If you have ever felt exhausted and irritable in the week leading up to your period then you’ll know just how much of an impact your menstrual cycle can have on your emotions, mood and energy levels.
And it’s not just around the time of your period that your menstrual cycle will make an impact. Each one of your cycle’s four unique phases can influence the way you feel throughout the month.
Understanding the best way to take care of your mind and body at these different period cycle phases will help you feel your best all month long. That’s why we’ve put together a phase-by-phase guide to the best self-care strategies for anyone who menstruates, and those looking after their menstruating partners, too.
What are the four phases of your menstrual cycle?
The length of your menstrual cycle is calculated from the first day of bleeding (a.k.a. the day your period starts), to the day before your next bleed starts. For most women, this is usually around 28 days in length.
Over the course of these 28 days, your menstrual cycle goes through four distinct phases: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. Each phase brings about different hormonal changes in your body, which means that your moods, emotions and energy levels can vary quite significantly from one menstrual phase to another.
Understanding your different menstrual phases means that you can tailor your self-care activities to better align with the phase of your cycle that you’re in. This will help you avoid planning a high-intensity workout session during a phase where your body is actually more suited to some gentle yoga stretches.
Essentially, it’s all about designing a self-care routine that works with (not against) your menstrual cycle.
Let’s take you through what you need to know about each phase of your menstrual cycle.
Your menstruation cycle begins with the arrival of your period. This occurs when your uterine lining sheds, causing a bleed that tends to last between three and seven days. During this phase, your progesterone levels drop and you will likely be feeling quite tired and low in energy. Many people also experience headaches, bloating and abdominal cramping.
Once your period has ended, your body enters the follicular phase and starts preparing for ovulation. During this phase, your pituitary gland releases a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which causes the follicles in your ovaries to mature and get ready to release an egg.
In the follicular phase, your estrogen levels begin to rise, improving both your mood and energy levels. This phase can be anywhere from 10 to 16 days in length.
Ovulation usually occurs around the 14th day of your menstrual cycle, when an egg is released from your ovaries. This is when you’re at your most fertile and more likely to get pregnant. It’s also when your estrogen and testosterone levels peak, giving you more energy and a higher sex drive.
After ovulation, your body enters the luteal phase. The luteal phase usually lasts for about 14 days, ending when your next period begins.
During this phase, your estrogen and testosterone levels drop, your progesterone levels peak and your uterus begins preparing for the implantation of an embryo. This is also when you’re most likely to experience the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), such as moodiness, anxiety, headaches, bloating, breast tenderness and food cravings.
Phase 1. Menstrual phase self-care tips
During your menstrual phase, you’re not usually feeling your best. Your period has begun, which means that you’re bleeding, probably feeling a little tired, emotional and might even be experiencing some bloating and abdominal pain as well. This means that we’re going to take things slow.
Your menstrual phase is a good time to focus on calming and restorative movements. You might take a long walk in nature or enjoy some gentle stretching in a yin yoga class. This is also a good time to bring in some more calming self-care activities, such as treating yourself to a gentle Swedish massage to relax or a lymphatic drainage massage for period pain.
Replenishing some of the iron and zinc that’s lost during your period is a good way to give your energy levels a boost. You can do this by eating a nourishing diet that’s full of healthy proteins, fats and vegetables leading up to and during your period. Make sure that you get enough dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard and broccoli, along with some sources of protein such as lean meats, lentils and beans.
You might also want to focus on some period pain self-care too. Using a heat pack on your abdomen, taking a warm bath and doing stretches are all good ways to ease any period pain.
Phase 2. Follicular phase self-care tips
Your period is over and things are looking up from here. Now that your body has started preparing for ovulation, your estrogen levels are rising and you will be experiencing a boost in your mood and energy levels. You can take advantage of all this extra energy by increasing your productivity and daily movement.
The follicular phase is a good time to try some higher-intensity exercises such as HIIT, boxing or cardio-focused workouts. You might also want to think about adding some fermented and high-fibre foods into your diet to support your higher levels of estrogen. Try having a slice of wholegrain toast for breakfast and adding a few spoonfuls of kimchi or sauerkraut to your lunches. A refreshing kombucha will also go a long way.
At this phase of your cycle, you’re also going to be feeling a lot more extroverted. Instead of going solo to the salon, harness your bubbly, social vibe by booking an at-home mani-pedi with your besties.
Phase 3. Ovulation phase self-care tips
The ovulation phase occurs over a short 24-hour period, when an egg is released from your ovaries. At this time, your estrogen and testosterone levels peak, making most people feel more confident, extroverted and energetic. While ovulation itself may only last for a day or so, your high hormone levels can last for around three to four days on either side of the ovulation period.
You can take advantage of this newfound confidence and energy by going a bit harder in your fitness routine and schedule in some social activities during this time. This might look like adding some weight training into your exercise routine or picking a heavier set of dumbells than usual. You might also do well in a group class at your local gym, yoga or pilates studio.
The ovulation phase is a good time to get off the couch and head out for the night. Get your friends together, treat yourself to an at-home hair appointment and throw on your favourite dress before hitting the town.
Phase 4. Luteal phase self-care tips
As you head into your luteal phase, you might feel a drop in your energy levels. This is because your body has started preparing for your next period, which sees your progesterone levels rise as your estrogen and testosterone levels fall. During this time, you might experience some PMS symptoms, such as anxiety, moodiness, breast tenderness and abdominal cramping.
During the luteal phase, you might find it helpful to combat any arising anxiety or stress through some calming self-care activities. Vinyasa and hatha yoga practises, as well as guided meditations, are powerful exercises to try during this time.
You can also release any muscle tension and soothe those premenstrual aches with a deep tissue massage from Blys. Alternatively, you might enjoy preparing your skin for potential period-related breakouts with an at-home facial.
The different phases of your menstrual cycle can put your emotions and energy levels on a bit of a rollercoaster. By understanding your cycle and its phases, you can implement the right self-care activities all month long. Wherever you are in your cycle, an at-home self-care treatment with Blys is guaranteed to give your wellbeing a boost.