Being in tune with the natural cycles of life helps everything FLOW.
You adapt to the seasons, don’t you? You change your clothes accordingly, stay in or go out depending on the weather, eat differently depending on what’s available.
So why not adapt to other types of cycles, too? I’m talking about your menstrual cycle and its internal seasons.
For some of you, just the mention of your period makes your ovaries do backflips inside of you. PMS symptoms can be debilitating.
You don’t have to deal with the pain. You don’t! We’re told it’s just a fact of life and to deal with it quietly, but painful periods and severe PMS symptoms are not normal.
Common, yes. Normal, no. They are a sign that something isn’t right. You deserve to live without dreading your menstrual phase, without the anxiety looming when you know it’s coming close.
Hormone imbalance, chronic stress, lack of nourishment; whatever it is that’s causing your symptoms, living cyclically can help change that for you.
What does it mean to live cyclically?
Cyclical living means paying attention to your body’s cycles and planning accordingly based on the needs of each phase. Linear thinking is more about there being a beginning and end, no turning back, you’re just plugging forward day after day.
But with cycles, though they do have a beginning and end, they repeat. There’s always an opportunity for a phase to return, and that means you always have an opportunity to make changes.
The hormones of the assigned-female reproductive system fluctuate over the course of four weeks (on average) rather than daily like the assigned-male system.
This means we have to take more care in noticing shifts in our energy, metabolism, mood, digestion, sex drive, immunity, and more. Your hormones are in charge of a whole lot in the body! Living in flow with these fluctuations benefits you in many ways.
Ultimately, I look at cyclical living as body literacy — getting really familiar with how your unique body works so you can best take care of yourself and advocate for your wellbeing.
How living out of sync disrupts your hormones
It’s really quite simple. Think of how you feel when you want to be left alone.
Despite your door being closed, everyone and their mother seems to want to stop by your office and have a chat.
Or you’ve told your needy partner you want some space today and they show up at your house wanting attention.
Or maybe you have kids who keep trying to get into the locked bathroom when you’re trying to get five minutes of peace on the toilet.
This goes on for hours. For days! Eventually, you’re going to snap.
Can’t they see you want to be left alone? You’ve closed your doors, you’ve tried to make your needs known. Why won’t anyone listen? Hellooooo?
That’s kind of how your hormones feel when you’re not paying attention to what they need. This situation would be akin to doing high-intensity exercise and trying to be super productive at work during your menstrual phase, which is typically more of a time for rest. The subtle hints tend to get louder and louder until BAM — you’re forced to rest because you’re so depleted from all the activity.
We can’t control every situation in life, but constantly going against the grain in this way can create physical stress, and that’s on top of the emotional stress we’re piling on day after day. Chronic stress can lead to a myriad of hormonal problems.
Understanding the ins and outs of each of your phases can teach you how to adapt your lifestyle to your own personal rhythm for less resistance and more flow in life.
Stress and your menstrual cycle
When you’re stressed, your body secretes cortisol, a helpful hormone that helps us deal with threats. It increases your blood sugar so “fight or flight” is something you actually have the energy to do. This increase in blood sugar also increases insulin, which is the hormone that takes blood sugar to stores it in your cells and calm you back down.
It’s a natural process and a necessary hormone, but modern life has us abusing our cortisol privileges. Overuse from daily stress can deplete your reserves, and you won’t have enough to deal with stress properly.
As you may have noticed, it can have an effect on your cycle. A major thing to know is that we use progesterone (a key hormone of the menstrual cycle) to make cortisol, so if you have low cortisol as a result of chronic stress, you end up with low progesterone. This is a common reason your period is late when you’re stressed.
The hormonal cascade due to stress can also cause delayed ovulation, painful cramping, gas/bloating, and more.
Chill out and reduce period problems with cyclical living
Ideally, you want to work with your hormones so you can maintain their delicate balance throughout your cycle. Start by tracking your cycle, whether with an app or with pen and paper.
Note how you’re feeling each day and track any symptoms you want to improve. Even just one word a day will do to start, so you can see any patterns that arise or any issues that need to be addressed.
Knowing how your unique cycle works and how your body feels in each phase allows you to better understand your needs ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
And because stress is a major cause of hormone imbalance (though certainly not the only reason), you’ve gotta find ways to chill out, man.
Think about making your own self-care list to turn to when things are feeling chaotic. What feels good to you? What helps you wind down from a busy day? What makes you feel whole?
We’ll be talking about cyclical living (and the many ways the patriarchy keeps you from doing it) in my upcoming free workshop on September 30. RSVP for The Patriarchy vs. Your Body here and learn more about reclaiming your power so you can reduce PMS symptoms and have more flow in life.