By Michele Drake, FAE
I recently spoke with a good friend about our cycles. She told me that she had recently gotten a hormonal IUD because she just couldn’t live with how unpredictable her emotions were. She felt like she was all over the place. The conversation really surprised me. Because once you start tracking your cycle, you begin to notice all kinds of patterns. Do you get a little snappy just before your period? Do you just adore your sweetheart more around ovulation?
The more you pay attention to your cycle, the more connections you will find. Our cycles are like seasons inside of us. There are times when we might feel more or less energy, creativity, and the capacity to care for others. And once we see those connections, we can use cycle syncing to maximize our potential in every phase of our cycle. We’re talking about some serious life hacks!
Phase 1- Menstruation
This phase is like winter. During menstruation, our estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and our bodies are releasing and preparing to restart the hormonal orchestra that will lead to our next ovulation. Our energy is concentrated inward, and we may want to withdraw from friendships and partners and spend time alone.
For most of us, our energy levels are lower during this phase. It’s important to listen to your body. If you need to take a day off from the gym, that’s ok. If you need to do some light yoga or walking instead, give yourself permission.
It’s important to nourish ourselves well during menstruation. Warm foods and drinks are recommended. Nettle tea and red raspberry leaf tea are popular choices. Root vegetables and healthy fats will help you feel more stable and sustained.
Our intuition is most sensitive in the menstrual phase. It’s a great time for decision making and self- reflecting. Journaling and meditation can be especially helpful at this time. But remember that this phase is the best for brainstorming but it isn’t the most productive for actually making things happen.
Phase 2- Follicular Phase
The follicular phase is like spring. The FSH in our bodies has stimulated a few eggs to begin maturing inside the ovaries. Those maturing follicles raise our estrogen levels. Our energy shifts to a more outward focus, and we may find ourselves spending more of our time at parties and in groups.
Energy levels rise during this phase (peaking at ovulation). This is a great time to challenge yourself in your workouts- particularly cardio activities.
The best way to nourish ourselves during this phase is by eating foods that help us metabolize excess estrogen. Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc) are great for this! And since we metabolize and remove excess hormones primarily through digestion, having a probiotic food daily is recommended. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented pickles are recommended.
During the follicular phase, we have the highest potential for creativity. This is a great time to set goals, make plans, establish new routines, and learn new things.
Rising estrogen levels make us feel beautiful, and can make other people seem more beautiful too. We are much more likely to flirt or initiate with our partners during the follicular phase.
Phase 3- Ovulation
Ovulation is the main event of the cycle and there is so much going on hormonally. Just before ovulation, our estrogen levels reach a peak, and luteinizing hormone (LH) has a big, brief surge to force the egg out of the follicle. Most people are still feeling that estrogen energy and wanting to be very social.
Ovulation is a great time for testing your physical limits. If you really want to know how fast you can run or how much you can lift, this is your time to find out. Some people actually have so much energy that they struggle to sleep through the night.
During the ovulatory phase, nourish yourself with lots of whole, fresh produce. Try blending some anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables into smoothies. Your appetite may be a little lighter at this time in your cycle, but it’s important to eat well.
You might notice that you’re spending all of your time socializing in groups or at parties. Your sex drive will be at its peak, and sex might even be more satisfying.
The outward energy of the ovulatory phase makes this a great time for important and challenging conversations (like asking for a raise or discussing your relationship status). For most of us, high estrogen makes us feel perky and unstoppable. But people who have anxiety are more likely to struggle with it as estrogen peaks, closer to ovulation.
Phase 4- Luteal Phase
Immediately after ovulation, our bodies begin to make progesterone, which rises quickly. This abrupt shift from estrogen being the main hormone to progesterone being the main hormone can make this phase intense. Some people feel like a switch was flipped. During the luteal phase, most people begin to become less social, more quiet, cozy, and want to stay home.
Energy levels should be pretty stable for most of the luteal phase, maybe tapering off as you get closer to menstruation. For your workouts, this is a good time to focus on endurance rather than speed. Listen to your body and do the exercise that feels appropriate.
During the luteal phase, you can nourish yourself best by eating foods that promote stability in blood sugar and mindset. Definitely eat foods rich in magnesium (spinach, chocolate) and/or take a magnesium supplement (this is a safe recommendation since the vast majority of humans are currently magnesium deficient). Some serotonin-producing foods are buckwheat, quinoa, and leafy greens. Some people also report feeling better when they avoid sugar and alcohol during this part of their cycle.
The luteal phase maximizes attention to detail and provides a good opportunity to organize and reach those deadlines. It’s also a truth-telling time in our cycles when we are less likely to sugar-coat things or put other peoples’ needs first. It’s a good time to revisit boundaries.
Of course, while the information above reflects the majority of cycling people, some of the experiences are very individual. For instance, you may find yourself compelled to run a race during menstruation (more power to ya!) or take a nap during ovulation. But for the most part, when you start tracking your cycles, patterns will emerge.
You can take this information as seriously or as casually as you like. Some people plan their whole social calendar and work schedule around their cycles and find cycle syncing to be a very powerful experience.
About the author:
Michele Drake is a Fertility Awareness Educator and advocate with a passion for supporting people with their birth control choices. After witnessing many friends struggle to find their ideal method for avoiding pregnancy, balance their hormones, or achieve pregnancy, she was inspired to empower people with knowledge about their own bodies so that they may make informed choices about their health.
Michele offers one-on-one classes for natural birth control, conception, menstrual wellness, and achieving hormonal balance. She is also donation-based distance birth control doula support. You can find her through her website or over on Instagram.