Why (and how) women should approach health and fitness differently to men

Ladies, ever wondered why it seems so much easier for your boyfriend or husband to stick to a diet or fitness plan and get results? Why some weeks you are full of energy and others you hardly want to drag yourself out of bed? How you can go 2 weeks eating healthily then all of sudden all you want is chocolate and ice cream? If you’ve found yourself questioning whether you just have less motivation or your body just doesn’t function as well then you’re not alone. The answer is simple and something that we live every single day, often without even being aware of it. Can you guess?

IT’S

OUR

MENSTRUAL

CYCLE!

As women we are simply not the same from week to week. Our hormone levels are continuously shifting which has a huge impact on our energy levels, mood, cravings, sleep and so much more. This can make it hard for us to stick to a routine and often feel like a failure for being inconsistent. We can think of men as being like the sun and women more like the moon. The sun shines consistently day by day, sometimes there might be some clouds in the sky or even a huge storm that affects how brightly we see its rays but behind all of that it keeps on shining just the same. The moon however moves through it’s lunar cycle from the new or dark moon where the sky appears empty to the full moon where it shines big and bright.

The lunar cycle is such a good metaphor for our menstrual cycle. The new moon represents menstruation, the time of the month when we are much less energetic and physically need to rest. The full moon represents ovulation when our energy levels are at their peak and we are overflowing with creativity and physical energy. Don’t get me wrong though, just because the moon appears dark at the new moon, it doesn’t mean there is no light, the light is just on the other side so we don’t see it. This is the time when lots of inner work is being carried out including physical and mental healing and the seeds of inspiration for creative projects are being birthed.

Because for men, the hormonal shifts are much more subtle and occur mostly on a 24hr basis, they can more easily stick to a daily routine that works for them week in week out whereas us women have both our daily and monthly rhythms to take into account. Our bodies are also more sensitive to stress from working out or not eating enough food as they are constantly trying to maintain hormonal balance and fertility. We can choose to see this as a weakness or we can see it as a super power that we can work with. There are times of the month when our strength and stamina can feel unlimited and we can surprise ourselves with what we can achieve and there are other times when we can push ourselves through a grueling workout and actually cause ourselves more harm than good because our bodies have to rely on stress hormones and adrenal reserves to make it through.

Of course we all know this on some level but we often think of it as something we have to work against rather than work with. Often we feel like we are “normal” for a couple of weeks and then BAM our hormones come along to ruin everything and we fall off the wagon. But what if we became more aware of how our bodies change throughout the month and actually build this into our health and fitness plan? What a game changer that would be! No more beating yourself up because you got so hungry before your period that you ate a large bar of chocolate every day. No more dragging yourself through intense workouts on your bleeding says when your body is crying out for rest. Instead using self-awareness and self-compassion to create a health plan that truly works for you.

What could this cyclical approach to health and fitness look like? When it comes to nutrition, this would be truly trusting your body and allowing yourself to eat intuitively. This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to eat a large bar of chocolate every day because, “PMS”, but it does mean loosening up on the diet rules, understanding why those cravings might be there and making sure that you are well fed and nourished during the day. The quantities and types of foods you crave will likely change throughout your cycle and this is ok, in fact it is essential. Your metabolic rate and nutrient requirements shift with your hormones and so the foods that will support your body also change week to week. The simple overall guideline for a healthy diet of eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods applies throughout the cycle but the amount of energy, macro-nutrients and the ratio of raw vs. cooked foods can definitely change. It’s much better to tune into your body to find what works for you, but if you’re struggling with getting started I did write a series of posts on how to eat for each of the phases of your menstrual cycle.

With fitness and exercise, again it is very individual. Some women need to fully rest during their period otherwise they will feel like they are dragging throughout the month ahead. Others, me included, need a bit of easy movement to help manage painful cramps. I’m sure there are some women who can exercise intensely during their period without any issues but I think this is the exception rather than the rule. If you do workout during your period, ask yourself whether you are doing it because you feel like you should or whether it is what your body is genuinely asking for. In general, during your period and the few days before it’s a good idea to at least slow down, decrease the intensity of your workouts and create space for some more restorative activities like yoga, stretching and gentle walking to help your body recover and restore energy.

On the other hand, the rising energy and stamina in the couple of weeks after your period (the follicular and ovulatory phases) are a great time to really get out there and move your body. This is a good time for more intense cardio workouts as you can get all of the benefits of getting your heart rate up and sweating without feeling totally drained. Movement can also be a great way to boost your mood and reduce PMS symptoms as you approach your period, but our energy levels tend to start to drop off towards the end of the pre-menstrual phase so it’s good to be aware of this and be prepared to take it easier without feeling guilty for not performing at your best. In general it’s about understanding and accepting that as women we are not the same everyday and we can’t expect ourselves to show up, robot-like, in the same way every day. That is a recipe for disappointment, hormonal imbalance and burn out as I’ve learned the hard way!

Over to you

I hope you found this post interesting and it gives you a new perspective and understanding of why a traditional approach to health and fitness might not work perfectly for you as a woman. If you have any questions or want to share your experiences, let me know in the comments below! If you’re interested in health and wellness for women, follow along with my blog and please share with anyone else who might be interested. I’ll be making a post soon on my top book recommendations for learning more about synching with your menstrual cycle so watch out for that too.

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menstrual cycle awareness - wild power - menstrual cycle stages

Why is understanding the menstrual cycle stages important?

Getting to know your menstrual cycle and understanding the menstrual cycle stages is not just for women who are trying to get pregnant, it is an amazing way for any woman to connect with her body and develop on a psychological and soul level. Our menstrual cycle is the rhythm of our life, like an under current which is always present whether we are aware of it or not. Each month we shift through four menstrual cycle phases, each with subtle but distinct effects on our energy levels, mood, desires and abilities. Learning about these menstrual cycle phases and starting to track your own menstrual cycle is the first step along a path of becoming a truly healthy and connected woman.

When I first started my periods as a young teenager, I had no clue about my menstrual cycle and how to work with it. I saw it as a monthly inconvenience that either took me by surprise, risking embarrassment at school every time I stood up from my chair, or warned me of it’s arrival through horrible mood swings and painful cramps. When my menstrual cycle stopped due to undereating and over exercising, part of me was glad because I didn’t have to deal with the mess of my periods and the fear of getting pregnant. But after a while, I started to feel kind of lost and unfeminine without it and when I finally got my period back after 8 years of having no natural cycle I was overjoyed and found I had a whole new desire to understand and connect with my menstrual cycle.

Whilst trying to recover my period I read a lot from inspiring female leaders in the field of menstruality and cycle synching including Alexandra Pope, Sjanie Wurlizter, Miranda Gray and Alissa Vitti. They opened my eyes to the magic of my hormones and helped me to understand the menstrual cycle phases. I could finally see how my hormones were impacting me on a day to day basis and it gave me a framework to understand some of the seemingly random physical symptoms and mood changes I was going through each month. I’d always known about the dreaded PMS and “shark week” when I could be moody and snappy as hell. But what I didn’t know that these were also times where I was primed to see through the BS to view things as they really are, stand up for myself and others and be more open to spiritual connection. Women have been trained to see the abilities of these times as negative and disruptive when in reality there are hidden gems there too.

Same goes for the start of a new menstrual cycle. I always had some awareness of the relief I felt after my period was over and I could get back to “normal” but I didn’t know how to move slowly and gradually build up my momentum to avoid burning out and reaching ovulation feeling depleted and unmotivated. In fact I didn’t even know what ovulation meant, outside of the biology textbook definition that is! I didn’t know that the ovulatory phase brings with it it’s own powers of sensuality, magnetism and the ability to make things happen in the world. I wasn’t ware that that ovulation is a phase of the menstrual cycle where we are primed to connect with others and build strong relationships both in our personal and work life, or that this isn’t a state we should expect ourselves to be in continuously but that we should appreciate it and enjoy it while it lasts each month.

I used to wonder why I could feel fine about my life for three weeks of the month and then when the pre-menstrual phase came around I would start to doubt and question everything. I felt like the menstrual cycle gremlin was invading my mind each month and disguising my true thoughts and feelings under this veil of negativity. I would get so emotional, triggered into an hour of screaming frustration or soggy tears and wonder where the hell it came from. But after learning about the menstrual cycle stages and becoming more aware of my hormonal changes I started to understand that during the follicular and ovulatory phases we are more outward facing and we can more easily tune out our inner world and deep emotions. However as we cross over into the pre-menstrual phase, those inner lights become brighter and we can’t help but look at them and sometimes be blinded by it.

Understanding the menstrual cycle phases can help us to accept and appreciate the many different parts of ourselves, both the ones that our praised by society and the ones that give women a bad name. I think it’s a shame that we weren’t taught how to connect with our menstrual cycle from a young age and I think teaching girls this now will help to raise a generation of strong, powerful women. If you are interested in learning how to connect with your cycle, you can enroll in my health coaching program where I will teach you how to nourish your body using nutrition, intuitive movement, stress management and menstrual cycle awareness. Or if you’d be interested in joining a monthly women’s circle where I will teach you about the practice of menstrual cycle awareness and you can share your experiences with other women, send me a message and if there is enough interest I will set it up ♥

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post on the importance of understanding the stages of the menstrual cycle. Let me know in the comments below how you feel about your cycle, do you feel connected to it or is it a pain? I’d love to hear your experiences.

  • If you found it interesting please like this post and follow my blog for more on menstrual cycle awareness, yoga and holistic health
  • You can also follow me on Youtube at Moon Life Yoga where I post videos about hormonal health and follow along yoga sequences. I only have a few videos at the moment but it’s my intention to share lots more over the next few months!

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cycle tracking day 1 menstrual phase

Stress and the menstrual cycle: Self-care tips for the menstrual phase

Today is the first day of my period and day 1 of a new menstrual cycle – yay! I love the menstrual phase or “inner winter”, not only because it brings a relief of the tension of the pre-menstrual phase but because it is the time of the month when I honour myself with rest and self-care. The last couple of cycles have been pretty messed up for me with all of the craziness going on in the world. Being stuck in lockdown working super hard then quitting my job and moving abroad then going into lockdown again here in Greece.. it’s been pretty stressful to say the least and it showed in my cycles. I had 3 cycles which were 35-37 days long, intense period pains and stagnant blood (this shows up as brown colour with the texture of dirt). So I’m happy that this month things seem to be back to normal with a 30 day cycle and a healthy red flow.

This is one thing I love about menstrual cycle awareness practice. When something isn’t quite right in our lifestyle, often our menstrual cycles are the first place it shows and if we’re not paying attention we can totally miss it. Tracking your cycle length, flow quality and any symptoms showing up throughout the month is a great way to get to know your cycle and tune into the state of your health. Intense pain, excessive PMS symptoms or irregular cycles can all be a sign that something isn’t quite right internally or in your environment. If you notice something strange or unusual, that is a red flag and a hint for you to get quiet for a moment and ask yourself what is going on.

Stress alone can be enough to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to our cycles. This doesn’t have to be a traumatic event but it can be the build up of small stresses due to living in the fast-paced high pressure society that we do. If we don’t have an outlet or a way to manage these stresses, this can lead to chronic tension in the mind and body which affects our overall health, including our hormones. In this post I explain how you can reduce stress and balance your hormones using minimalism, journalling and meditation. Using these techniques, or anything else that helps you to unwind and relax are important all throughout your cycle but even more so during your period. Yin yoga sequences are perfect and I am planning to share more here soon so watch out for that if you’re interested!

Today I was lucky to have the space for a slow morning. I made one of my favourite menstrual phase breakfast recipes, banana oat pancakes and swapped out my morning coffee for a warming chai herbal tea. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of dry body brushing for the last month after reading about the benefits but I’m not always good at remembering to do it. This morning though I decided to pamper myself a bit and took the time to dry body brush, have a long relaxing shower and moisturise from head to toe. I even straightened my hair and put on a bit of make up even though I have no intention of going anywhere today! This afternoon I was teaching a yoga class so I had to prepare for that and do a bit of house work but I did my best to move at my bodies’ pace and take it easy. I made the class a really relaxing and grounding hatha flow and I put on some calming music while I worked.

Now I am feeling peaceful and comfortable in my body – a welcome change from the agony of the last couple of months! I was feeling inspired to share a bit about my experience of the menstrual phase and a few of my tips for looking after yourself during this time. I’m aware everyone’s experience is different when it comes to periods and that conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS can make menstruation a difficult time. However, I’m sure that taking as much time as you have available, whether that’s ten minutes or three hours, will help you to make your period as comfortable as possible. A few months of practicing this and you never know, you might even start to love this phase too.

My top 5 tips for self-care during your period

  1. Wipe 3 things off your to do list – delegate them to a day in the cycle when you have more energy

2. Slow down – even if you have tasks you can’t avoid, try to do them at your bodies’ pace

3. Pamper yourself – whether that’s a luxurious shower (try to avoid hot baths while you are bleeding) or wearing your favourite body lotion, do something to nourish your body

4. Nourish your body – make yourself some nutrient dense, yummy foods. See here for my tips on nutrition for the menstrual phase

5. Rest – take a break from intense exercise and focus instead on light stretching, walking or yin yoga. Your body will thank you for it!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this short post on stress and self-care during the menstrual phase. Please like this post and follow my blog for more on healthy hormones and holistic health.

  • Let me know in the comments below if you try out any of these tips or any other self-care you practice to feel better during your period
  • If you are looking for support and guidance in balancing your hormones and looking and feeling great, contact me for further information on the health coaching packages I offer. Together we will set you up with a plan to get your hormones balanced and you feeing your best mentally and physically.

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Riding the wave of inner spring

This week I have been feeling really good. After a couple of weeks of feeling tired, unmotivated and confused about everything going on in the world, I was able to rest deeply for a few days during my period and I emerged on the other side feeling fresh and ready for life again. I am on day 10 of my cycle now, so well into the follicular phase, and I am definitely feeling those inner spring vibes. If you aren’t familiar with the seasons of the cycle then watch this video and you will get the idea but I do plan to write a post about that soon (I can’t believe I haven’t already!).

I did hit a stumbling block around day 4 – I felt energised and ready to go out into the world, accidentally overdid it and had a min crash. This is the hardest part of the cycle for me.. I am definitely a “masculine energy” type of girl which is pretty common in your 20s as we just want to go out and do all the things and make our mark on the world. But the cross-over from menstruation into the follicular phase (inner winter to inner spring) needs to be navigated gently and slowly to protect and preserve our energy for the rest of the cycle. We don’t want to go from 0 to 100 in a day and totally fry our system.

Luckily this time I was able to catch it early and went back into my cave the next day to rest. After that things have been plain sailing, my energy levels and motivation have been climbing higher and higher, I have been feeling light and free, I have ticked a lot of things off my to-do list and spent time with friends and my boyfriend too without becoming overwhelmed. I even had the energy to go to the gym for the first time in months! We are moving to Greece in less than two weeks so I have been busy packing up the house, finishing off work tasks and trying to catch up with friends before I go. It’s been intense but right now I am enjoying the challenge.

Something else I have been working with this season is uncovering some old, deeply held emotions. I had my first somatic experiencing therapy session last week which was really interesting and I have had a lot to process since then. I feel like my journal has been my right arm which is unusual for me as usually I get reflective during my inner autumn and winter and neglect my journal the rest of the cycle. It’s been painful to go back and relive some old memories and actually feel the emotions rather than squash them down but I know it’s something I need to do. I have been listening to guided meditations from The Mindful Movement every day too on letting go of emotions, developing self-love and compassion and nurturing your inner child.

Inner spring is actually a great time for inner child work as we are at our most innocent and fragile at this time of our cycle and can more easily connect with the maiden archetype and our younger self. I feel at my most playful and childlike during this phase and can more easily let go of some of the seriousness of life and take things more lightly. But old childhood wounds can definitely come up too and I can be easily triggered into feeling guilt, shame or inadequacy. When I notice my inner critic rearing it’s head in my inner spring, I can question it and go into the feeling rather than beating my self up for not being good enough.

Since I have been working with my cycle in this way I have so much more acceptance and understanding of why these things come up and how to soothe myself. Not to say I don’t ever fall into the trap but I am strengthening that self-compassion muscle with every cycle that passes and feeling more confident in myself and my abilities. In Wild Power one of the tasks of the inner spring is to cherish and nurture yourself like a newly hatched chick. I love this image of a fresh new self being born out of the cosy cave of menstruation and us needing to care for it and protect it from the real world until it’s protective shield is fully formed and able to defend itself. This starts with the way we speak to ourselves so this is the time to use kind words and not beat yourself up or pressure yourself too much.

I feel like I am rambling a bit here, my energy is pretty high right now and I have lots to say! But I hope you get the idea and can relate in someway. Leave a comment if you want to share your experiences of your inner spring ❣

How to reduce stress and balance your hormones

We all know by now that stress plays a major role in our overall health. Stress has been linked to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and most definitely to hormone related conditions such as PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea. Managing stress and calming down your nervous system is so important for healing from any physical condition. Hopefully this post will offer you some tips on how to manage stress in your life and support your healing journey.

1. Reduce the external stressors

With the world we live it today it can feel impossible to reduce stress.. how can we be calm when we have so many demands on our time, high pressure jobs, children to look after, financial worries, family emergencies. The first thing I will say is that you will never be able to reduce all stresses in your life. Even if you disappear to a remote island you will find something to stress and worry about if this is the tendency you have. However, it’s still a good idea to take a good look at your life and see if there are any areas where you can reduce the load.

Practising minimalism can be a really good way to do this. I don’t mean to sell all of your possessions and go couch surfing but by focusing on things that really bring value to your life and forgetting the rest you can really reduce financial and time pressures and in turn reduce the stresses in your life. This can be material possessions.. maybe you have a lot of clothes, products or clutter in your house that could benefit from a good clear out. But it can also relate to non-material things such as activities or habits that don’t bring you joy, obligations that you stick to to keep others happy even if you don’t have the time or the resources, time wasted on social media or other technology. Simplify your life as much as possible and make sure that you are spending time doing things you love every day.

2. Reduce the internal stressors

Much of our worries actually come from beliefs and thoughts that we are constantly running through our minds. Around 95% of our thoughts each day are the same as the day before and too many of them are negative thought loops that we get trapped in without realising. Our brains cycle through all our various worries and it seems like there is no escape. Actually there is a way out and it starts with awareness. Are you conscious of the thoughts you are thinking on a daily basis or have they become so ingrained that you don’t even notice them? This is where a meditation practice an come in really handy.

Many people think that to meditate “properly” you have to be able to empty your mind of all thoughts and give up quickly when this seems like an impossible task. But when you approach meditation from the angle of observing your thoughts and watching where your mind goes when it isn’t distracted, it becomes a tool of self-discovery and you will likely start to see the same repetitive thoughts popping up. Much of it will be mundane stuff such as what you will have for dinner tonight, work tasks or chores that need doing etc. But some will be darker.. maybe some criticism of yourself, anger towards someone in your life, feelings of failure or regrets of decisions you have made in the past.

Get yourself a journal and start to write down thoughts that come up for you. Once you are aware of them you can start to question.. “Does this serve me?”, “Would I feel better without this thought?” This will create space for you to let go of some of your worries and start to ask yourself “What can I replace this thought with?” “What would a more helpful thing to say to myself right now?”. You won’t be able to change your thoughts over night as most of them are habitual and happen without us even realising, but you can make a start and over time things will get better

3. Get yourself into the relaxation state

This is a really important one. Many of us think we are relaxing because we do chilled out activities such as watching TV, reading or writing in a journal. These things might make us feel calm in the moment but if our brains are still active and we are just distracting ourselves, we are often not truly activating the “rest and relaxation” pathways of our nervous system. I really recommend for everyone, especially those on a healing journey, to focus on getting into a deep relaxation state on a daily basis. This means allowing your body and mind to sit back from the stresses of life and melt into pure bliss.

I find guided relaxation tapes really useful for this and relaxing music or delta brainwave frequencies can also work really well Get yourself some headphones, find a comfy space to lie down and block out the world for 20-30 minutes. Focus on letting go of any tension in your body and allow yourself to be held and supported. Notice if your brain feels too “switched on” and try to create some space for you to surrender your stresses for a while. There are hundreds of these available on Youtube but I have shared 3 of my favourites from The Mindful Movement channel below.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post of how to reduce stress and balance your hormones.

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on dealing with stress and hormone balancing
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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Emotions in motion

As I am writing this, I am on cycle day 33 and expecting to start my period any day. I can feel it coming in my physical, mental and emotional body. The last few days I have been feeling really lethargic and unmotivated, my body aches and even an hour walk left me in need of a nap. I’ve been feeling everything.. fear and anxiety around COVID19 situation and the future state of the world, uncertainty about how life will look in a years’ time, loneliness from not being able to see my family and boyfriend and the majority of my social connections being through electronic devices, boredom and frustration at not being able to go out and do things in the way I used to.

Not that I haven’t been feeling these things for a while, but at this time of the month they are so much more intense! It’s tempting to just distract from these things with TV or social media (and sometimes I do fall into that trap) but I know it’s also important to sometimes just feel things and let them pass in their own time. So I have been spending time just chilling these last few days, taking slow walks, lying on my bed listening to music and practicing gentle yoga. I realised that emotions aren’t static but they come in waves. If I watch them and make space for them then they move through pretty quickly. If I fight them and try to force myself to be productive or to engage with people when I’m not feeling like it then the mood can stick around all day.

After practicing menstrual cycle awareness for a few years, I know that the pre-menstruum is the time to surrender and let all of these emotions run their course. It can feel like I’m losing it sometimes as I shift from taking everything in my stride to being unsure and doubtful. I think without that knowledge and awareness of my own patterns it would be so much harder to comprehend and accept this. It definitely helps to know that the comfort and bliss of menstruation is waiting on the other side. Even though my period comes with some physical pain, mentally and emotionally I feel so much more stable and certain of myself.

In the last few months, my cycles have been unusually long which I put down to stress and worry as nothing else in my lifestyle has changed. This has meant a loooong pre-menstruum. I wonder if it is my bodies sign that it has more to process and needs to stay a while in that “inner autumn” state? Giving me the “gift” of fatigue to force me to stop and take time out. Unfortunately we can’t control our cycles and just have to let our own experience guide us and trust our bodies know what they are doing. It’s kind of fascinating really when I can take a step back and observe the patterns without getting too tangled up.

I haven’t had much time or energy to write my blog lately as there is so much going on in my life but I can’t wait to get back to posting regularly. I am moving from the UK to Greece in a few weeks time so I have a lot of planning and organising to do but once I arrive and get settled I’ll be back to it!

menstrual cycle awareness cycle tracking

My number one self-care tip for women

With my health coaching clients we look at many things that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle including nutrition, movement and stress-management. But the most important self-care tip that I recommend from day one is to start to become familiar with your menstrual cycle. This can be either through a cycle tracking app or using a regular journal.. how you do it doesn’t matter but becoming aware of your own unique hormonal cycle and how it affects you can be the key to getting your health on track.

Why? Because our hormonal fluctuations affect how we feel, think and act on a daily basis. Many of the “random” changes we see in our moods, energy levels and desires are actually related to the varying levels of hormones in our body. Our hormones affect our appetite, metabolism, social needs, sexual desires, creativity and motivation to work. Simply paying attention to these things is a mindfulness practice in itself which can help you to develop a greater awareness and connection with yourself. Understanding these fluctuations helps us to understand and work with them rather than against them and allows us to get into a healthy flow in all areas of life. You can learn to tune into what your body needs as you move through your cycles which in turn can help you to make changes in other areas of your lifestyle.

For example with nutrition, you might be wondering why you do great on your new diet for a couple of weeks and then “fall off the wagon” and want to eat everything in sight.  This often occurs when we ignore our natural appetite and try to force ourselves to eat a certain amount or certain types of foods which go against our cravings. When we can learn to listen to what our body is asking for at different times of the month we can develop a more flexible approach to our diet and naturally lose weight if that is our goal. Or you might notice that some days your digestion is perfect after eating all the veg and other days you feel bloated and gassy after a few pieces of broccoli.

Trying to adopt a fixed diet plan of eating the same number of calories and types of foods day in day out just doesn’t suit our feminine nature. And if we don’t allow ourselves the freedom to “go with the flow” we can end up working against rather than with our bodies and always wonder where we are going wrong. Menstrual cycle awareness can help us to understand what we need and to be kinder to ourselves when our cravings don’t match what we think is the “perfect diet”.

It’s the same with moving our bodies. Ever wondered why some days you can’t wait to get outside to walk or run or feel exhilarated after hours of dancing and other days you want to curl up on the sofa or just need a good stretch? Obviously there are lots of things that impact your energy levels and motivation to move your body but your hormonal cycle also plays a role here too. We are naturally more energetic in the first half of our cycle and higher intensity exercise might be exactly what we need but this doesn’t mean we have to push ourselves all month long.

Using your journal to track how you feel throughout your cycle: what your energy levels are like, what activities you feel like doing and how you feel after any exercise you do is the first step in developing an exercise program that works for you and your body. Despite the adverts that show women can “do it all whilst bleeding”, you aren’t lazy if you choose to take a rest day (or 3) while you are on your period. It’s perfectly natural to want to rest and recover during this time. On the other hand, you might find that you love gentle yoga or some other type of exercise as it helps ease period pains. There is no one size fits all approach here!

So grab yourself a journal or download one of the many apps and have a go at tracking your menstrual cycle for a few months. If nothing else it will give  you a few minutes each day to check in with yourself, ask how you are feeling and what you need.. at best it could be the key to developing a personalised self care plan for yourself and taking your health and wellness to the next level!

 

 

 

journalling menstrual cycle awareness self care practice

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post on my number one self-care tip for women. Let me know in the comments if you try it out or if you already track your cycle.

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on holistic health, menstrual cycle awareness and hormone balancing
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

Other posts you might like

Learning from my mistakes

I’m on day 6 of my cycle and have just come out of a deep, challenging bleed. I had a lot going on last month. As well as my day job, I had a deadline to submit a nutrition article to a scientific journal which fell on day 23 of my cycle, so for the two weeks prior to that I was pushing myself and working hard. I was relying on a morning coffee to get me going for the day which was a habit that took me a long time to break and I think I am super sensitive to caffeine. I was also sat at my computer for 12 hours a day and some of my other self-care practices fell by the wayside because all my energy was being pumped into my project. I made all the mistakes and really paid the price for it.

On day 24, the morning after I submitted my article, I woke up at 4am feeling sooo crappy. It was the weekend but I was so exhausted and in a bad mood, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything fun and just sat around feeling sorry for myself. By the time I went back to work on Monday I was feeling so tired and anxious, my whole body was aching and even short walks were leaving me feeling depleted. I ended up taking a few days off work because I just didn’t have the energy and was struggling to concentrate. As my bleed approached, my moods were all over the place too. I was crying over everything. My neighbours cat got hit by a car and I cried for a whole day. I also got angry a few times over tiny things which really isn’t like me.

 

I just felt so sensitive and irritable, I lost all motivation and started questioning everything in my life. I know this sounds extreme but anyone who has suffered severe PMS or PMD will understand this feeling. It’s as if this feeling of doom comes over you, something takes over your brain and you almost feel like you are losing your identity. My period came late too, on day 33, and I had nearly 10 days of PMS symptoms including headaches, insomnia, mood swings, sore breasts, aching muscles and joints. I’ve experienced all of these before but it’s not my “normal” so I know it was due to me not taking good care of myself this cycle. Even though I knew it already, this has really highlighted to me the importance of listening to my body and practising cycle syncing as best as I can.

A tip I learned from Alisa Vitti, the author of “In the Flo”, is to assess your to do list each day and reflect on whether this is in line with the phase of your cycle you are in. Any days that there is a clash (e.g. if you have to do a big presentation at work on day 1 of your cycle) then she recommends to make sure to fit an extra self-care practice into your day to support your body. I think this is a really good idea and I am going to try and put it into practice this month. My absolute favourite self-care ritual is to have an epsom salt bath with essential oils, listening to a feel-good podcast or music then give myself a full body massage with some yummy smelling body lotion. I also love spending time outside in nature although this is a bit tricky with the lockdown right now!

Another good idea is to really pay attention to the “cross-over days” of the cycle. These are the subtle shifts in energies as you transition from one phase to the next. In this case I totally blew past the shift from inner summer (ovulation) to autumn (pre-menstrual phase) which is one of the most important points of the cycle as it’s when the tide turns and we move from the outward facing, masculine, doing energy to the feminine, being energy. The other key one is the transition from inner winter (menstruation) to spring (follicular phase) when the opposite energy shift is happening. It’s key to bring awareness to these points in the cycle and register any signs from the body that its time to shift gears. Otherwise we can end up swimming upstream, living totally out of alignment with our natural rhythm.

It can be very hard to practice this when we have so many distractions and demands from the outer world. But even just observing these energy shifts and bringing awareness to the subtle changes we feel can have a huge impact. I know if I’d listened to my own advice and realised that my deadline was going to fall in the second part of my cycle, I could have taken better care of myself and maybe avoided the crash and burn that I experienced this month. Right now I am hyper-aware that I am in the winter-spring crossover. I have spent the last few days resting and recharging and my energy levels have started to improve, now I am taking care to move gently and not blow my fuse too quickly. It’s really tempting to rush to get out there and do things, catch up on work that  missed when I was off, but I’ve been taking it slowly and trying not to overdo it. 

Listening to our bodies can definitely feel frustrating at times, especially when our mind has its own agenda. But instead of seeing it as a betrayal when my body doesn’t feel like doing the things I had planned, I am trying to lean into my cycle and learn from it’s messages. I know this works as I’ve been in a really good place with cycle syncing before but I have kind of lost my way the last few months because life got in the way. I know that menstruality is a practice, an art even, and it takes a lot of patience and perseverance. But it’s teachings are sooo worth it and I am excited for the months ahead!

Reconnecting with menstruation, rethinking menarche

Do you remember when you got your first period? How did you feel.. empowered? Afraid? Ashamed? Energised? Powerful? Disappointed? Excited?

For me it was a pretty forgettable experience. I don’t even remember the exact age although I know I was around 11-12 years old. I couldn’t tell you whether I was at home or school at the time, whether it shocked me or I was expecting it. I remember telling my Mum and her being very supportive, showing me where she kept her supply of pads and how to use them. At school I think I told my closest girl friends but we never really spoke about it and it wasn’t a big deal. My periods were fairly regular from day 1, I had typical mood swings and pain but I never suffered with heavy bleeding or intense cramps. When I did have pains I was told to use a hot water bottle or take painkillers. I never had to miss school or other activities because I was bleeding I just carried on with my normal life. All in all I’d say for the first few years my cycles were about as uneventful as you can get!

I guess you could say I had a fairly “good” experience of menarche compared to many girls. There was no embarrassing situation, I didn’t feel ashamed to tell my parents and it didn’t really affect my life in a negative way, or in any significant way at all really. But herein lies the problem. Although there was no outright issue, there was always the underlying message that I now carried a secret with me. I was supposed to hide the fact that I was bleeding and not let it affect my life or the lives of others around me. I remember times when I started my bleed in school, quietly bending down under the table to take a pad from my bag and slip it into my jacket pocket so that I could sneak off to the toilet without anyone realising why. I remember being glad when I moved into year 10 as we were allowed to wear black skirts instead of grey and I no longer worried about bleeding onto it without realising. I remember dreading having to do sports lessons when I was exhausted and crampy and just wanted to be curled up in bed.

My dad, although also supportive, did the typical male thing of blaming our female hormones whenever me or my mum were moody, snappy or irritable. He never meant any harm, he was only teasing and making fun of the situation. But I didn’t know about the different phases of my cycle back then and this reduced my experience of menstruation to only two aspects: PMS and blood. I was glad each time my period ended because it meant I could get back to “normal”. The pain went away and my mood would lift again for another month until my next bleed. I rejected this part of me and saw it as a shameful secret rather than something to be proud of. In effect, the monumental milestone of me becoming a woman just faded into the monotony of daily life. I was never taught to acknowledge the significance of my period and saw it more as an annoying inconvenience than anything.

Once I turned 16 and wanted to start exploring my sexuality for the first time, I was terrified of getting pregnant. I asked my mum if I could go onto the contraceptive pill and with her permission I was prescribed it straight away by my doctor. I’m sure you don’t even need parental permission these days and can easily get a prescription from a sexual health clinic. I’m not going to go off on a tangent here about whether this is the right thing or not but the point I want to make is that the decision for me to take medication to disrupt my cycles was so easy for me to make (aside from the embarrassment of having to admit to my mum that I was sexually active). I didn’t have any awareness of the importance of my cycle and what I might lose by pumping my body with artificial hormones on a daily basis.

Although I was made aware of the risks of taking the pill in terms of increased risk of various cancers and blood clots, no one ever told me what the pill would do to my body. As I was taking the pill with a break week each month, I thought I was still getting a period and somehow the pill just stopped me from getting pregnant. Now I know that it was only a fake period from the huge drop in hormones for the week I wasn’t taking the pill. I was so out of touch with my body that I didn’t notice the loss of my natural rhythms and only experienced the negative “side effects” of the medication such as intense mood swings and increased acne. I went back to my doctor and was prescribed a different pill which might “suit my body better”. Eventually after 12 months and 3 different pills I heeded the warning signs  that the pill was harming my body and accepted that I had to come off it.

After I came off the pill, my natural cycles didn’t restart and I struggled with what’s known as Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) for 8 years! For most of this time I didn’t care and was actually quite glad that I didn’t have my period. It relieved me of the inconvenience of having to buy tampons and worry about my periods impacting my plans. I could have sex without worrying about getting pregnant and I didn’t have to deal with annoying hormonal acne, bloating or cramps. But still something didn’t feel quite right. Somehow I felt so disconnected from myself and felt like life was happening to me rather than me living out my purpose. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I didn’t understand it at the time but now I can see that all of this was related to being totally disconnected from my body and especially my womb space.

I think this is something that many women experience through being on the pill but it often goes unacknowledged as we don’t really talk openly about these things. Because most girls are not taught to appreciate and engage with their cycles from a young age, we don’t really know what we are missing when we suppress our natural rhythm either through contraceptives or just by not paying attention to our bodies. The deep knowing of the womb still speaks to us so we have the feeling that something isn’t quite right but we don’t understand it and often feel like there is something wrong with us. I think that this disconnection is also partly responsible for why so many women suffer with conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis as we are so out of touch with our intuition that we end up doing things which disrupt our hormonal balance. I think if girls were taught to celebrate and embrace their bodies and feminine nature, these issues would be much less prevalent.

When I regained my cycle, my second experience of menarche was so so different. I had been actively trying to recover my cycles for years and had been deep in the recovery process for 4 months. In that time I had read so much about female hormones, how they fluctuated throughout the cycle and the different phases. I was aware of the mood changes and physical symptoms I could expect and was on high alert for any positive changes I saw in my body. There was an excitement as I became aware of my body temperature rising, the changes in quantity and texture of my cervical mucus, the subtle shifts in my mood and energy levels and my libido. When I was about to bleed for the first time I just knew it, I could feel the buzz in my womb and the heaviness of my breasts for a whole week before and I couldn’t wait to see if I was right. This is how all girls should be able to feel.. the anticipation and exhilaration of becoming a woman rather than fear and shame.

I was actually on holiday when I started my bleed, something that I would have dreaded when I was younger as I would have thought it would stop me from going in the sea and ruin my trip. But I was so happy I didn’t care. I called my mum to tell her the news and actually cried with joy. Ever since then I have been thankful each time that I get my period and will never take it for granted again. I am still in awe of the power and magic of the female body to create life and I am fully aware of how my hormones are affecting my experience of life from day to day. I can’t ignore the messages and signals my womb sends anymore and although my period doesn’t completely dictate my life I do consider them whether I am working with or against my hormones with every decision I make.

I wish that all girls could have a positive experience of menarche, one that affirms their magnificence as a women and gives them a boost of confidence and self-esteem. Many tribal cultures such as Native Americans have embedded the celebration of menarche in their culture with powerful rituals and coming-of-age ceremonies but it’s something that we have lost in the UK and other Western countries. I think it’s time that we reconnect with menarche and develop our own ways to celebrate this time, not just for girls entering womanhood but also for all the women reconnecting with their cycle after years of ignoring it, hating it or suppressing it with contraceptives. I know the trend of “period parties” is starting to take off with parents celebrating menarche with their daughters and women generally feeling able to speak more openly about all things period related. I hope really it continues and we move into a more period-positive time!

My full moon menstrual emotional rollercoaster

This week has been chaotic emotions-wise for me. With the super pink moon and my bleed falling at the same time, energies were running high. It started on Monday, the night before the full moon. I couldn’t sleep well at all, then on Tuesday the same thing again. I woke up at 3am exactly in time to see the beautiful full moon and decided to do a forgiveness ritual (I wrote about this here). For the rest of the week I struggled with insomnia and a general feeling of anxiety and unsettledness. My emotions were all over the place and my inner critic was running wild.

The current crisis is bringing up so many deep fears and low frequency energies collectively. I think I am handling it pretty well, I am trusting that the measures we are taking are good enough but I am not getting overly anxious about the virus. We are sticking to one shopping trip a week, only going out for walks around our local area and washing our hands whenever we go out. However, being in lockdown means we all have a lot of time on our hands for emotions that were already there under the surface to rise up. Without work and socialising as a distraction, our existing fears and anxieties seem to be magnified on the blank canvas of quarantine life. I know I am having to face some unhelpful thought patterns and deep buried emotions.

Last week I was feeling very happy when I realised that my bleed would fall on the Easter bank holiday week end as I could take a true menstrual retreat with 4 days off work. I have to say this part was great. No emails to answer and no social commitments to stick to.. the bliss of nothingness. Easier said than done though for someone with a very masculine drive to get things done. I am normally a bit of a clean freak and if I see mess in the house I can’t help myself tidying up but I committed to taking time off doing all housework. My boyfriend stepped in to do the cooking and the dishes but all laundry, hoovering and tidying went on hold for a few days.

For the day before and the 3 days of my bleed I took a lot of time out to rest and recharge. I have been feeling exhausted physically with aching muscles and joints and an overwhelming psychological fatigue. So I stopped all exercise except walking and yoga and I built myself a little cave in the spare room with soft blankets and pillows so I had a space to retreat to. I was also feeling very suffocated and really wanted to be on my own. Conversation was difficult and I didn’t even want physical contact most of the time. I felt moody and irritable whenever I had to try to communicate. If I could have gone and lived in a real cave for a few days away from everyone I would have! All I wanted was my cosy space, my books, my journal, my yoga mat and my mandala colouring book and pens. Oh and my cat Teddy, look at those paaaaawwwsss 🙂

I really wanted to do a tech detox too but this time I couldn’t resist keeping my phone and laptop on. I just tried to spend less time online, especially on social media and mainly used them for listening to music and podcasts and for yoga videos. I did get sucked into the social media vortex a few times though and I think this didn’t help with my emotional state. In my inner winter I can be pretty fragile and sensitive to what I am feeding my brain. My old eating disorder thought patterns around body criticism and food restriction can easily flare up, especially if I give myself the opportunity to compare myself to others online. But I did a lot of purging of these emotions, sitting with them and allowing the anger and frustration to come up.

I must have written 50 pages in my journal in the last week! Mostly just random ramblings about how I’m feeling about myself, the current situation and life in general. I have been re-reading some of Marianne Williamson’s work and following her writing prompts as a way to dig deeper into my belief systems and do the inner work. My emotional patterning is becoming pretty clear to me and I know I need to rewrite some stories. You know you have heard  a truth when every cell of your body is up in arms when you hear it. Whats clear to me is that I need to chill out a little and stop taking life so seriously. It’s ok to take some time out and have fun.. I don’t need to be on a constant mission of achievement and proving myself.

With the full moon in Libra it was also the time to reflect on relationships past and present. I’ve been thinking a lot about certain people in my life and ones that are no longer in my life. This year has been a strange one for me. I have moved away from my home town to a new city where I don’t know many people. I’ve lost touch with quite a  few old friends as I’m not very good at keeping in contact with people from a distance. I’m a natural introvert and INFJ personality type which means it can be difficult for me to come out of my shell unless I feel truly safe and I crave truly authentic and deep friendships. From 16 personalities:

“People with the Advocate personality type are unlikely to go for friendships of circumstance. They avoid situations like workplace social circles or chatting up their local baristas, where the only thing they really have in common is regular contact. People with this personality type seek out others who share their passions, interests, and beliefs. They create friendships with people with whom they can explore philosophies and subjects that they believe are truly meaningful.”

I totally resonate with this and at the moment I am struggling to find my tribe. I know it will happen eventually but right now I am feeling lonely and a lack of connection. I was just starting to get into a groove with socialising before the lockdown and now I can’t wait to be able to get out again and join some groups or go to local events and meet new people. For now I have joined some online groups and I am really excited to find sisterhood again. I have some old wounds when it comes to female friendships and this cycle I have really been asking for forgiveness for regrets in my past and focusing on forgiving others who have hurt me. This has been pretty painful and I have had a lot of sadness, anger and frustration come up to be released.

But now I am on day 4 of my cycle now and I can see the glimmer of spring approaching. I am feeling somewhat refreshed and motivated for the weeks ahead and ready to take on some creative projects. My sleep is slowly starting to improve and my energy levels are rising. I love how our cycle gives us that natural break from the treadmill of life (if we choose to answer the call that is). Cycle syncing is a practice and each month we have to opportunity to surrender again and receive the benefits. Now for the fresh challenges of the follicular phase.. how to continue to move slowly and continue to allow the energy to rise without shattering this sense of inner peace. More on that in another post 🙂