Do you ever feel drained, trying to maintain the same level of output and keep to an identical schedule across weeks with fluctuating levels of energy? What if there was a way to live that honors the tides of your body and mind?
“Cycle syncing” is the process of making lifestyle changes that support and utilize the changes that occur within your body and mind across your menstrual cycle. The term, coined by functional nutritionist Alissa Vitti, emphasizes the range of strengths we have as women, and that they shift in predictable ways as our governing energies change.
How to Sync Your Lifestyle to Your Menstrual Cycle
Begin by charting your cycle, using an app for greatest predictive accuracy. Your cycle will break into four general categories, or phases. While the exact timeline differs from womxn to womxn, eventually you will find yourself picking up on phase transitions.
Menstrual Phase (Days 1-7)
The most outwardly recognizable, and often dreaded–but menstruation doesn’t have to cause so much stress. This phase occurs when we go another month without the fertilization of an egg. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop, prompting the release of our uterine lining tissue, along with blood and nutrients. Think of this as a time for rejuvenation.
Productivity: During your period, you generally have your lowest energy levels of the month. This makes it an ideal time to draw yourself inward, relax, and try to get sufficient rest. Try to center yourself, and set goals for the rest of the month. Many womxn experience heightened creativity and flow states at this time; try to make the most of them by working on personal projects, journaling, or self-reflection. This can be a good time to try to let go of things that no longer serve you or feel stagnant.
Food: Try to increase consumption of iron and Vitamin B to combat nutrient depletion due to blood loss, and to keep your energy levels high. Omega-3 fatty acids can mitigate the effects of PMS by decreasing bloating, tenderness in the breasts, and depression. Eat leafy greens, and warming, fatty foods like stews, red meat, and fish. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, try incorporating more spinach, or consider iron supplements and algal oil.
Exercise: During menstruation, the body is more pain-sensitive, and high-impact workouts can put us under undue stress, particularly uterine tissues and ligaments. Try workouts that feel restorative, or more like self-care. Gentle vinyasa yoga, pilates, or going for a walk or hike can be a good way to nurture and protect your body.
Follicular Phase (Days 8-13)
After you stop menstruating, Vitamin E stimulates follicle growth via the pituitary gland, providing the fluid sacs that store your eggs. Testosterone and estrogen levels both rise during this week, as will your mental alertness, focus, energy, and your perception of your own brain capacity. This is a great time for building.
Productivity: This is a good time to introduce new activities or people into your life; take the new steps you’ve been feeling apprehensive about while your energy is high, and things will feel easier when you revisit them. This includes brainstorming and work-related strategizing; your skills will prove helpful during meetings–schedule them during this time when possible!
Food: Eat lean proteins to keep estrogen levels supported but in check, and plenty of vegetables, especially those high in Vitamin E, like leafy greens and sweet potatoes that will nourish your ovaries.
Exercise: Take advantage of your strength during these days: optimize your energy bursts by doing intense workouts. This is a particularly beneficial time to integrate heavy weightlifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your routine.
Ovulatory Phase (Days 14-21)
During this part of the cycle, the follicle ruptures as the egg slides down the fallopian tube. Estrogen and testosterone levels continue to rise; as you beome fertile, you may find yourself in the mood for sex. Think of this as a time for interaction.
Feelings of confidence, attractiveness, and competence rise during this period, as does the urge to be social. Now is the time to work through interpersonal issues, or have difficult conversations. Pack your schedule, participate in group activities, check in on the goals you set during the menstrual phase, and act decisively on subjects that have been on your mind: set the tone for the next month. You can handle it! If you’re trying to conceive, now is the time. Schedule a date night and get busy.
Food: Eat cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, bok choy, and brussels sprouts. These greens are high in glutathione, an immune-boosting antioxidant that also helps to flush toxins and excess estrogen. Vitamin C aids with antioxidant absorption, so double down–citrus fruits are a good way to quell sugar cravings. Continue seeking foods rich in Vitamin B and iron, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant: eggs and meat can help with egg release, and magnesium-rich foods like spinach will balance your feminine hormones.
Exercise: Continue your high-impact workouts from the follicular phase. Now is also a great time to train for any races you’re aiming for, as well to sign up for more social, group-oriented exercises. Try out a spin class, or organize a community bike-ride or cross-country ski day.
Luteal Phase (Days 22-28)
Another month goes by and you’re not pregnant? The endocrine system begins to decrease production of hormones, in preparation to shed that egg. This is the time for completion.
Productivity: This is the final phase of your cycle, and likely you’ll find your attention turning inward. Take this time for self-reflection, nesting, and evenings spent in the home. Tackle necessary administrative tasks, home improvement, and to-do lists.
Food: Filling, earthy foods serve as a comforting, grounding choice. Make stocks and soups, and try roasting root vegetables. Organic berries, filled with bioflavonoids and Vitamin C can help mitigate cravings and shift your hormone production over to the necessary progesterone without spiking your blood sugar or stressing your body.
Exercise: Prior to starting your period, your womb nearly doubles in size. You may begin to notice this if you’re feeling bloated; try to stick to activities that don’t jostle you and your precious cargo around too much. Stretching, swimming, and restorative yoga are great ways to keep moving.
Every body is different. Womxn using hormonal birth control may have more subdued or masked phases, and those of us who are pregnant or in the aftermath of childbirth may find theirs out of their regular sync. No worries, moonchild: no matter your cycle, you can to respect its patterns. By taking small steps to recognize our flow patterns and energy over the course of the month, we can begin to tailor our interactions, work, and self-care practices to get the most out of them.
To harness the power of a wave, we don’t fight it: we surf it. Just as we follow the ocean at her own pace, we can attune our behaviors to protect and harness our bodies as the powerful entities they are, and maximize our sense of self.
How do you follow the lead of your cycle?
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