Shark week. Aunt flow. Code Red. That time of the month. Whatever you call it—it’s your menstrual cycle. After learning about the menstrual cycle in my high school health class, I lived most of my adult life only vaguely aware of how hormones work, when to expect my cycle, and how to recognize PMS. It’s not something I ever researched or truly cared about in my teens and early 20s, but when my husband and I decided to try to conceive our first child, I really started to be more cognizant of my cycle and ovulation. It was at this point that I really started to learn about and understand just how much my cycle impacts my day-to-day life when it comes to productivity, confidence, and rest.
Since then, I’ve realized the power of tracking my menstrual cycle so that I can understand why at certain times of the month I’m more productive, energetic, and confident, but at other times, I am introverted, reflective, and in need of more rest. This knowledge has been transformational in how I think about myself, and how I show up in my work and my relationships and is something I truly feel like every woman should know about and be able to harness in her own life.
This concept of cycle syncing was first coined by Alisa Vitti in her book WomanCode, and can be summarized as “syncing your goals and behaviors to your menstrual cycle.” According to Vitti, the goal of cycle syncing is “to work in alignment with your hormones.”
I know. It seems a bit daunting and overwhelming—planning your life around your period. But the process is actually quite simple, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll understand the hype.
So, what do you need to know to start tracking and using your period to your advantage?
First, you need to become acutely aware of your cycle by using a cycle tracker. I like this one from Maisie Hill, menstrual health expert and author of Period Power. You can also use a regular calendar or planner, or a cycle tracking app, like Ovia. When tracking, be sure to document things like your mood, symptoms, energy, and behavior. After tracking for two or three months, you should begin to see patterns in your energy, mood, and behavior, and you should be able to connect those patterns to your cycle.
Next, you need to have a basic understanding of each phase of your cycle. There are four phases in each cycle: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal. Each of these phases has unique characteristics including hormone levels, energy levels, nutritional needs, social needs, and even mindset.
Menstrual Phase: Day 1-7
This is the stretch of time when you have your period and when your energy will be the lowest, which is why you should prioritize rest. Trying to power through important and demanding work at this point in your cycle may leave you feeling frustrated and burnt out. Give yourself some grace, and allow yourself ample sleep. You’ll also feel more calm and reflective, so it’s a good time to journal, build ideas, reassess, and make decisions.
Follicular Phase: Day 8-13
During this phase, energy begins to build leading up to ovulation. You’ll probably feel more clear-minded and motivated, so it’s a good time to schedule collaborative meetings, brainstorm and discuss ideas, set goals, and plan.
Ovulatory Phase: Day 14-21
During this phase, you’ll have more energy and feel more connected to your spouse or partner. You’ll also be more chatty and confident, so it’s a great time to schedule any presentations, public speaking, or important conversations. If you are an entrepreneur or have a business that requires you to create content for social media, this is a great time to set aside time to batch photo and video content to capitalize on your confidence.
Luteal Phase: Day 22-28
After ovulation, your energy will begin to decrease and you’ll feel yourself turning inwardly. Because your energy is decreased and you’ll likely feel quieter, it’s a great time to organize projects, do quiet administrative work, clean, and practice self-care. Remember that your productivity is intended to slow down at this time, so once again, it’s important to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace if you can’t focus or knock out tasks as you did during ovulation.
Knowing about these phases and how they fit with your own menstrual cycle will give you the power to align important work projects or social commitments. Will it work out perfectly every time? Absolutely not. Life happens, and there will be times where you’ll have to do public speaking when you aren’t feeling your best, most confident self, for example. However, knowing this will allow you to give yourself grace in those moments, rather than blaming yourself for lack of confidence or low energy.
There is so much more information about tracking your cycle and how you can further support your menstrual health through exercise, supplements, and nutrition. If you’re fascinated by this idea of cycle syncing and want to learn more, I encourage you to look into Alisa Vitti’s WomanCode and Maisie Hill’s Period Power.
Disclaimer: Please know that this article is not meant to serve as medical advice and that you should always consult with a medical professional if you have questions about your body and your menstrual cycle.