Amy Geary - Menstrual Cycle Tracking
I am a big advocate for anyone with a menstrual cycle to get to know their individual cycle as much as they can, and to understand the ways in which it may affect them during the different phases. Menstrual health is starting to get more recognition in the last few years with more of an understanding of how impactful it is in relation to our overall health and wellbeing. In fact the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) considers the menstrual cycle to be a ‘fifth vital sign’.
Everyone who menstruates will have a different experience and there are numerous issues one may experience in relation to their cycle such as heavy bleeding or an irregular cycle, to name a few. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and how significantly this can affect an individual, is a key reason one might start tracking, which will result in being able to identify patterns across a cycle. When we are informed we can take action and ensure we are resourcing ourselves across the difficult phases of our cycle.
Where one person may feel no discernible difference across numerous areas such as mood, energy, sleep, appetite and general functioning another person may feel significantly impacted across all or many of these. Generally speaking, this is not in relation to levels of hormones as such but more so an individual's sensitivity to the typical hormonal fluctuations of the cycle.
I believe that starting to record the data in relation to the above areas is so beneficial for us in knowing our bodies and minds. And I see it not as recording a list of ‘difficulties’ but instead I feel it is all about harnessing the positive aspects of the cycle and supporting ourselves with the not so positive ones. For example, many people will feel at their most productive and sociable around ovulation. This estrogen dominant phase may have us brimming with creative and social energy. If we do relate to this in our cycle and we know from tracking when this phase starts we may aim to tackle that project that has been on our mind.
Equally we may find there’s a pattern of being unusually fatigued, anxious or having a low mood during our premenstrual phase, very commonly reported by many menstruators. Being armed with this knowledge means that we can try to build in more rest and self care practices during this time. And vitally that we are able to have compassionate understanding for ourselves during this time. Self compassion is a scientifically supported route to reduced anxiety and mood related issues. When we have it in black and white in front of us that our mood is dipping month on month at the same time it can be incredibly helpful in creating a compassionate plan of action to support ourselves.
A good way to start getting to know your cycle better is by using a reputable app to track your own individual cycle, which typically varies anywhere from 21-38 days. From there you could mark your phases and days in an old school notebook and start logging whatever you like. It may help to put a few headings in there such as mood, energy, sleep, appetite, digestion, libido etc and start to spot those patterns.