Last year, on several occasions, a friend invited me to a workshop about the menstrual cycle, I never found the time to attend even though I wanted to. In April, during my lockdown, I saw that several online workshops were going to be held on the same theme, so I signed up for them. I attended two workshops with Carmen Lorenzana and Eva Kiviluoma, from whom I learned a lot and was inspired to start my cycle diary.
My period came at age 12, on the 9th of May, in my hometown Bilwi. My mom had talked to my sister and me about it, but I also heard a lot from my friends. I don’t remember much about that particular day; however, since then, I started to learn about the changes in my body.
Period, menstruation, time of the month, red tide, monthly visitor, however you call it, it’s a natural process where a woman bleeds monthly to discard the buildup of the lining of her uterus. The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your period and ends when your other period starts, which is typically 28 days, but it is variant for each woman and can change over time.
My period is regular, it lasts 1-5 days, and my symptoms change in each phase and cycle. The common symptoms I have are: muscle cramps, mood changes, pimple, bloating, low energy, sleepiness, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, and lower back pain.
Carmen Lorenzana, who is a Women’s Coach and Menstrual Educator, describes the four hormonal phases of the menstrual cycle in correspondence with a season of nature. She also says that “depending on the phase that you are in, you change physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually”.
1) Menstruation phase – Inner Winter
2) Preovulatory phase – Inner Spring
3) Ovulatory phase – Inner Summer
4) Premenstrual phase – Inner Autumn
After the first workshop, I started my menstrual cycle diary, which helped me to track my symptoms and therefore to have control over my body, anticipate changes, and most importantly do my daily routine according to the way my body feels. So far, I have tracked three of my cycles.
In my first menstruation phase, (Inner Winter), I had heavy bleeding, abdominal pain, sleepiness, and breast tenderness; so I had to take a pain killer to go to work. On the other hand, my second menstruation phase was different. I didn’t have much pain, had more energy than the previous one, and my body was comfortable. I got to do more stuffs during this phase than usual.
My two first preovulatory ( Inner Spring), phases were the same. I had a lot of energy, creativity, and felt myself blooming like flowers in all colours. During these phases, it was easy for me to focus on my writing or a podcast production plan. In contrast, during my third inner spring, it was hard to concentrate and get up from bed since I had low energy, and just wanted to sleep. During this phase my libido and sexual energy were very high.
Ovulutary phase (Inner Summer), is like the summer season that I love. There weren’t any differences between my three cycles. I was full of energy, which makes me do more body movement than usual. For example, I will bicycle for over 25 kilometres per day, more yoga etc. In contrast with the previous phase (preovulatory), for example, I don’t have the same focus to write, edit or read.
The last phase is the premenstrual, (Inner Autumn). The three seasons I tracked were the same. I have mood swings, usually, I am emotionally touched, and it is an easy way not to want to do anything. In this phase, my body has energy but it is my spirit that doesn’t have it. A common element during this phase is that I sleep very late, so at night time is when I am more productive and slower during mornings.
This is how my menstrual cycle had worked for these last three months, however; I am clear that it can change. My diary has not only taught me to track changes, but also to be more confident with myself not pushing my body to do more than what it should do.
Even though there are period emojis, and more women talk about it, it remains to be a tabu in many societies. So when I asked Carmen what should a woman know about their cycle. She said: “menstrual cycle is more than bleeding once a month and making babies. These are a few things I wish every woman knew about her cycle”:
- You are a cyclical being. Have you noticed how one week you are entirely productive, focused, and friendly, and the next one, you’re more disperse, introspective? There’s nothing wrong with you; it’s just your cyclical nature.
- Your cycle is an amazing sustainability system meant to keep a perfect balance between activity and rest.
- The menstrual cycle is an incredible feedback tool. By paying attention to details such as your ovulation date, the quantity, and quality of your menstrual blood, the length of your phases, etc., you can get insightful messages about your overall health.
- Your cycle matters because thanks to it, your body produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are important for your metabolism, immune system, energy levels, and many other things.
As you already know, not every phase is the same for each woman. Likewise, the remedies are not the same. When I have pain, I avoid drinking pain killer, I rather massage and put a hot towel on my lower abdominal, rest, take a sauna, jog, and do some yoga positions.
Most of us hate our monthly visitor and don’t want to talk about it, but for me, it’s a therapy to express about my rough days and also to have communication with my body. If you are struggling to love your cycle, I invite you try some tips Carmen gives:
-Start getting to know your cycle. The best way to do this is by tracking it.
-You can use a menstrual chart (there are tons available in Google), an app, or a journal, which is my favourite. Write down the date, the day and phase of your cycle, and ask yourself: How do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally today? Include as many aspects of your life as you want.
-Do this exercise for at least three cycles, and you’ll begin to notice some patterns in the way you feel, your energy, the things that interest you, etc. Then you can start making small tweaks in your routine to live more in harmony with the natural rhythms of your body.
-I’d invite you to do this with curiosity and lots of self-compassion. In the world that we live in, it’s not always possible to live totally in sync with our cycles, but there are still a few things that we can do to feel better and take good care of ourselves. Sometimes 1% is all it takes.