How Fertility Awareness Can Bring Huge Benefits to Your Emotional Health
Learning to live in sync with your cycle, rather than against it, is one of the bonuses of becoming more in flow and in tune with your menstrual cycle. Waking up to this way of living with your cycle can bring huge benefits to your own emotional health as well as benefit your relationships.
These benefits often come alongside learning about fertility awareness. As you become more aware of the phases of your cycle and understand the hormonal changes that happen to your body, you can better come to know your own body and understand why you feel the way you do during each phase of your cycle.
The Hormonal Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
There are two main hormones that are at play each cycle, and these hormones influence your emotions, motivation, creativity, libido and more. Estrogen is the dominant hormone in the first half of the cycle (from menstruation to ovulation). Estrogen is responsible for building up the uterine lining, as well as stimulating brain and bone cells. Estrogen binds with serotonin receptors and makes us feel alive. Estrogen peaks around ovulation.
After ovulation, progesterone becomes the dominant hormone. Progesterone maintains the uterine lining, and calms the cells and nervous system. Progesterone stays high until just before your next period, at which time it drops off and your uterine lining sheds with it at menstruation.
Special note: while cycles are typically displayed as lasting 28 days with ovulation at 14 days, this can be far from the truth for each individual woman.
The interplay of these hormones has a huge impact on how we feel, and when we become aware of their expression at different phases of our cycle, we can live in line with them rather than fighting against them.
Hormone levels are low at this time, and we probably feel like retreating and taking care of ourselves. It is a time to rest, take stock, set our intentions and tune into our intuition. You may be thinking - "How can I take time our for myself during menstruation?":
- Plan your meals ahead of time, so there's no need to cook during your period.
- Spend an extra hour in bed or find an hour to yourself during the day.
- Do lower intensity exercise, such as yoga or a gentle walk. This will nourish and calm your nervous system at this time.
- Ask for help. Telling your partner how you feel during this time can better enable them to support you.
After menstruation, we feel a return of energy, as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) recruits a follicle, or an immature egg, to start developing. We may feel like we can "do life again", and be more sociable. Whilst you should try to make the most of the energy available, you should also be careful not to overdo it.
At ovulation, estrogen rises to peak levels. Ovulation is your outward energy time of the month. This is the time to tend to others - you will likely feel you want to host people at your house, or stay out a bit later with friends. You can accomplish many things during this brief time, and expression of your creativity feels wonderful.
Biologically, this is the time that conception can occur so you might feel like getting dressed up, and expressing your sensuality.
If you are someone who practices high intensity exercise, this is a great phase to focus on muscle building, as estrogen helps build muscle cells.
Tip: Why not take this opportunity of higher energy to do some meal prep for your menstrual phase? Your future self will thank you!
After ovulation, you may feel the withdrawal of hormones. Your energy levels may begin to drop and it's likely you'll feel less sociable and even want to withdraw - that's ok!
This phase urges you to rock the boat of whatever does not serve you and what you’ve outgrown. It is a time to tie up loose ends. If you’re feeling like "life is too much" step down and step away for a little bit. Making sure you don’t plan too much during this phase of your cycle, can ease some of the irritability that you may feel.
And there we have it! The whistle-stop tour through the phases of the menstrual cycle.
Taking some time each day of the cycle to pay attention to how you feel will give you a sense for how these phases play out for you personally. You may not align exactly with the four phases, we're all individuals after all, but understanding how you personally feel during each phase of the cycle will help you connect to your emotions and plan your activities around them.