As new, viral health trends burst onto the scene each year and flame out by the next, a couple of factors remain the same: each of our bodies is different, and listening to them is of the utmost importance.
Our bodies often give us signals regarding how they need to be treated, what they are lacking, and what they can’t handle. With all the busyness of daily life, it can be difficult to stay in tune with those signals, to understand them, and to accept them. In addition, we often try to push our bodies to suit our wants, ignoring signals to slow down, rest and avoid processed foods and stress, and end up overwhelming and sending ourselves into imbalance, discomfort and sometimes vulnerable immunity, instead.
One of the ways in which us women can get back into sync with our bodies and relearn their cues is by understanding and tracking our internal clocks - our menstruation cycles.
Tracking your cycle can benefit you in numerous ways and help you make lifestyle choices that work for - rather than against - you and your body.
The female body is like a symphony, with four different movements to which we need to listen and adjust - menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. These movements bring with them fluctuations in energy levels, emotional reserves and cravings as our hormones change.
Before making any changes to the way you take care of yourself, first track your typical cycle. While may be helpful to learn about how one should generally feel during these movements, as our bodies are all different, it might be best to focus on your own experiences before you learn what you ‘should’ be feeling.
Throughout the month, you probably have dips of both motivation and quality of workouts. When in sync with your cycle, you can track your energy levels and choose exercises that will benefit you most during the movement you find yourself in. For example, doing strength training during the follicular phase can result in higher muscle strength in comparison to doing so during ovulation. Consider lighter cardio and strength training as well as yoga during menstruation; amp up the intensity of your training and challenge yourself during the follicular phase; continue with the intensity but stick to things that you know during ovulation; and reduce the intensity by doing some of your usual workout routine with added yoga, pilates and low-intensity cardio during the luteal phase.
Track Your Fertility
Whether you are ready to start a family or not, tracking your cycle is a great way to get a greater handle on your contraceptive choices. Most women are most fertile 12 to 16 days before menstruation, and least fertile just after. Note that although this can help you manage your choices, it is just a helpful measure, and speaking to your doctor about what will work best for you is still recommended.
Get Your Sleep
Although we know that our energy levels dip during the month, they are not the only factor that could be making you feel more tired during certain movements of your cycle. In fact, leading up to, during and just after menstruation, women experience an increase in body temperature and less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Thus, it is common to feel more restless, and experience insomnia and fatigue at this time. Moreover, monthly cramps and other symptoms that characterise your period may also be contributing to this. Be kind to your body in the lead-up to menstruation by getting ample rest, and menstruation try to make your bedroom cooler, drink less caffeine, and sleep in thinner pyjamas during menstruation.
Overwhelming food cravings are common during the luteal phase of your cycle. It is also common for people to seek out comfort food during times of distress, which the general discomfort from menstruation and cramps can cause. Thus, know when you feel an overwhelming need for sweets, salty treats, and heavy carbohydrates, and instead of feeling bad about breaking your diet, fill your kitchen with healthier alternatives. This way, you can listen to your body whilst staying on track.
Remember that, in addition to helping you get in tune with your body’s signals, tracking your period can also help you detect irregularities in your body and help your doctor to diagnose underlying issues.
Although you can keep track of your period on a calendar, there are so many period tracking apps that make it easy for you to monitor all your cycle symptoms and the activities that may influence your cycle. So, feel guilt-free when spending some screen time listening to the symphony of your body and inputting your daily data into your tracker.