One of the fantastic benefits of fertility charting, aside from using your body’s signs to avoid pregnancy or to conceive, is tuning into the ebbs and flows of your menstrual cycle. The hormones estrogen and progesterone are integral to the events of the menstrual cycle, and they also impact how we feel. Our hormones impact every part of our body, including our brains! So it’s no wonder that we don’t feel the same from day-to-day.
What is Menstrual Cycle Awareness?
The practice of paying attention to the cyclical changes in your mood and overall well-being is also called menstrual cycle awareness. Coined by Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer and Alexandra Pope, the authors of Wild Power, menstrual cycle awareness involves “paying attention to where you are in your cycle each day, what you are experiencing and how to care for your changing needs.”
The reality is that we are cyclical beings living in a linear world.
The way that our systems and structures are set up is just not conducive to living with our cycle. Think about the average workweek: we’re expected to work Monday through Friday for 8 hours a day. With the rise and fall of our hormones each cycle, we operate on more of a monthly cycle than a daily one! Imagine if our world honored our inner rhythms - how much different we would feel!
Menstrual cycle awareness acknowledges that we can reach our fullest potential when we live according to our own inner rhythms, rather than following an outside schedule. Sure, we’ve all got obligations, responsibilities, jobs, families, and the list goes on.
But when we plan around our cycle for the times that we can choose, and honor how we’re feeling with the lens of menstrual cycle awareness, our whole experience can shift.
How does fertility charting connect?
When you chart your cycle with fertility awareness, you’re already halfway to practicing menstrual cycle awareness. Start by paying attention to what cycle day you are on and keeping track of how you feel and what comes easily to you and what feels hard. You might want to make a note in your fertility chart or keep a separate journal altogether. Jot down a few words on a simplified chart that just has the cycle day and day of the month. You may start to notice patterns on certain days of your cycle if you do this practice for a few cycles. Notice where you are in your cycle and how you feel. It’s as simple as that!
When we understand that certain things just feel easier on a particular day of our cycle and certain things can feel harder, we give ourselves a lot more grace. Rather than being hard on ourselves, we understand that how we’re feeling is temporary.
Instead of resisting the pull of the cycle, we go with the flow.
Using Meditation with the Cycle
Tune into the phase you're in with a meditation or affirmations - phrases that you can turn to again and again. Each phase of the menstrual cycle has a set of gifts as well as some particular challenges. A meditation connects you to the cycle and deepens your awareness of the gifts for that phase. You might find a specific phase of the cycle more challenging than another - meditation can bring your attention back into your body and be a grounding practice to return to as you journey through the cycle.
But isn't that just an excuse for being lazy?
Some might argue that practicing menstrual cycle awareness is just an excuse to do less. I’d counter that by saying that we are being much more efficient and effective at using our time when we live with our cycle. When we pay attention to when our motivation and creativity are at its peak, we can get more done than fighting to be productive when we really should be resting.
Rest as radical self-care
I also really do think that resting and slowing down is counter-cultural. Where did we get the idea (especially as women) that we need to be productive all the time and that our worth comes from the hustle?
Living life as if we have no needs is a direct route to burnout.
We can use menstrual cycle awareness in all aspects of our life, from planning our schedule to letting our partner know what cycle day we’re on and what we need on that day. It can be an incredible practice that brings a richness to our fertility charting and become a framework for our entire lives.
Nathalie Daudet is a social worker, FEMM instructor and future Cycle Coach based in Winnipeg, Canada. She discovered fertility awareness after searching high and low for a non-hormonal method of birth control. After learning the magic of fertility awareness and the gift of body literacy, she decided to pursue formal fertility awareness training and share the knowledge of fertility awareness with women looking for a natural birth control option. Fertility Awareness Project is the hub for Nathalie’s FEMM classes in both group and individual formats, online and in person in Winnipeg.