How To Use Your Menstrual Cycle For Greater Productivity Throughout The Month
As women, it often feels like it’s a man’s world, and we’re just living in it. This couldn’t ring more true than when it comes to the routines and schedules that we all have and are expected to keep to as a collective.
Generally speaking, the world that we live in expects us to be “productive” at work (regardless of what that work might be), every day during the week of each month, every month.
The thing is, this schedule lines up with men - men don’t have hormonal cycles in the way that women do and therefore they can more easily feel productive when they’re supposed to be, without their bodies affecting them.
However, women have monthly cycles in which their hormones fluctuate and in different phases of this cycle, they can feel anything and everything, from energised and productive to tired and introverted.
The good news is that if you are a woman, you can actually use this cycle to biohack your way to greater productivity and a better sense of overall wellbeing.
In this article, we’re going to dive into exactly why the menstrual cycle that women experience affects us so immensely and tell you how you can work with your menstrual cycle, rather than against it, to be more productive in various aspects of your life.
Before We Jump In: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Productivity?
Since we’re going to mention productivity throughout this article, it’s important to get clear on what productivity means. Although typically productivity means output and is often associated with work, that isn’t all there is to productivity.
Productivity looks different for everyone and although for you that may indeed mean being getting things done at work, it can also mean getting things done in your personal life, being able to fit in all of the things that spark real joy in your life, spending your time in the best way, or simply enjoying the feeling of not being strung out or overly stressed.
Essentially, it’s important to understand that productivity doesn’t always equal output in your professional life - it’s an overarching concept that means different things to different people. So, it can be useful to think about what being or feeling productive means to you whilst you utilise your cycle to support this productivity.
It Starts With Getting Educated About Your Cycle: The Phases of A Menstrual Cycle
Before we look at what the different stages of the menstrual cycle mean for your energy, emotions, and productivity, it’s important to understand the different phases that you go through in your cycle. If you think about your menstrual cycle you might assume that there is just “bleeding” and “not bleeding”, but the truth is, the hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle create four main phases, all of which are equally important.
So, let’s take a look at them.
The Menstruation Phase
The menstruation phase of the cycle is from the first day of bleeding to the last day of bleeding. Although the length of this phase differs from person to person, it generally lasts between 3 and 7 days. During this time, if an egg has not been fertilised, your uterus is shedding its lining, resulting in bleeding. Levels of both estrogen and progesterone are low during this phase.
The Follicular Phase
The follicular phase is the longest phase of the menstrual cycle and it overlaps with the menstruation stage. This phase begins on the first day of bleeding and lasts until the ovulation phase. During this time, the body produces more estrogen and prepares to release an egg. Progesterone levels also increase, whilst testosterone stays at a stable level until the end of this phase. Again, the length of this phase differs, but typically lasts around 16 days on average.
The Ovulation Phase
The ovulation phase is the shortest phase of the menstrual cycle and happens when the ovary releases an egg which occurs around 14 days before the next menstruation stage begins. This phase typically only lasts around 24 hours and during this time (as well as for up to 3 days after), estrogen and testosterone levels are high.
The Luteal Phase
The Luteal phase occurs after ovulation and either prepares for a baby or for shedding the uterine lining, depending on whether the released egg has been fertilised. This phase typically lasts anywhere from 12-14 days and during this phase estrogen and progesterone levels increase. However, when the released egg isn’t fertilised, these hormone levels drop dramatically at the end of this phase. The drop in these hormones is linked with PMS symptoms.
How You Can Work With Each Stage of Your Menstrual Cycle: Do’s and Dont’s
Now we’re all hopefully a little more informed about the different phases of our menstrual cycle, let’s take a look at how you can work with these different phases to experience the most fulfilled and productive month possible.
In The Menstruation Phase:
During the menstruation phase your energy levels, impacted by low levels of estrogen and progesterone, are low. You may find it difficult to focus and you’re less likely to be motivated to do work tasks. Instead, you’re more inclined to rest, spend time alone, and lean into more of a gentle energy.
- Spend time alone at home.
- Schedule time in for self-care.
- Do flow-focused exercise such as yin yoga.
- Sleep more.
- Reduce your workload if possible.
- Take on too much work.
- Say yes to social plans.
- Do rigorous exercise like HIIT.
- Force yourself to rush through tasks.
In The Follicular Phase:
During the follicular phase your energy levels increase dramatically due to higher levels of estrogen. You are likely to feel an increase in motivation, you’ll want to socialise more, and you’ll feel more inspired to take action.
- Get into new creative projects.
- Make more plans for yourself during this time.
- Spend more time being social.
- Enjoy high energy activities such as boxing.
- Try new things and meet new people.
- Isolate yourself.
- Try and dim your own light.
- Spend time in energy-draining situations.
- Avoid the difficult tasks.
In The Ovulation Phase:
During the ovulation phase your energy levels tend to skyrocket since your testosterone and estrogen levels peak. Therefore, even more so than in the follicular phase, you will be feeling ready to be proactive, connect with others, and complete all the tasks on your to-do list.
- Plan meetings and important discussions during this time.
- Work on collaborative projects.
- Embrace intimacy: schedule dates and enjoy quality time with romantic partners.
- Continue with higher intensity exercise and training.
- Start new projects at the end of this phase.
- Spend too much time alone.
- Isolate yourself with independent tasks at work.
- Push away feelings of sensuality.
In The Luteal Phase:
During the luteal phase, when the released egg isn’t fertilised, hormone levels drop and PMS symptoms may occur. This means you will likely feel like slowing down - your energy levels may be lower, you may feel as if you want to “nest”, and you may find tasks more difficult to understand and undertake.
- Make your home a peaceful sanctuary.
- Ramp up your self-care routine.
- Focus on independent work tasks.
- Reduce the intensity of exercise.
- Prioritise getting simple tasks done.
- Collaborate with others or take on group tasks.
- Pack too much into your social calender.
- Avoid being introspective.
- Take on more work or a new project.
3 Extra Tips To Support Your Menstrual Cycle
Whilst you now know some general do’s and don’ts of the different phases of your menstrual cycle, here are three extra tips that can help you when it comes to working with your cycle for the most aligned life possible!
Track Your Cycle
Obviously, if you’re trying to work with your cycle it’s important to know where in your cycle you are at all times. Although this can be difficult if you’re using contraception or have irregular periods, using a cycle tracker such as Flo or Clue can help you track and further understand your cycle.
Whilst not all of us have the ability to change our schedules whenever it suits us, we can plan ahead to ensure we’re more aligned with our cycle. For example, look ahead for the month and see if you can move any work projects round for a time when you know you’ll have higher energy (in the follicular or ovulation phases), push social events to times that you know you’ll be more inclined to see friends (the follicular stage), and pre-book self-care activities for the times you know you may need a little extra TLC (luteal and menstruation phases).
Listen To Your Body
Whilst the tips in this article are here to help you as impactfully as possible, everyone is different and therefore you need to listen to your own body during each phase of your cycle to truly understand what you need as an individual. A great idea to ensure you’re getting what you need is to create your own personalised “do’s” and “don’ts” list for each phase of your cycle so that you can fully support yourself.
Together, Let’s Make The Most of Our Cycles!
The menstrual cycle really does hold so much power and once you tap into it you’ll realize just how much more you can not only get done, but how much more aligned you can become with your own body.
So, let’s start working with our cycles now, for a better and more productive life!