How To Practice Self-Care Throughout Your Menstrual Cycle
We as women are incredibly cyclical and mystical in nature. Have you ever noticed you feel different physically and emotionally at different points during the month in your cycle? For example, you might feel inspired, energized and optimistic at one point in your cycle while you might feel extremely moody and low energy at another point.
That's because your menstrual cycle has a natural ebb and flow, leaving you feeling more energized and vibrant at certain times and more introspective, emotional and withdrawn at others.
If you are in tune with your own body's rhythm or you chart your cycle with the Fertility Awareness Method, you can know how your changing hormones contribute to these differences. This knowledge can help you better tailor how you take care of yourself emotionally and physically at the different points in your cycle. Since self-care is all about knowing how to best take care of yourself, knowing how each phase of your cycle affects you is invaluable.
Think of it as a personalized self-care plan!
The different phases of your menstrual cycle...
Your cycle is broken into four phases: follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual. During each of these phases, your hormone levels are different, which affects how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Knowing what to expect during each of these phases can help you prepare ahead of time so you that you can implement the following self-care practices to help you feel your very best, no matter what phase of your cycle you are experiencing. This also helps us set healthy bounderies and can improve how we spend our time and energy.
1. Follicular Phase
During this phase of your cycle, which lasts about seven to ten days, your ovaries prepare to release an egg. Your follicles are rapidly growing. Your estrogen levels rise which triggers your uterine lining to thicken in preparation for the possibility to host a fertilized egg and ovulation. Overall, you’re likely to feel energetic both physically and emotionally during this phase of your cycle.
Since you are feeling energetic during this phase, you can take a more active approach to your self-care routine.
There's a since of hope and excitement in the air. Save the relaxing baths and lounging on the couch for another day and focus on getting out there and doing things. For example, go for an evening walk or run, hit the gym, lift weights, visit a friend, or have a night out with your girls. Your self-care goal during this phase is to engage in the things that rejuvenate you and require you to be active. Since you have the energy, you may as well make the most of it, right?
2. Ovulatory Phase
This phase lasts about three to four days and, during it, hormone levels change which triggers a follicle, which contains an egg, to burst open and travel through the fallopian tube into the uterus. As in the follicular phase, estrogen levels continue to rise so that the uterine lining continues to thicken. Overall, you will continue to feel energetic and will be stable mood-wise. In fact, during this phase, you will likely feel the most energetic out of all of the stages in your cycle.
Like in your follicular phase, you’re most likely feeling energetic in your ovulatory phase. Practicing self-care will probably feel the easiest in this phase because you have the energy to invest in your self-care routine. Focus on getting those workouts in, spending time with friends and family, and engaging in your favorite leisure activities and hobbies. For example, if you like skating or swimming, this a great time to hit the skating park/rink or pool because your energy levels are high. Or, if you love going to sporting events, check out tickets in your area and gather a few friends together to go. Explore the adventurous side of self-care during this phase.
3. Luteal Phase
During the luteal phase, which last approximately ten to fourteen days, the hormone progesterone rises which signals to the body to keep the uterine lining intact. Estrogen levels also continue to rise. If the egg has not been fertilized, progesterone production drops until it halts which will trigger the start of your period. During this phase, your energy levels will decline and you may start to experience premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, irritability, and certain cravings.
Since your energy levels are starting to decline, snuggling up on the couch with a good book, taking a relaxing bath or womb steaming begins to sound much more appealing than going out for a brisk walk or going through an intense workout at the gym. And that’s okay. An important component of self-care is recognizing what you need without judgement. It’s not “bad” that you aren’t feeling as outgoing or energetic. Rather, it’s just what happens during this phase in your cycle.
Instead of fighting it or beating yourself up over feeling tired, work with your body and take it easy. Don’t feel up to your usual workout? That’s okay. Try going to the gym for a shorter amount of time and doing a less intense workout. Another great self-care option during this phase is setting up a coffee (or tea) date with a friend. It doesn’t require a lot of effort or energy but you still feel like you are out and about doing things.
4. Menstrual Phase
This phase lasts anywhere from three to seven days and is triggered by a drop in progesterone production (which started during the luteal phase). This change triggers your period to start which is the shedding of your uterine lining. Once your lining has been shed, estrogen levels begin to rise again as your body starts the whole cycle all over again. You may experience cramping and other symptoms when your period starts.
Self-care during this phase is all about resting and taking it easy. When you are dealing with the symptoms of your period, it’s important to make sure you aren’t overwhelming yourself. For example, it’s especially important to not overschedule your calendar so that you can minimize your exposure to stress. And, if you don’t feel up to your usual activities and commitments, give yourself permission to stay home and rest.
As you can see, knowing what to expect during each phase of your cycle can help you tailor your self-care routine to how you are most likely feeling emotionally and physically during that time. Physiologically and hormonally, we are not the same every day of the month.
Along your wellness journey, the most important thing for you to do is to get to know yourself, both mind and body. That way you can begin to learn and know what is best for you. Using this personalized approach to self-care can help you experience the benefits of self-care no matter where you are in your cycle.
Love and health,