Most women are taught from an early age that our period, and really our entire menstrual cycle, is a pain in the ass. It’s a nuisance we have to put up with, an event filled with shame, pain, and embarrassment. In that, we are taught how to reject a key aspect of our bodies as well as the biological mechanism that gives rise to life. We tend not to honor ourselves and the hormonal fluctuations that occur naturally in our bodies, and so we remain detached from how to tune into our own inner wisdom.
Women are rarely ever shown the sacredness, creativity, and wisdom that is embedded in their rhythmic monthly cycle—the feminine cycle—or how to harness its power.
If we live in alignment with the seasons of our cycle, stop rejecting it, and actually understand which of our strengths and qualities are highlighted during each phase, we can become more productive, more at ease in our own bodies, and more confident, proud, and powerful women as a whole.
Here is the breakdown of the four seasons of the cycle along with a description of what happens physically and emotionally and how you can align your diet, exercise, work, and social life to feel your best at each phase.
This season lasts from day one of your cycle until approximately day six. Your hormones are at an all time low as the drop in progesterone signals the shedding of your uterine lining. While this is happening, your emotional life feels like winter: you feel a desire to withdraw, hibernate, spend time alone, and rest. You want to avoid stress where you can, carve out time for more introverted activities and focus on work projects that require more quiet focus.
During this time, it is best to stick to light and gentle exercises like yin yoga, stretching, or walking. Nourish yourself with foods that are warming and easy to digest like soups, stews, cooked vegetables, or slow cooked meats.
Spring: follicular phase
This season begins after you stop bleeding and continues all the way up to right before you ovulate. For most women, this means from day seven until day 13. The follicular phase is most prominently marked by a steady increase in estrogen, the “juicy” hormone, and testosterone. As a result, your energy rises, your brain skills are boosted, your libido comes back and you feel all around energetic, vibrant, and positive.
This is a great time to schedule important meetings, attend conferences, and handle projects that require teamwork, problem solving, and brainstorming. Feeling the strength and freshness of the spring, your body wants to be moved in more rigorous ways. Eat lighter, nourishing foods like salads with a warm protein, which will serve your naturally suppressed appetite (thank you, estrogen).
The ovulatory phase marks the shortest phase of all four seasons, about 2–3 days. Estrogen and testosterone continue to increase as they have in the follicular phase until the dominant egg is released from its follicle into the fallopian tube. It survives here for 12–24 hours and will either be fertilized or die off.
Summer is the season when you feel the most confident, attractive, and sexy—and your environment can tell. Your skin is glowing, your senses are heightened, and you are a total natural at leading meetings, public speaking, launching big projects, and scoring high on a first date. Physically, your body loves intense workouts and has the most energy to digest more raw foods, short cooked meals, and juices.
Fall: luteal phase
For most women the luteal phase lasts 12–16 days and it is marked by the drop of estrogen and testosterone and the rise of progesterone, which is released from the follicle, now called the corpus luteum, that releases the dominant egg during ovulation. Progesterone is a relaxing hormone that aids with sleep and relieves anxiety, so your energy is naturally winding down and your more introverted side re-emerges asking you to slow down your activity level. This is a great time to take care of any left over bookkeeping, quiet projects, and more introverted tasks, especially the closer you get to menstruation and winter.
The luteal phase is often difficult for women who experience bloating, headaches, cravings, and other PMS-related symptoms, so instead of forcing yourself to “get it together,” try to be gentle with yourself by sticking to light activity and nourishing yourself with healthy, warming comfort foods like roasted vegetables, roasted salmon, quinoa or brown rice bowls, and lots of healthy fats.
Knowing that your body goes through these four seasons every month, see if you can move into a place of honor, curiosity, and alignment with what nature provides for you. Focus on the positives that each season brings to you, harness its energy, and fuel yourself accordingly.