As a thirteen year old girl in the eighth grade I was taught that my period was something unfortunate I had to deal with. It was a miserable curse bestowed upon me once I was old enough to get pregnant – a shameful experience. I was taught to keep quiet about it because it would make others uncomfortable, especially boys who thought it was “gross.” I learned to internalize the emotional and physical pain because I was taught it was unavoidable, and there’s no point in discussing it, since I couldn’t be fixed. I was taught it was messy, uncomfortable, painful, and ultimately a sign of weakness.
My period was a gateway to my unrelenting and unfortunate tendency as a female, toward emotional and irrational thinking and behavior. An inconvenience for potential partners. It would overtake me each month, turn me into a weaker and angrier version of myself, and this narrative would justify every societal and personal subordination I would endure in life. Until I hit menopause, when we’d intensify the emotional roller coaster and subtract the period and the impossible task of being a presentable sex object 24/7, that never shows a sign of actually being a woman in her physical body.
I was 31 years old when I learned that bleeding is only one of four phases of my cycle, and that almost every bit of what we’ve learned and internalized about ourselves and our periods isn’t true. On some level every woman (and some others, I’m sure) know that simplifying the female reproductive system down to period and able to make babies is ridiculous. The fact that a woman’s body is powerful enough to create life seems to be more complicated than that. When you zoom out and start to look at how complex, intuitive, and strong women are, we are forced to confront the uncomfortable reality that the only parts we learned about our physical bodies from public education and some of our parents are the parts that have to do with the immediately external. Things that affect men or the people around you. Things that define you as either a baby maker or a non-baby-maker, someone who needs to be controlled because we hold the power to control the ultimate outcome.
Women’s bodies have been politicized all over the world for centuries, but this is not what this post is about. This post is about the knowledge that can liberate you from the seemingly hopeless period drudgery, and from the negative mental loop many of us grew up teaching ourselves was normal – to hate what our bodies are capable of. Learning about the four phases of my cycle has opened up an entire world of possibility and has inspired me to flip everything I thought I knew on it’s head. I now look at my cycle as an opportunity to wield my power as a woman, connect with nature, and optimize my life in all areas, outside the masculine “efficiency” paradigm. Men teach how to optimize your life within 24 hour cycles. Why are women working so hard to conform to this strategy when we would be better served to “optimize our lives” working on a 28 day cycle? Because the world is set up to serve the patriarchy, and because no one taught us how. Imagine what our life could have been like if we were taught as girls that our cycles made us stronger? That they were an advantage, rather than a liability.
I plan to write about this topic more as I advance on my journey to essentially “biohack” my cycle to improve every area of my life. It’s extremely complex and I imagine I will be working on this daily and improving it forever as I learn and change. Today’s post builds the foundation by very briefly explaining the behavioral aspects of the four phases and giving you resources to do further research – I’m sharing the information I wish I had years and years ago. Once I had this basic foundation, I was fascinated by how much more I could learn.
I gravitate toward this form of “self-improvement” because it’s empowering – it does not ignore or omit my femininity altogether, or label it as an unfortunate side effect of my existence as a woman – it treats every aspect of your cycle as an advantage, as it should be. Woman as center. I feel like in the last eight months of close observation, I’ve already been able to make small changes with big impacts. It may seem silly to alter and plan my workout routine, my foods, my work schedule, my projects, and my social events around my cycle, but I think that is the key to unlocking your feminine power. It only sounds silly because we’ve been taught that our emotions, empathy, and intuition make us weak, when the opposite is true.
The Four Phases:
Duration 7-10 Days
Women Archetype: The Virgin Warrior
This phase begins after your bleed ends when hormones are at low levels and slowly begin to increase in concentration. This is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, openness to new things, and creativity. This is the most productive phase of your cycle. Brainstorming and creative capability is high so this is a great time to start new projects, go to events, or try new hobbies or things at work.
Duration: 3-4 Days
Woman Archetype: The Mother/Lover
During this phase there is a dramatic rise in estrogen. You may feel more social and your communication skills are on point. This is the time in your cycle when your intuition and awareness are at an all time high, and you have extra energy to burn.
Duration: 10-14 Days
Woman Archetype: The Enchantress or Wild Woman
This phase is marked by steady and declining physical energy levels as your body prepares for the Menstrual Phase. You may begin this phase with high social and physical energy but may feel the need to turn inward as it progresses. Your connections with other women feels stronger, however your need for introspection may increase so this is a great time for writing, journaling, and working on projects alone. Your brain chemistry is optimized for organization, task completion, and detail orientation at this time At the end of this phase anxiety levels may begin to rise as well, so holding boundaries and protecting self is important.
Duration: 3-7 Days
Woman Archetype: The Wise Woman
This is a time of new beginnings, and a perfect phase for reflection and looking inward. This is a great time to rest (since physical energy levels are lower) and spend time reflecting on the last month and everything that worked and didn’t work for you. Objective decision making should be done during this phase because your ability to analyze situations and intuit what needs to be done are both strengths. Strategize for the month ahead.
Cited Sources and Further Research for Beginners:
In the Flow, Alisa Vitti
My FLO App
Expanded Podcast With Lacy Phillips, Episode 80, “In the Flo with Alisa Vitti, Female Hormone and Functional Nutrition Expert.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/expanded-podcast-with-lacy-phillips/id1419732648?i=1000464207886
Limitless Life Podcast With Melyssa Griffin, 9/24/20, “How to Use Your Menstrual Cycle to Plan Your Life.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/limitless-life/id1251824599?i=1000492348580
FemmeHead YouTube Channel, 3/22/18, “Make the Most Out of the Phases of Your Cycle.” https://youtu.be/4PJgCLsnF_o