Making my cycle work for me

I recently listened to a very interesting interview with the famous Mr John Gray. Author of the bestselling book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venues and more recently Beyond Mars and Venues. The discussion was based around relationships and hormones, mainly female hormones. How our hormones change and fluctuate throughout the month and how they affect us women and the ones we love. Even down to which day of the month is ideal for date night, five days after your period, in case you were wondering! Apparently, according to Mr Gray, if your partner gives you love and attention on this particular day you'll be content for the rest of the month. No longer will you be uttering those familiar phrases like 'you never take me out' or 'we never spend any time together'. If you head out for date night on this particular night of the month you'll be happy and content with the interaction of friends and social groups for the rest of the month. So give it a try, my hubby and I are going to experiment with this one this Saturday!

Anyway, this all got me thinking.... I really don't pay that much attention to where I am in the month and what part of my cycle I'm in, so I decided I'd start to track it, just out of curiosity.

Honestly, it has been the most eye opening month and a complete game changer!

I started from the first day of my period and tracked each phase. I started looking at how each phase effects my work, relationships and when's the best time to do what.

So here what I've discovered....

It all starts with the Menstrual phase, this is the time when Progesterone drops and Estrogen peaks then drops. This is you time, for internal focus and a time of low energy. This is the best point in the month to ask why questions, get clarity on your vision and mission and start mapping out your plans. This is especially useful if your planning work projects or trying to become more organised generally. I've really found it to be a time when I can contemplate things calmly and without feeling overwhelmed. It can also be a time of welcome relief from the craziness of the phase that proceeds it but more on that later! In exercise terms, this is the time to just maintain, it's not a personal best week, just keep working through at around 70% and don't give yourself a hard time if you don't feel like Super Woman right now, that time will come. In terms of nutrition a few good foods to eat at this point are leafy greens and seaweed as they are full of iron, dark berries and dark chocolate are also good as they pack in the antioxidants and banana for the potassium.

Next up is the Follicular phase, the point where you get your energy back, the fog has finally lifted and you're feeling switched on. You can now look outwards, it's your creative peak and the best time to say yes to the party invite. This is the time to start putting those plans into action, start drafting the work and getting your marketing set up, if that applies to you. Generally, start getting geared up and solve those problems. Ok, you can hit the gym and be Super Woman or SheRa or whoever you're alter ego is. It's PB week so get after it! Don't forget about your nutrition at this point especially if you're hitting the gym hard, get some carbs in, oats if they work for you, keep the leafy greens and make sure you're getting a good balance of fats and protein. Avocados, broccoli, grapefruit, lemons/limes, nuts (soaked), chicken and liver if you can. These will all help to keep your nutrition on point so you can get the most out of your training. This is one of my favourite times of the month, nothing bothers me that much, I feel like I can cope with pretty much anything this week!

We then move into the doing phase, Ovulation phase. Hormones are surging at this point with Estrogen continuing to rise, Testosterone rises and falls. I think I like this week even more than the last as it's the week to get s**t done and say exactly what you think. Your verbal skills are at their peak in this week so make the most of it and show the world just what you're made of. It's another great week for training and to keep the momentum going so enjoy it and get the most out of it. Keep going with those dark berries and add in some asparagus and brussel sprouts, they are rich in vitamin C and K loaded with potassium, manganese, folates and B vitamins.

Ok here we go, it's that time. The time when you think 'am I going mad or is everyone out to get on my nerves, piss me off and generally be really irritating'. Nope, it's the Luteal phase. Before I go on, I just want to say that taking the time to research this over the last month has really done wonders for my relationship with my husband. Don't get me wrong, I still shouted and cried in this phase but whilst I was doing it I was completely aware of why and that it really wasn't my poor husbands fault. He wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary but in my world everything he was doing was wrong. Even so, through my rants and outbursts I managed to remind him that it's not him, it's me, which I think went some way to helping him realise i was still his wife and not some crazed lunatic! There are a few hormone steps in this phase of holding, declining with progesterone and Estrogen rising. This is most definitely the SLOW DOWN phase, it's the time of nesting and observation. Don't try and win any battles at this point and it's certainly not the time that you're going to be the life and soul of the party but that's OK! Look after yourself at this point with massage, yoga, swimming, meditation or a SPA Day! All the things you've been meaning to get round to doing for you, now is the time to do them. Believe me it's the best thing for you and those around you. Honestly, if you really don't feel like dragging yourself to the gym then DON'T, go for a walk on your own, get out in nature and just take the time to breath. If you manage to get to the gym you're looking at 60% effort time. Your muscle are likely to already be aching and you're probably tired so just move and focus on moving well, nothing fast or heavy. Trust me, your body will not thank you for it if you push it right now! Then there's the nutrition, ok well thats gone out the window because all you can think about is cakes and chocolate. What's with the cravings?! All the odds are stacked against you on the hormone front and you're feeling tired anyway, you have to get your energy from somewhere, so thats the point at which your brain starts convincing you that those sugary treats are just what you need. You can help those cravings by making sure you are getting some good starchy carbs in, sweet potatoes, root veggies like squash and a bit of rice are all good if your digestion can handle them, bananas, apples, dates and figs should all go some way to help with the sweet craving and make sure you're staying hydrated as that will help to curb those cravings too. But honestly, if you want a bar of chocolate or cake, have one and don't feel guilty about it.

Whilst on my research I came across some really handy tools to use as quick glance guides which I'll share here.

They are both from The Period Coach so you may find more useful information here. And if you are looking for some answers to any hormonal issues you may be having or some symptoms you can't figure out, I highly recommend a book called The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried here. What this lady doesn't know about hormones isn't worth knowing.

So there you have it, one month, four phases, all about being a woman. I urge you to get that date put in your diary and start tracking, take back control and stay sane by being in the know.

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