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Are You a Working Menstruator? Here Are Groundbreaking Tips for Wellbeing & Productivity

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

Do you ever feel like you’re unstoppable one week, and the next it feels like you can’t keep up? Does your cycle hamper your productivity?


You're not alone! This article aims to provide information and tips for the four phases of the menstrual cycle to help support the well-being and productivity of working menstruators -- that is, people with cycles who work!

Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been conditioned with a capitalistic belief that you need to constantly strive and produce in order to feel valuable and worthy of taking up space in the world (Thai, 2021). Likewise, systemic structures are built to appease the rhythms of men and people in male bodies. As a result, patriarchal culture devalues women's bodies and people with cycles and inclines menstruators to take on masculine traits. Not only is this a recipe for perfectionism, self-criticism and burnout, but it also perpetuates white supremacy and oppression (Olivera, 2021).

The thing is our energy, emotions, bodies, desires, and needs fluctuate with the different phases of the menstrual cycle. In fact, fluctuations in hormone levels provoke significant physical and psychological changes throughout the menstrual cycle (Montero-López, 2018). As menstruators, it’s essential to adapt our workload, expectations, and lifestyles to meet the unique needs and natural rhythms of power of each phase of the cycle to promote wellbeing and productivity. This is what cyclical living is all about.


Even though the menstrual cycle is a completely natural biopsychological occurrence that directly affects 1.8 million people, respecting it is not a common practice in society (Holst et al., 2022; Unicef, n.d.). The menstrual cycle continues to be highly stigmatized and, unfortunately, damaging misconceptions are detrimental to the health and wellbeing of millions of women, girls, transgender men, and non-binary menstruators. For this reason, "many [menstruators] are unable to manage their menstrual cycle in a healthy and dignified way" (Unicef, n.d.). This is even more true for people from marginalized groups.


A study conducted in Spain found that the majority of people with cycles have limited access to information about the menstrual cycle (Holst et al., 2022). Through my work as a cycle educator in Canada, it has become evident that most people have not received adequate support and education on this level.

As you read through the following information and tips for each phase of the cycle, remember that your personal experience trumps everything.


Phase 1: Menstruation (Inner Winter or New Moon)

As estrogen and progesterone fall and the lining of your uterus begins to shed, your energy may be at an all-time low (Hill, 2019). I avoid scheduling meetings, events and client sessions during this time. In fact, menstrual cycle-related productivity loss is common. Research shows that taking time off for cycle-related symptoms is more supportive for productivity, health and wellbeing versus trying to strive and push through it (Schoep et al., 2019). You and your cycle aren't the issues, systemic structures are. Working menstruators warrant more flexibility.


If resources allow it, I try to take the two first days of my cycle off. If this isn't possible, I slow down and reduce my obligations as much as possible while prioritizing restoration and focusing on things that require less energy. If you run your own business, this is a great time to handle the back-end of things, spend time on tasks that feel more easeful, and/or increase rest. Finally, pay special attention to any insights and revelations as your intuition is heightened during this phase of the cycle (Pope & Wurlitzer, 2017).


Your task during this phase is to tune in, let go and restore (Pope & Wurlitzer, 2017). However, most of us have obligations that we cannot control; for instance, if you work for an organization or have children, it might not be possible to take time off. Pope and Wurlitzer (2017) speak of the “1% shift”. In order words, a little goes a long way. Ask for help if you need it!


Phase 2: Follicular Phase — Pre-Ovulation (Inner Spring or Waxing Moon)

You may notice a significant increase in energy a few days following the onset of your period as estrogen levels begin to rise (Hill, 2019). Many people feel like they’ve come back to themselves during this phase. You may be in the mood to (re)connect with people and socialize. This is a great time to get back to routine and refresh anything that may have been neglected in the past week or so. I like to use this time to plan the month ahead.

Your task during this phase is to not be so hard on yourself and to remember to play and have fun (Pope and Wurlizter, 2017). If you have any kids in your life, this phase is ideal for channelling their energy and getting on their level (and connecting with the child within).


Phase 3: Ovulation (Inner Summer or Full Moon)

As estrogen peaks, this is the highest point of energy in the cycle. Harnessing productivity windows is essential for working menstruators. During this phase of the cycle, put your foot on the pedal and focus your energy on getting shit done. Feel like squeezing in extra meetings and work hours? Do it, but be careful not to overload the following 2-weeks as your momentum will soon wane. If you’re someone who rejoices in productivity, you may right feel in your element during this phase. Otherwise, you may feel ungrounded, anxious, and insecure in your sense of contribution to the world.


Your task during this phase is to express yourself authentically and step up by establishing yourself outwardly in the world (Pope & Wurlizter, 2017). Take pleasure in your accomplishments and let yourself be seen and take up space!

If you use the fertility awareness method, you can make a relative prediction after ovulation for the length of your luteal phase and when your period will come (Weschler, 2015). I look ahead in my schedule and make sure that week is blocked off. Use this link for 10% off the Tempdrop fertility tracker (disclaimer: this is an affiliate link).


Phase 4: Luteal Phase — Pre-Menstrual (Inner Fall or Waning Moon)

As estrogen suddenly drops and progesterone rises, you may feel like you hit a wall (Hill, 2019). You may also feel extra sensitive and irritable but, the truth is, this phase compels you to use the power of “no” and speak your truth as you come face to face with things you’ve bypassed over the past couple of weeks. If you’ve been focused on things outside of yourself, it’s time to recognize your own soul (Pope & Wurlitzer, 2017).


Keep in mind that it's common to feel more reactive to stress with increased cortisol levels in the luteal and menstrual phases (Montero-López, 2018). Plus, progesterone, a dominant sex hormone in the second half of the cycle, makes us prone to anxiety, mood swings, and crying (Hill, 2019). Nonetheless, there are many things we can do to support our well-being as menstruators. While self-care is always important, it's essential in the second part of the cycle. Hill (2019) states, “Progesterone diminishes insulin sensitivity, so in the second half of your cycle, you’re more susceptible to blood sugar and insulin imbalances... To balance blood sugar be sure to eat regularly and eat well” (p. 149). It’s common for appetite and cravings to heighten during this time, so nourish your body and do your best to honour this in healthy ways.

Your task during this phase is to gradually begin to withdraw from the outside world and listen to your inner critic so you can honour what you need (Pope & Wurlitzer, 2017). I also use this phase to focus my energy on completing projects and tying up loose ends in preparation for my period.


And the cycle continues!

Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

It's important to note that many menstruators report needing time off the day or two before their period because of heightened stress. After going through all four phases, many of us feel a sigh of relief after the premenstrual phase, like a storm cloud releasing the rain it’s been holding onto.


In conclusion, the menstrual cycle warrants attention and respect! Plus, our cyclical experiences are incredibly unique and complex. By tracking your own cycle, you’ll be able to figure out your 'normal' and what works best for you. In my experience, menstrual cycle education is an incredible catalyst for self-compassion and empowerment. Holistically speaking, I also believe cyclical living increases your sense of interconnectedness to the seasons of nature and the entire Universe.

 

Want to learn more about cyclical living? Join Love Your Phases, my signature self-paced 6-week course, to live in sync with your cycle using trauma-aware mindfulness and Moon wisdom for self-love, flow, and connection.

You don't menstruate? Work with the Moon!

Alex Albert, Wild Astrology


A passionate advocate for menstrual cycle awareness, emotional wellbeing, and mental health, Alex aims to combine cosmic insight with somatic embodiment for self-love, transformative healing and embodied cycle wisdom to help you come home to yourself.

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References


Hill, M. (2019). Period power: Harness your hormones and get your cycle working for you. Green Tree.


Menstrual hygiene: Gender inequality, cultural taboos and poverty can cause menstrual health needs to go unmet. (n.d.). Unicef. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/wash/menstrual-hygiene


Montero-López, E., Santos-Ruiz, A., García-Ríos, M. C., Rodríguez-Blázquez, M., Rogers, H. L., & Peralta-Ramírez, M. I. (2018) The relationship between the menstrual cycle and cortisol secretion: Daily and stress-invoked cortisol patterns. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 131, 67-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.03.021


Olivera, L. (2021). Already enough: A path to self-acceptance. Simon & Schuster.


Schoep, M. E., Adang, E. M., Maas, J. W. M., De Bie, B., Aarts, J. W. M., & Nieboer, T. E. (2019). Productivity loss due to menstruation-related symptoms: A nationwide cross-sectional survey among 32 748 women. BMJ Open, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026186


Thai, L. (2021, October 11). Neuroception, trauma and social justice [Virtual class]. Level 1 Somatic Embodiment & Regulation Strategies.


Weschler, T. (2017). Taking charge of your fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health (20th ed.). William Morrow.



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