ones or complaining excessively to colleagues. But we can also use this energy to create positive change.
Actually this intuitive time can bring us great insights into what is working (or not working) in our lives and what is important to us. Channelling the inner critic through a reflective journalling practice is an amazing way to learn lessons and develop with each cycle. Our creative fire is also high during this time and by expressing our sometimes crazy emotions through whatever creative outlet we chose we can feel alive and inspired. We might not have the energy for extreme projects right now but we can plant seeds that we can start to grow in the next cycle and beyond.
So the luteal phase is the time to wind down, try to bring projects to a close or park them until we arrive refreshed at our inner Spring. Its the time to create more space in our days so we don’t need to rush around and have the time for reflection and processing of any emotions that arise. We really need to look after ourselves, making sure we get enough rest, wholesome food and gentle, meditative movement such as yoga or walking in nature. If we are feeling overwhelmed this is the time to review the to do list and be honest about what we can spend our energy on. If like me you have responsibilities that can’t be avoided, prioritising and setting boundaries is key.
We might be warriors but even they need to rest and recharge if they want to save the world.
P.S. These are photos from January this year – I have been working on improving my balance and flexibility for the last couple of months. Progress photos coming soon!