Remember that time a couple weeks ago when you got tears in your eyes after passing a limping bird on the side of the road? You were probably in your luteal phase.
The days approaching your period are when you’re at the very height of emotional sensitivity. After seeing that struggling bird you probably went home and rummaged through the pantry to find some bread and maybe some leftover candy from Halloween.
Our menstrual cycle is our body’s internal clock. It lets us know when we’re going to get frustrated when the insurance company puts us on hold and when we’ll let it brush off our shoulders like the easy breezy women we are. I’ll let you know when you will be at the top of your work game and when you’ll be a little more likely to get annoyed at something your husband doesn’t do.
These feelings are all normal, and all real. Unlike men, whose hormones are consistently stable throughout their lives, women’s hormones are constantly in flux. Our moods flow with our biological clocks and that’s totally ok. Sometimes we feel like we can take on the world and other times we might as well just be sewn to the couch.
In this article you’re going to learn why you should avoid big decision making on certain days and how to make the most out of your time on others. You’re going to find out just how intuitive you really are and how to harness your womanly powers! So sit back while I easily explain the science behind each of our menstrual phases so you can learn how to perfectly strategize your home and work life.
What goes on in your body during each menstrual phase
The first half of your menstrual cycle, the follicular phase, is when the ovary nurtures a developing egg. It’s also when your mood is at its finest. Your estrogen levels are climbing way higher than your progesterone levels helping you feel forgiving, alluring, and nurturing.
While your egg is maturing and getting ready for ovulation, estrogen is playing down the stress hormone. High estrogen levels are kind of like a wing woman. They help tamp down stress and amp up compassion, providing you with desirable qualities that attract a mate. You’re so cool and chill! Everyone wants to be around you! But just like clockwork, it’s time for the second half of your cycle.
The Luteal Phase is the two weeks between when the egg is released from the follicle and when mother nature comes to visit. Your progesterone levels reign over estrogen making you irritable and lethargic. Your child-like crankiness and slug-like qualities peak at day 21. This is when your estrogen levels drop to what seems like the core of the earth. This is what we refer to as PMS. The dreaded premenstrual syndrome.
PMS: the period before your period
Some ladies have horrifying PMS while others experience barely any at all. If you’re in the average percentage, you’ll experience the range of emotions that comes with PMS.
You’re more likely to cry when you see a blind homeless man holding a cardboard sign with a bible verse on the side of the road, have minor freakouts at your kid for not putting his dish in the dishwasher like you asked, and binge watch the latest season of Stranger Things. You’re overwhelmed and underappreciated. These are all common emotions during the 3-4 days leading up to your period.
When estrogen levels drop so does serotonin.. Serotonin is your happy neurotransmitter and when those levels drop, feelings of depression, anxiety, and OCD all rise. You feel hopeless in the face of stress and offended by slight criticism. You may feel angry, sad, bloated, tired from not sleeping the night before and you better believe you’re so hungry you could eat a horse.
The good news is that PMS is perfectly normal and if you experience mild cases of it- you don’t need to medicate it away. Instead, become friendly with your body and learn how to schedule your work and home life around it. Keeping track of your cycle won’t only do wonders for you but also your family and co-workers.
How To Schedule Your Work & Home Life Around Your Period
Post-period, your resilience is ascending. You can strategize by tackling challenging assignments at the beginning of your cycle. Towards the middle of your cycle when estrogen is at its pinnacle, take advantage of your heightened motor and verbal skills.
If you have a big business presentation or job interview, plan them for that time of the month. Taking your sewing hobby to the next level? Schedule your workshop for the middle of your cycle.
You’ll be happy to put off your deep cleaning until your PMS phase when we tend to experience OCD tendencies. Plan to get the kids and your husband together to finally clean out the garage Seriously, neighbors are starting to think you’re a hoarder. You’ll be more likely to stay with the task instead of getting annoying and cutting it short.
Since your pain tolerance is low during PMS, forget about going to get a root canal or wax. Instead, treat yourself to a massage. My orders.
Tips from PMS
During the first half of your cycle you are less likely to say no, get upset or stressed. You are an accommodation queen–unbreakable even. You can make breakfast AND dinner and buy a bouquet of flowers for the kitchen table. You’re a model mom and wife with 4 arms and 6 legs. Wonder Woman if you will.
When PMS comes around, we care less about our mates satisfaction and whether or not we are an A+ mom. I mean, we’re all human, right? We can’t bend backwards for everyone. We put up with way less and have higher expectations. Our dissatisfaction with our environment makes way for change and a fresh start.
It’s important to pay attention when these feelings arise, because they are real. So tune in, reflect, and honor these feelings. As soon as your period ends, when you’re at the top of your game– put these feelings into action.
Cravings and Alternatives
There’s a good chance that those couple days before and at the beginning of your period you have intense cravings like chocolate and carbs. Pasta, breads, cakes, and candies are all comfort foods we desire during this time. You’ll be happy to know, this is a real thing with science to back it up.
When you are a couple days out from your period, your body requires more calories. Your magnesium levels are dropping (think migraines and headaches) and chocolate can bring them back up.
I’m not saying it ok to go buy a bag of kit kats and truffles from the store to up your levels, I’m just letting you know you it makes sense. Adding a magnesium supplement will help with bloating and swollen boobs. Try incorporating natural diuretics (asparagus, dandelion tea) into your diet during the days leading up to your period to combat excessive water retention.
In addition to plummeting magnesium, your serotonin is also falling fast. Since serotonin is our happy neurotransmitter, we are desperately trying to increase that and sugar and carbs are those quick fixes our brain and bodies are used to.
To avoid spiked blood sugar and then a sugar crash, try foods with the amino acid tryptophan. Your body uses this to build your serotonin levels back up. Dark meat, turkey and lentils are good alternatives to foods that are high in sugar and carbs. Make sure your meat is hormone and antibiotic free and unprocessed so that your period doesn’t become heavier.
Healthy fatty acids from oily fish will help with your snappiness and irritability as well. And something that you’ve probably been waiting for— exercise. Do it. Getting your heart rate up and blood pumping is important because it will do wonders for mood and energy.
Your Sex Life
If you’re on the pill or another contraceptive, you are numb to many of these symptoms. Too steady hormone levels in women are not natural. They keep us from making changes and doing what is best for ourselves and our families. If that wasn’t worrisome enough, for some women oral contraceptives weaken sex life. Over time, the longer you’re on the pill, the lower your testosterone levels are, making you way less amped about sex.
When we are in the middle of our cycle, we are at the peak of our sexual desires. This is when we are the most fertile, so it makes sense that we want sex more often at this time (especially in the morning). So if you want to schedule your sex life not just around your kids’ schedules but also your cycle schedule than make it for the middle of your cycle when your oxytocin is at its highest basically guaranteeing an orgasm. You feel your sexiest and are super attracted to your mate and have an intense desire to bond. Your mate is also more attracted to you.
If you are on an oral contraceptive and skip the fertile phase, your hormones are static. There’s no extra horny mid-cycle bonding or sexual desire. Since the pill makes your body thinks it’s already pregnant, why would it need to attract a mate or have sex? For more information on why birth control isn’t always the best option check out our article on Natural Birth Control Options.
1st Half of Your Cycle
- Big work assignments/presentations
- Challenging tasks
- Projects that require motor and verbal skill
- Putting goals into action
- Appointments like dentist, waxes etc.
- High-energy/important commitments
- Want to try a new hobby? Painting, pottery, knitting, and sewing are all good hobbies to try during this phase
- Prepare for period by grocery shopping for healthy craving alternatives
- Exercise classes (yoga, HIIT, weight training) also a good time to try a new class
2nd Half of Your Cycle
- Deep house cleaning
- Organizing (office/home)
- You time (self-care, massage, bath)
- Bulk healthy cooking for when cravings hit
- Turning in and reflecting on life and environment
- Light cardio exercise (take walks outside, jogging, hot yoga)
Now that you have a little more information on what goes on in our complex systems, get to creating your cycle calendar. You’ll be more motivated and productive when it’s more natural to be and more intuitive and tuned-in when it’s easiest. If you have any other tips and tricks you use to make the most out of your month– comment below!
- Holland, Julie. Moody Bitches: the Truth about the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy. Penguin Books, 2016.