Raise your hand if you’ve never thought about how your flow relates to your work flow.
Cool. I hadn’t either, at least not when I was growing up or when I took my first job. Menstruation is still pretty much shrouded in mystery and a cloak of shame, so it’s not surprising that no one ever outlined the ways in which I could benefit from getting a period; instead, it was something to dread.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about hormones and my cycle. I got my period really early and went on the pill at 15. I have a colony of fibroids living in my uterus, a misbehaving thyroid, and have had several pregnancies and a couple of miscarriages. I also have an awesome kid.
As a career, I help folks get clear and productive on their aspirations and take care of themselves as they build, launch, and grow businesses that make a difference. We look at a variety of factors that contribute to success: personal beliefs, skills, strengths and weaknesses, confidence, leadership, and any outlying influences.
What I’ve learned from getting super intimate with my own body and helping entrepreneurs —many of whom are People Who Menstruate*— realize their dreams is that we can harness the power of our cycles.
Within the wheel of our hormonal cycle lies a flow of creativity, multi-tasking, and problem solving. We experience swells of confidence and physical stamina to which we can hitch a ride through a project. At other times we can ride waves of focused productivity and bring all of our attention to detail. There are points when we can crank out anthologies of written words, editing, researching and putting it all together.
Tapping into our cycles in this way requires a deep listening to our bodies. Getting there can mean a competitive advantage in our careers, productivity, decision-making, and time management skills.
You (women) have a cycle where you bleed in tune with the moon. It is the cycle responsible for all human life on earth. It is the cycle that connects you to your creativity and to the very essence of the tide coming in, the tide going out, the seasons, the sap going into the roots and then rising up, and we have been taught for 5,000 years to be ashamed of that cycle. – Dr. Northrup
Here’s the Science
There are four phases in a regular menstrual cycle. Thanks to our endocrine system and our pituitary gland, these cycles rely on fluctuating levels of hormones to make things happen. Of course, every cycle is unique, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. 28 days is average, but cycles can range from 21 – 35 days (or more or less!) depending on the menstruator.
- Menstrual phase (From day 1 to 5)
- Follicular phase (From day 1 to 13)
- Ovulation phase (Day 14)
- Luteal phase (From day 15 to 28)
Know Thy Phases
During this almost two week phase, you can easily inspire your team to get on board with a new direction. This is your time to shine and influence. Kick off new concepts, gather seasonal inspiration, or set up new partnerships. Meetings can be a time-suck but in this part of your cycle they are more productive. If you can plan in advance, front load your cycle with the month’s worth of meetings.
This time is great for: brainstorming, multi-tasking, dreaming up infinite possibilities, blue-sky planning and coming up with ideas for new content.
This time is NOT great for: flushing out ideas in a step-by-step way, sitting quietly in front of a computer all day, or cramming out reports.
Women typically ovulate in a 6-24 hour window, but estrogen and progesterone are at an all-time high a few days leading up to ovulation. The hormonal spike leads to feeling confident, attractive, and assertive. This would be the best time in the month to schedule a board meeting or negotiate a contract: You’ve got energy to command an audience and get what’s yours.
Perfect time for: in-person meetings, presentations, sales pitches, speaking engagements and challenging conversations that require diplomacy and finesse.
This is the time to focus. Schedule time for solo work that requires less collaboration. Look for patterns or strategic pathways—it’s your jam! In the first week of this phase, your decision making skills are sharpest. Progesterone levels ground you and help you see things clearly.
Perfect time for: administrative tasks, bookkeeping, invoicing, reading, reviewing documents, editing, deep research, creating detailed strategies.
Towards the end of this phases you may struggle with finding the precise words to articulate complex ideas, so it is not an ideal time for writing. Better for refining and polishing.
4. Menstruation / Bleeding
This is the time for rest and personal reflection. The first few days of your moon are perfect for staying in and listening to what your body needs. It’s working hard, so take it easy. If you have the option to work from home, take it.
I tend to feel more introverted in this time and am highly likely to cancel high energy social and business plans, which makes me feel flakey and unreliable. For me, saying no to invitations for events during this phase is the ultimate in self-care. For more ways to tap into this time—short of setting up a red tent in your home office—check out some ideas on how to honor your moon in an earlier post.
Moon days are great for passively consuming content—a book, magazine, or a movie—to prepare for re-inspiration and activation in the follicular phase. Did someone say Netflix?
Focus on: self-insights, fortification, “me” time, slowing down and journaling.
Hormonally, your progesterone levels may be non-existent or barely there, which is why you may feel low. You’re not actually crazy; it’s your hormones.
Track your cycle using an app**, your phone calendar, or a good old fashioned paper calendar. Though it may take a few months to figure out your cycle patterns, knowing all your different phases will give you the power to map out your business decisions and #lifegoals according to your cycle. To figure out exactly when you’re ovulating, start tracking your basel temperature (more on this coming soon!).
Here are some #MoonGoals:
- Execute tasks that align with your energy levels.
- Create a calendar that corresponds with your cycle.
- Find a flow state and be in-sync with the moon.
When it comes to organizing a calendar, we all have varying degrees of control over our schedule. Here are some tips depending on your level of control:
I’M THE BOSS. I MAKE ALL THE RULES – Some people have the luxury of totally controlling their own schedules. In this case, look at your schedule as an opportunity to sync, sync, sync. Break up your calendar into your phases. Color-code to know where you’re likely to be within your cycle when planning travel and events.
I HAVE A BOSS. I AM SOMEWHAT CONTROLLED BY CLIENTS. – Keep your time sacred. Instead of replying with, “I’m free anytime” to a meeting request, think about what would be ideal for you in your cycle and respond with two or three options for others to choose from. If you work in an organization where others schedule meetings based on shared calendar availability, block out parts of your calendar when you know you’ll be better served by staying solo.
SOMEONE ELSE SETS MY SCHEDULE. – If you have a job where you have zero control over your schedule, knowledge of your cycle can help you to support your energy levels and productivity. Allow for extra sleep and nourishment on moon days. Come into a gentle acceptance of your own varied moods and strengths as your hormones fluctuate. Take care of yourself once you’re off the clock.
Okay, so that was a lot to process.
Hopefully you had some popcorn with you.
Unfortunately, most of us didn’t grow up with this information because of, well, #thePatriarchy. It’s time to unlearn. The more knowledge we have of our cycles, the more we can harness them to our advantage in all aspects of our lives. Not to get all conspiracy theory on you or anything, but maybe one of the reasons we’re not taught how to sync our cycles and take advantage of our hormones is because if all us menstruating humans did it, we’d all be running the world. Just a thought.
But be patient with yourself. This is a process. It may take a few months to acclimate and relearn the effects of your cycle. Be open to the magic that will unfold as you and your body sync up. It’s truly empowering.
And lastly, just remember that progesterone, in moderation, is your friend. Who couldn’t use some natural valium in their lives 3/4 weeks of the month!?
Illustration by Helen Eady
*We’ve decided to use the term “People Who Menstruate” instead of just “women” or “women who menstruate” because lots of people menstruate who don’t identify as women, and not all women menstruate.
**Editor’s note: choosing an app that works for you is very personal. Our recommendation is to try several because you may not be happy with the first one you try out. To get you started, these are some apps our team is currently using: Flo Living, Clue and PeriodTracker.