By Anna-Cajsa Johansson
A balanced Life – Connecting to the wisdom of your cycle
In the world today, we tend to value doing and rationality much higher than being and intuition. Because of this we lose some of the very important innate knowledge of ourselves and our bodies. How do we, in our busy lives, ensure we are getting the most out of what we do and are able to manage our own life, as well as those perhaps partly or fully dependent on us? Do we know when to slow down and when we can stand the pressure of speeding things up?
The hormonal cycle for women is a good example of an area where we can find great strength, power and awareness, leading us to a healthier life.
- How can you discover and follow this inner guidance?
- What steps can be taken to relieve PMS and other discomfort relating to your menstrual cycle?
Did you know that science agrees that women are more intuitive during a certain part of the cycle?
As women, our menstrual cycle is a source of great knowledge and self-awareness. Like the flow of water and other liquids it is ruled by the moon and is one of the many cycles of creation mirrored in nature. Culturally, in the Western world, we have been conditioned to view it as something that holds us back and even makes us weak. In fact it offers us an opportunity to further use our intuition and learn how to strike a balance in our busy life, and even find a greater sense of harmony and freedom. We can reclaim our power and listen to our own voice, which knows what is best for us from a health perspective.
Through history, the menstrual cycle has carried significant sacred and ritual value and in parts of the world this still remains. Through the progression of the developing world, women’s cycles lost some of the sacred value attached to it and today we are inclined to view it as a weakness or a burden, something that keeps us from achieving. We tend to treat the symptoms only, rather than the root cause. When there are issues around our cycle, we ignore what our bodies are trying to tell us. Through this disassociation our bodies will find another way of getting us to listen, and eventually the need will express itself in a way we can’t ignore.
The four phases of the cycle each bring you different physical and emotional strengths. With this in mind you can begin to work with our cycle instead of against it. To make it easy, you can think of half of the cycle as reflective and half as inspiration. When you start paying attention to this you will notice how easily and naturally all of this comes to you (and why wouldn’t it?) and how much you benefit from giving yourself the time to listen, reflect and act.
Phase 1 – The Bleeding Phase
A plunge in the hormone progesterone causes the uterine lining to shed. This is the part of the cycle where you will have the least energy and you will possibly feel very tired, and a need to withdraw. Give yourself as much space for rest as you feel you need and can, it will be of great benefit. It isn’t always an option to get that day off, have extra sleep or take the nap that you long for but try to bring in peaceful, quiet time, to your day. Even a short walk or some breathing exercises can provide rest.
Pain and other symptoms are not unusual for some or all of this phase and there are various things you can do to help prevent this. Some keys things to try are:
- Cut out dairy and refined carbohydrates, and limit red meat and egg yolk to twice a week
- Take a vitamin B complex, magnesium and vitamin E
- Reduce your stress levels and take gentle exercise
Focus for this phase
Keep exercise very light – gentle yoga and walking is perfect. Listen to your body – what feels good? Try not to have a busy schedule for these days and ensure that along with commitments you also have some time for you. Reflect on the previous cycle and set intentions for the weeks to come.
Phase 2 – Follicular Phase
The hormones FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (luteinising hormone) abruptly rise in this phase. FHS stimulates the follicles in the ovaries, containing the eggs, to mature. Levels of oestrogen rise and this is associated with increased left-hemisphere activity increase (logic, words, analysis) while right-hemisphere activity deceases (creativity, insight, intuition). Energy levels are lifted and you could find it easier to be more assertive and to take risks. This is a productive phase and it also comes with heightened libido due to the testosterone increase, as well as a feeling of being more extrovert and increased feelings linking to self-sufficiency.
Focus for this phase
Decision making and problem solving will come easier to you in this phase, along with expressing yourself in various ways. Making social engagements is ideal. It’s a good time to speak up in meetings or groups you might be a part of, and for physical activity, as you will quite likely feel you enjoy pushing yourself more.
Phase 3 – Ovulation Phase
After preparing over the previous phases, an egg gets released from the follicle in the ovary and will then survive for 12-24hrs. Both testosterone an oestrogen levels peak and you may feel the most confident during this phase. Mental and emotional creativity reaches its peak here. You generally feel more confident and that it is easier communicating feelings and thoughts. Your sex drive is at its highest during this period.
Focus for this phase
A great time to enjoy anything social, networking, meeting new people, dating, or doing something special with your partner. Enjoy the burst of energy and dance around like crazy in your living room, or whatever other spontaneous expression of joy you might feel is calling you! Exercise is again very enjoyable as your energy levels are at their highest.
Phase 4 – Luteal phase
Now we move in to the reflective half of your cycle. Levels of testosterone and oestrogen significantly drop while the production of progesterone increases. Things start to wind down with the anti-anxiety and calming effects of progesterone. Symptoms of PMS, if present, will mostly be in the second part of this phase. Cravings for high carbohydrate foods are often present, due to the serotonin increase given at a point where we feel we most need a boost. Symptoms are many and variable, from bloating, headaches and bad moods to nausea, back pain and heart palpitations. While PMS to some degree is considered as normal, it isn’t something that needs to be suffered through.
Some key areas for change are:
- Cutting out refined sugar, carbohydrates and caffeine
- Multivitamin-mineral supplement and enough essential fatty acids (nuts, seeds, cold-water fish)
- Exercise (at least 20 minutes, three times a week) along with stress reducing and relaxing activities like meditation
Very interestingly during this phase the right hemisphere is more active, the left is less so but the activity between the two increases. Your dreams are likely to be more vivid and this is the phase where you can really tune in and listen. What are the issues or ideas that arise? What are you sensitive to and reacting to? These are the things that you need to give attention to. Know where to make changes, what is working and what isn’t. Where do you need to focus to bring body and mind in to balance and health?
Focus for this phase
Routine tasks and taking care of chores, nesting and crossing things off your to-do list, fits in to the winding down window. Restorative time is key. Try to spend extra time alone, eat healthy food, and do anything that makes you feel more balanced and nurtured. This in itself will decrease any PMS symptoms. With relaxation and good self-care during this time, your bleeding phase will be easier and you will also get more out of the higher active phases. We can never ignore the effects that our social situation and the culture that we live in have on our bodies and mind, and only when considering all parts of our existence as a whole can we truly create a lasting change in our health and wellbeing. Noticing the ebb and flow of your dreams, emotions and creativity through your cycle will bring you a gradual rediscovery of the power you hold as a woman, changing your thinking day by day, listening and trusting your own guidance to a fuller life.
The topic is only introduced here and could be discussed in much greater length. Any request for further information, support or questions in regards to the above are welcome to be sent to;
Anna-Cajsa Johanson: firstname.lastname@example.org