Around 8 million people around the world are menstruating at any given time, but there is a lot of miseducation and misunderstanding about this natural biological occurrence.
This article is for people with periods to better understand the link between their monthly hormonal cycle and their mental health. Or for people who don’t have periods to better understand the experiences of those who do!
This provides a rough guide on how your cycle affects your physical and mental wellbeing. This isn’t an exact science, it's just a guide inspired by period activists like Maisie Hill and Amika George.
In each section there are a few tips on how to work with your hormones. The model gives advice based on your period being in a 28 day cycle, and doesn’t factor in external circumstances which may effect how you feel. It is normal for your period to last between 24-38 days, so feel free to adapt this model to your cycle.
DAY 1-5 WINTER
Days 1-5 of your period is the winter season. Your body is working hard to release blood lining of the uterus. You may have less physical and emotional energy during this time, so you might experience any of the following:
- Physically: Bloating, a sore chest, and sebaceous build up which can clog pores and cause acne
- Emotionally: Low and/or emotionally vulnerable. For example, lacking motivation and interest, stressed, overwhelmed, and increased appetite and cravings for food
During winter, slowing down will allow you to restore your energy for the rest of your cycle. Winter is a good time to:
- Recharge - restore, rest and nurture yourself
- Exercise gently - a bit of gentle exercise can get blood pumping through your body and endorphins pumping through your body
- Indulge in some of your cravings
- Take time for yourself - practice whatever form of self-care you feel
- Set and stick to boundaries
DAY 5-14: SPRING
Day 5-14 of your period your body is warming up to release an egg from your ovaries. Your estrogen levels peak, meaning you may have increased physical energy and mental wellbeing.
During this time, you might experience any of the following:
- Physically: Reduced appetite the 10 days before ovulation compared to the 10 days after and more physical energy
- Emotionally: A surge of the feel good hormones progesterone and oestrogen so you may feel more happy, optimistic, and emotionally resilient. You may feel more confident in social situations during spring and summer
- It is also normal to find this surge of feel good hormones to be overwhelming
During spring as you may have higher self-esteem and feel more energetic, it is a good time to:
- Know your potential: you may have more energy to achieve your goals, keep a journal of ideas and dreams and focus on them during spring and summer
- Organise, plan and do things you’ve wanted to for a while, or things you’ve been putting off
- Get creative
- Start or continue a project - use the motivation you have to work on something important to you
- Do some self-care
- Meet friends, or join a new group/volunteering
- Go easy on yourself, careful not to feel pressured to overdo it this period (or at any point in your cycle)
DAY 14-21: SUMMER
The beginning of summer is around the day of ovulation, roughly day 14 of your cycle. Ovulation is where the egg is released from the ovaries. This will most likely be the point during your cycle where you feel the best as estrogen and progesterone are at their highest.
During this period, you might experience any of the following:
- Physically: a warmer body temperature, glowing skin, finding it harder to sleep
- Emotionally: more confident, more motivated and productive, emotions cause by sudden hormonal changes, heightened verbal and social skills, and more happy and/or calm
As you come toward the end of your Summer period, you may pms, meaning it is normal to start to feel low again.
During Summer, you will most likely feel the best in your hormonal cycle as progesterone and estrogen levels are high, so it’s a good time to:
- Say yes, get decisive and assert yourself
- Experience pleasure
- Journal your success for when your mood is lower during the colder seasons
- Connect with others, as you may feel more confident and affectionate towards those important to you. It’s a good time to meet new people.
- Be careful not to overdo it during these warmer phases, or you may come into autumn feeling burnt out
DAY 21-28: AUTUMN
During the Autumn phase, your hormones will start to decrease again. You might experience any of the following:
- Physically: feel sluggish, experience temporary weight gain and/or bloating
- Emotionally: more vulnerable or low, for example insecure, withdrawn, or detached - this is okay and completely normal, your feelings are valid. During his period you may feel more assertive and have a stronger intuition so take advantage of this
During Autumn, as you are producing less feel good hormones, this is a good time to:
- Make time for yourself, for example creativity may boost your mood
- Use your energy wisely, as your energy levels may be lower than during other months
- Be open to the idea of accepting help or advice offered by loved ones
- Celebrate your successes and progress you’ve made over your cycle
- Pay attention to what your thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you, as you may feel more introspective and have a stronger sense of clarity and perspective
- Period tracker apps like Clue and Flo are great for predicting when your period is coming and when you are ovulating. You can also use it to monitor physical and emotional differences you feel throughout the month. It provides a great resource you can show to your GP or a specialist
- Sanitarysaver.co.uk - comparison website which compares the prices of period products and shows the cheapest options
- Lucy Peach: Period Queen - TED talk and book
- Maisie Hill: Period Power - Book (incl. POC experience and gender-neutral language) and podcast (episode 05. Is full of people sharing stories of how period tracking changed their lives)
By Georgie B
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