How to work with your menstrual cycle

Last week, we made the case for period hacking: working with the natural rhythms of our bodies. It’s fair to say that it made a bit of a mark.🩸Based on your messages, we came to the same startling realisation: despite experiencing them every month, we don’t actually understand how our cycles work.

Your period isn’t the whole story; it simply marks the end – just like the dot following this sentence. Each of the four stages in our cycles brings its own symptoms and superpowers. Managing the former is what enables us to harness the latter.

Before we dive into the crimson tide each stage, shoutout to the Powrsuiter who alerted us to the role of the menstrual cycle on ADHD. Our quick Google suggests that it also impacts how some medications work (yep, a 1998 study – there’s a shocking lack of research on women’s hormones).

Right, let’s get down to Дела (Russian for ‘business’ – one of the many euphemisms for ‘period’ from around the world).

Week 1: Menstruation

3-7 days – starting on the first day of your period

Your estrogen and progesterone levels are very low, which means you’re producing less serotonin and releasing fewer endorphins. While these happiness heavyweights are AWOL, you’re more likely to feel emotional and depressed.

Eating and exercise 
Blood loss means mineral loss, so increase your intake of iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, Omega-3s and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, full-fat yoghurts and eggs.

Take exercise easy and think restoration over progression. Stick with light yoga and walking, and embrace rest.

You’ll have little tolerance for inefficiency and politics, so this is a great time for solo projects. Work from home (or a quiet office corner) if you can – or plug in your headphones. 

You’re primed to spot problems; note down what needs to change! Don’t raise any concerns this week, though – you’re not at your most diplomatic.
Avoid inflexible deadlines and meetings; they can wait until next week. 
Aka: Winter

Follicular Phase

7-10 days – starting when your period ends

Your body starts releasing high amounts of estrogen. You’ve emerged from your bubble and are back with a bang! You’re entering a growth stage and feel more motivated and energetic.

Eating and exercise 
Enhance your good feelings with fresh, light foods; think corn, oats, seeds, quinoa, fruit and veggies. 

Throw in some protein to help restore your hormones – chicken, salmon, cashews and eggs.

Working out?
Embrace intensity while you’re feeling it — time to plug in the Powrup podcast and go for a powrwalk, jog, cycle or swim.
This is a great time for meetings, social events, and brainstorming sessions.

Your increased mental clarity and creativity
uniquely position you for problem-solving.

You’re primed to embrace complex tasks and dynamics, so go ahead and kick off new projects, learn new things and engage with your more intense colleagues. 

Also, don’t forget those challenges that pained you last week – it’s solution time!
Aka: Spring


3-4 days – the middle of your cycle
You’re firing on all cylinders, with a surge of testosterone and increased estrogen giving you some of the highest energy levels of the month. Hot tip: Estrogen boosts blood flow and feeds nutrients to the skin so that you will be at your most physically appealing. Single? If you can stomach the hellfire of internet dating, start swiping now!

Eating and exercise 
Healthy fats and fermented food will support your joints and help your liver break down high estrogen levels.

Grains, veggies and lentils offer fuel for your body during those higher-intensity workouts that you’re now vibing. 

Try something new like kickboxing – or our faves: Shut Up and Dance and Move it Mama. Or, aim for a personal best in your usual go-to.
You’re rocking it, and you know it. You’re a Cheetah at full pace, and your confidence levels are at their maximum. 

You’re also at your most likeable, and your communication skills are firing. This is a great time to approach difficult conversations – time to negotiate a pay rise or practice your professional ‘nos’.

One thing not to do? Overcommit your future calendar. You might be up for anything now, but you’re about to find people a lot less appealing.
Aka: Summer

Luteal Phase

10-14 days – right before menstruation

Your energy levels will begin to shift as your hormones drop from their peak. This can cause PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms, including discomfort, anger, depression, and anxiety, as well as hunger and cravings. Yay.

Eating and exercise 
Low progesterone levels produce the charming combo
of sudden tiredness and disturbed sleep.

Magnesium can help – get it from spinach, almonds,
milk, dark chocolate or supplements. Leafy greens and broccoli can help boost progesterone levels, too.

Drink lots of water to reduce bloating, brain fog and some PMS symptoms. Fish is high in Omega-3 and fatty acids, which can help with PMS. Obviously, sneak in some emotional eating as required 😉

When your energy dips, alter your exercise regime.
Move into the lower-intensity, restorative workouts that you’ll continue through menstruation.
You may experience brain fog and fatigue, so work in concentrated bursts or attempt to complete shorter tasks.

Staring blankly at your computer won’t get you anywhere – remember, women are optimised for cadence over consistency.
Taking your foot off the gas now will enable you to push it down when feeling up to it again.

The good news? You’re at your most methodical, so get on top of your to-do list. Admin and analysis are good tasks.
Aka: Autumn

Take action

On the first day of your period, note it down in your calendar. This will help you track your cycle and when you enter each stage.

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