A Perfectly Balanced Cycle
As I explained in the first blog of this series – Unlocking Your Cycle: The Ultimate Self-Care – there are four distinct parts of our menstrual cycle. These phases work with our second body clock, our 28-day cycle and they are the:
- Follicular phase (7-10 days)
- Ovulatory phase (3-5 days)
- Luteal phase (10-14 days)
- Menstrual phase (3-7 days) which I will refer to as the bleeding phase.
You may have noticed that the bleeding phase is last, when traditionally we start counting our cycle on that day. Biologically this doesn't make sense considering in the follicular phase our bodies are beginning the cycle as the egg starts maturing. The reason we count day 1 on the first day of our bleed is simply because it is easier medically to calculate a pregnancy starting from that point. Hormonally it makes more sense to view the cycle as ending with your bleeding phase, so bear that in mind as we go through the phases in this series.
Your cycle is perfectly balanced:
The first two phases, the follicular and ovulatory phases bring with it a high energy, an excitement for new projects and a feeling of being more outward. The second half of your cycle, during the luteal and bleeding phases, your energy is lower, and you will find yourself more likely to want to rest, nurture yourself, finish off projects and reflect inwards.
What we are going to learn is how to balance these phases throughout our month so we can work with our cycle instead of against it. If we listen to our bodies and honour our natural rhythms, we will find everything much easier. Living in balance like this helps us prevent burnout which is the natural result of being in the 'always doing' energy which is so common for mothers.
The Follicular Phase
The Science Bit
The Follicular Phase lasts between 7-10 days and begins when the uterus lining has been shed. We call this the first phase as it is when our body begins to prepare itself for ovulation and possible conception. At this phase our hormones are at their lowest levels as we move out of our bleeding phase, and as eggs are being naturally matured in our ovaries.
It is called the Follicular Phase as our pituitary gland releases a hormone referred to as the Follicle Stimulating Hormone which basically stimulates the follicles where our eggs are and encourages them to mature. As hormones are changing and flowing through our body, our brains instinctively react in certain ways. During this phase, our brain chemistry encourages us to be open to new things, be creative and excited for new beginnings. As these hormones increase you may feel full of energy and optimistic.
How to Move and Eat with the Follicular Phase
As our energy levels are often at their highest during this phase, it’s a great time to try out new workouts and take part in a higher level of fitness. The more energetic the better, so visit that dance studio, hit the ground with cardio, or work up a sweat with Zumba!
As you tune into and lean into your cycle more, you may notice this is the part of your cycle when you gravitate towards fresh, vibrant, and light foods. It is the ideal time to eat salads, drink smoothies and eat lots of raw veggies. It is, in fact, what your body is calling for!
If you are trying to get healthier or maybe lose weight, this is a great time to make lots of plans. Remember, you are more open to starting something new or taking on new projects at the moment, so it is a great time to build a new and positive habit. These changes in food choices and exercise will feel effortless because your hormones are naturally supporting you in taking on new things, eating lighter, and building new regimes during this phase.
How to Work & Mother with the Follicular Phase
You will naturally resist doing anything that feels too 'mundane' or 'bogged down in details' during this phase. You will want to be free to create, adventure and explore! New ideas, thinking big, having fun and being silly is what needs to be on the agenda for both work, play and life as a mama during the Follicular Phase.
Being 'in the details' and organising is exactly the type of thing that will energise you in your luteal phase, the ideal time to organise. So don't berate yourself for not doing your bookkeeping or not sorting through the kid’s drawers to weed out the clothes that don't fit if you're in your follicular phase. Those tasks will just feel too much like hard work and they will take longer and more effort to do them in this phase!
This is the joy of understanding your cycle. You can plan around it so that everything feels more effortless and you unhook yourself from a lot of self-criticism and judgment, because you recognise that “I'm not doing this task because it feels out of alignment, not because I'm lazy.”
How to Work:
Our work benefits greatly from this phase as our energy levels are higher. We can manage and organise more during this phase. Take advantage of your higher energy and creative ability at this time by brainstorming, being creative, choosing new projects and diving in head-first. In fact, think big! Organise, create, and choose new projects, setting new intentions and say yes to invites and networking events as you are more open to new experiences now.
How Not to Work:
Remember not to challenge yourself unnecessarily and to lean in to the creative and high energy this phase offers. It is not the best time to analyse data, organising your files, finalise bookkeeping, finish off loose ends in projects, or any other detailed work as our minds are as active as our bodies are with the influx of hormones. We are looking to be active, not detailed.
How to Mother:
The follicular phase is a time for adventure, for bonding, and for creating. We are at a time when giving more of ourselves to those we love and care for feels easier. Take time to bring the kids somewhere new to explore or do a fun new craft project together. You will notice you are enjoying this time of connection more than most other times in the month. Take time to role play with the kids, find messy play fun, and make up stories. It is a time of distinct creativity so lean into that imagination and go with the flow.
How Not to Mother:
At this time we are not looking for work, for anything extra, for anything mundane no matter how necessary it may be. If we start cleaning out the wardrobes during this stage it’s likely we would not finish it or give up halfway through. The toy rotation does nothing to explore our creativity and is best left for another day, as is sorting the playroom, or tidying the bedrooms.
What If I Can’t Control Events During My Cycle?
You can do absolutely anything at any time in your cycle.
Depending on what it is though, it might require more energy and more effort from you than it might have at other times in your cycle.
And that is why you will want to make sure to compensate for that extra energetic output by giving yourself extra self-care, and extra time to make up for the energetic misalignment.
When life and all of its varied tasks pushes against your cycle, recognise that a certain activity which is not ideal to pursue during the current phase may drain your energy as you work your way through it. Compensate for this activity by leaning into your cycle in other ways, such powerwalking on your lunch hour after sifting through spreadsheets all morning. Simply make sure your natural needs of this phase are being met elsewhere.
Our cycle does not set limits on us.
It provides us with everything we need.
It's when we listen to it, it will tell us what it needs and if we answer in kind everything will work perfectly.
Unlock Your Cycle Blog Series