Here I run through some basic information on the cycle; the phases and different methods of tracking it.
Cycle tracking is a useful tool for natural family planning (whether trying to conceive or avoid conception) and to get to know yourself deeper as a cycling woman.
I talk about a ‘typical’ 28 day cycle, but adapt the phases according to your personal experience.
If you are no longer bleeding, you can track your rhythm using the phases of the moon.
Getting to know your cycle:
Start by watching your periods. Mark in your diary when you start bleeding for a few months and soon you will see if you have a pattern.
Is it regular? Irregular? How long is your cycle?
If you have a regular cycle, it can then become easy to predict when your next bleed will arrive. This can be useful when planning holidays etc.
Meet your period with interest:
How do you feel just before you start bleeding?
How long do you bleed for?
Which day is heaviest?
Do you experience discomfort/pain?
How do you experience the world when you are bleeding?
When getting to know the cycle, the bleed can be the easiest part to watch as we physically experience something and know when we are in this particular phase. Whilst the other phases are subtler.
Try taking a moment each day to check in with how you are feeling.
A few questions/topics to cover are suggested below.
(edit according to your interests/symptoms)
How do I feel:
Physically? (strong, tired, weak, achey, energised, pain, bloating, headache, well, unwell).
Emotionally? (sad, happy, upbeat, low, moody, miserable, flat, numb).
Spiritually? (deep, connected, disconnected, floaty, grounded).
Sexually? (disinterested, horny, aroused, alive, bored, experimental, sexy, potent, fertile).
Appetite? (hungry, carbs, protein, snacks, chocolate, sweets, fruit, veg, green leafy veg, starch, comfort food, low appetite, nauseous).
Psychologically? (good about myself, insecure, egotistic, confident, busy mind, foggy, paranoid)
Socially? (want to be alone, want to interact with others, full of life, chatty, quiet, inward, antisocial, confident, shy, listener).
You can record your findings on a circular chart which can be useful as an at-a-glance method. See Red School’s website for a chart here, or in a journal:
If using a journal, a great method for analysing your recordings, is to allocate one page to each day of the cycle:
Mark the top of the first page “Day 1”. This is the first day of blood flow.
Mark the top of the second page “Day 2” and so on.
Each month write under the given day, so after a few months, you will have page “Day 1” with all the first days of your bleed on. This will make it easy for you to see if there are patterns arising.
Do you use the same key words to describe how you feel on a given day?
Continue through your whole cycle. Sometimes it’s helpful to note if you have a particularly eventful day to eliminate anomalies from the rhythm. For example if you have a very stressful day at work with deadlines and pressure, you may feel anxious, get a headache and sleep badly, but this is more due to external experience than your inner rhythm.
Keep tracking for a few months, and see if you notice any patterns. I find this a lovely way to connect with myself at the end of a day ~ and only takes a minute or two.
Another way of tracking your cycle are simple apps on your phone. I have used ‘Clue’ before which is great and you can edit it to input the information relevant to you. I haven’t tried any others, but this one seemed detailed enough, easy to fill in and clear. It also shows you when you are expected to ovulate, if your cycle is regular, which can be a helpful addition to other natural family planning methods. (I suggest using a combination of methods for clearest accuracy: Basal body temperature, mucous, cycle days ~ seek advice from a local natural family planning clinic if you are unsure).
A menstrual cycle can be referred to in a similar way to a year: With seasons.
This is an accessible way of understanding what we are going through and most people can relate to the seasonal rhythm.
Winter : Menstruation ~ this is our bleed. (days 1-6, dark moon)
Commonly feeling a need for hibernation; ‘duvet days’; comforting, warm food; quiet; introspection; cosiness and plenty of rest and sleep. A dreamy time where we may not feel very sociable or able to converse as coherently as other phases. We may be less interested in other people ~ more focused on ourselves. A time for dreaming.
Allow others to help you at this time. Whether a partner, friend or colleague; let yourself be supported by those around you. Ask for help when you need it; let someone cook you dinner; and if you are really busy and don’t have time to stop and rest, try just a little amount of deep rest. Have a warm bath; a nap; turn your phone off for half an hour and let your body deeply rest.
Spring: Post Menstruation (Days 6-12, waxing moon)
Towards the end of our bleed and out the other side, we often feel energy rising; inspiration; ideas; motivation and excitement for life. We must remember to come out of the bleed slowly, else we may burn out and peak too soon. Use this energy to conjure ideas; make lists; research and develop ideas; and start getting out in the world again. We can find we are productive; full of life and love; with a rising desire to be social.
Summer: Ovulation (days 12-18, full moon)
This is the peak of the cycle. When we ovulate and are fertile.
We may find we have high energy; are sociable; inspired; full of life; motivated; busy; getting lots done; productive; pro active and ‘super woman’. This is how society wants us to perform all the time, but as a cycling woman, we must acknowledge that this is not possible, and we can use different phases’ qualities for our creativity and productivity, whether at home or in the workplace.
Use this time to give presentations/talks; get things done; socialise.
I find that the day after ovulation I have a slight ‘dip’, this is a low point in my cycle and quite a contrast to the high energy of the previous day(s). I like to acknowledge it and try and be kind to myself.
Autumn: Pre~menstrual (days 18-28, waning moon)
This phase is commonly the one people talk about. PMT/PMS (Pre menstrual tension/stress). A time of short tempers; frustration; stress and short fuses. This is very common.
It is worth connecting to this energy, but try not letting the fire be the one to speak. Listen to the feelings and voices arising, and hear what they have to say: for it is said that this is our deep truth coming out, where you are less tolerant for things that aren’t working in your life.
We might also find we have a strong inner critic, shining light on our personality and finding ways to disregard ourselves. Again, listen to the voice, for it may have information useful to you, but try not to BECOME the thoughts.
Be loving and kind to yourself, preparing for the next phase to come: the bleed. Slow down; nourish yourself; self care. Find ways to comfort and calm yourself.
I hope this helps connect you and gives you an understanding of our fluctuant qualities of being woman. I find it a useful tool as well as enjoying connecting to myself and checking in daily.
This is a short, at-a-glance introduction. If you have any questions, comments, feedback or have found this useful, please contact me:
With love and warm womb wishes,