To Start, Let’s Make Friends With Our Menstrual Cycle
Let’s face it, the menstrual cycle gets an incredibly bad wrap.
This perfectly natural process is demonized by society as a taboo subject, and in some cultures, it’s even considered a curse. But apart from spoiling meat and turning milk when we bleed, (completely not true, but widely believed), is there anything else to our menstrual cycle other than unsavory PMS and cramps?
What if we were to tell you that your monthly female cycle has not just one, but four unique phases? And what if we were to share that each phase didn’t just affect your hormones, but your physicality, energy, arousability, stress levels, strengths, and general badassery?
By having menstrual cycle awareness, you liberate yourself from stereotypes and work with, not against, your body’s natural flow.
Learn more: A Woman’s Guide to Infradian Rhythm Self-Care
What Are the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle?
There are four different phases to the female menstrual cycle: The Menstrual Phase, The Follicular Phase, The Ovulation Phase, and The Luteal Phase.
You can calculate your menstrual cycle and keep track of exactly where you’re at by downloading the MyFLO App. Start with Day 1, the first day of your period, and go from there. (The App creator, Alisa Vitti, did a fantastic Mindvalley podcast all about how to harness your productivity by working with the female menstrual cycle.)
Nowadays, most women use an app, but others choose to intuitively feel into what phase they’re in by deeply listening to their inner workings. According to identical twins and professional astrologers Ophira and Tali Edut, you can also consciously sync up with the moon cycles to track your period and ovulation windows. Pretty cool, right?
Each phase of your menstrual cycle is unique and goes way beyond your hormones. In each cycle, you’ll experience different symptoms, emotional landscapes, and strong intuitive urges. And what’s more, all these natural phases perfectly mirror the seasons of the Earth.
Read on for a breakdown of each phase of your menstrual cycle.
(Data collected from The U.S Department of Human Services, The UK’s NHS database, and The Red School.)
Phase 1: The menstrual phase
The first day of bleeding is considered day one of your menstrual cycle. It’s the decline in your progesterone levels that cause the uterine lining to shed and your period to start
Duration (approx): 3 – 7 days
Physical Symptoms: In the menstrual phase, your hormones cause your energy to hit rock bottom, commonly causing symptoms of fatigue and an increased urge to rest. Period cramps, bloating, lower backache, vaginal dryness, low sexual desire, and breast sensitivity may ensue.
Inner Season: Winter
Emotional Symptoms: At this time, you may feel introverted, drawn to dark, warm, safe spaces, and feel highly connected to your own inner world and spiritual self. Many women report a mental stillness and a deep calling to rest. Ancestrally, many women used this inner season of winter to retreat, be alone and tune into messages from the Universe!
Positive Highlights of This Phase: Resting, recharging, and reconnecting to the self.
Action Steps: This is by no means the phase to ‘power through.’ Be gentle with yourself and accept that you may not be as productive as usual, and that’s ok. Listen to your body, rest when you can, meditate, do gentle yoga, and put yourself first. Clear your calendar of overwhelming social events and turn inwards. Some women find keeping a journal helps them to discover deep insights and plant their seeds of intention for the rest of the month. For more information about how to take care of yourself as you menstruate, check out The Red School and their celebrated book: Wild Power.
Phase 2: The follicular phase
Just after your period ends, your pituitary gland releases a hormone called the ‘Follicle Stimulating Hormone’ (FSH), which makes the follicles in your ovaries mature. These follicles house your eggs, and this phase perfectly prepares you for ovulation
Duration (approx): 7 – 10 days
Physical Symptoms: Estrogen and testosterone start to rise during the follicular phase, and many women report feeling a huge boost in energy levels. You may experience more sexual desire (testosterone stimulates your libido) and a decreased appetite (as estrogen can suppress your appetite).
Inner Season: Spring
Emotional Symptoms: Within your innerspring, you may start to feel more extroverted, bouncy and experience more positive emotions such as joy, peace, and a child-like curiosity. You may feel more willing to take risks at this time and feel the urge to try new things
Positive Highlights of This Phase: Rebirth, zest for life, and inquisitiveness.
Action Steps: Use your newfound energy to say ‘yes’ to new experiences, solve problems, explore your creativity, engage in exercise, and begin to gently embrace your more social side. Be mindful and, although it’s tempting, resist the urge to exploit your energy to the extent that you burn yourself out. Remember, this is your innerspring, and your energy mirrors tender new shoots. Enjoy them, but don’t run over them!
Phase 3: The ovulation phase
During your ovulation phase, your body enjoys the fruit of its labor and releases a precious egg. All the hard work your body has done over the last couple of weeks has been leading up to this point! This is your fertile window, and the egg will survive between 12-24 hours.
Duration (approx): 3 – 5 days
Physical Symptoms: As estrogen and testosterone rise even higher in the ovulation phase, your energy levels and arousability sky-rocket to their peak. These hormones stimulate the verbal and social centers of your brain, allowing you to connect with others and express yourself fluently. You may feel the physical urge to move more and embrace high-intensity exercise.
Inner Season: Summer
Emotional Symptoms: During the ovulation phase, you may feel more confident, more open, more expressive, and more drawn to socializing. Many women report increased optimism, outgoingness, positivity, productivity, and excitability.
Positive Highlights of This Phase:
Peak levels of energy, sociability, and productivity.
Action Steps: You’re on fire during your ovulation phase, and this phase supports you to take the world by storm! Throw yourself into your projects, enjoy networking events, engage in aerobic exercise, enjoy sex and allow yourself to be fully seen and heard by those who surround you. This is your time to shine like the sun–so harness the power of this prized phase and enjoy it to the max.
Phase 4: The Luteal Phase
Also known as the secretory phase, this phase is the most culturally demonized, as it may result in PMS just before bleeding. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone slowly start their decline in the luteal phase, although the first two to three days of this window won’t feel all that much different from the ovulation phase.
Duration (approx): 10 – 14 days
Physical Symptoms: Over the course of this phase, you may notice a slow decline in energy levels, and feel yourself winding down. Progesterone acts as an anti-anxiety hormone, so you may feel pretty chilled out in the first half of the phase. Your brain chemistry is also optimized for task and detail orientation, so you may feel the urge to get things done. The second half of this phase, however, can be challenging for many. You might feel PMS symptoms like irritability, cravings, bloating, breast tenderness, and headaches. These symptoms have been proven to ease up dramatically when women honor their cycle in a healthy, conscious way.
Inner Season: Autumn/Fall
Emotional Symptoms: During your luteal phase, you may have a dramatic decrease in your tolerance for bullsh*t and your ability to suffer fools! The desire for connection often dwindles as your emotional landscape invites you to turn inwards and tend to your own varying emotions. It can be a rocky phase, especially in the second half, and many women report that their shadow selves and inner critic come out to play at this time.
Positive Highlights of This Phase: Assertiveness, letting go, and strength of character.
Action Steps: In the first half of this phase, embrace your brain chemistry and check off your to-do list, clean your environment and finish your main projects for the month. Put yourself first and treat yourself to some good self-care during this phase. That way, PMS is way less likely to occur. Allow yourself some solitary you-time, try to accept your fleeting emotions, eat well, and splurge on wellness products like massages, enjoy free guided meditations or courses on self-love and self-acceptance.
The Ancestral Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle
All four of your inner seasons offer a unique opportunity to connect to a different version of yourself.
From resting in winter to blooming again in spring, shining like the sun as you ovulate in summer, and letting it all go in autumn, as a woman, it’s all inside you. This innate wisdom is nothing new–it’s been part of us and our ancestors for thousands of years. The cycles of Mother Nature herself are encoded into your DNA, and once you connect to that power, there’s no stopping you.
Many women report life-changing spiritual, physical, and mental transformations thanks to simply having menstrual cycle awareness. From a huge reduction in PMS and menstrual cramps to enhanced inner peace and playfulness to better productivity and a deeper spiritual connection to the planet, now you know for sure…
…There’s so much more to your menstrual cycle than PMS and periods.
The menstrual cycle offers us, women, the opportunity to harness a power so great, a spiritual practice so organic, and self-love so strong, that life can never be the same again once you reclaim it.
And we hope this article has helped you to do just that.
Continuing the journey to self-love
Deciding to build your menstrual cycle awareness is a huge act of self-love. Here at Mindvalley, we believe there’s no greater investment than the investment you make into your own wellbeing and personal growth.
From month-long transformational learning courses covering everything from self-love and meditation to healthy eating and exercise, our full ever-growing collection of Mindvalley Quests is now available to everyone in one all-access pass.