How Understanding the Menstrual Cycle Phases Can Enhance Your Creative Work

I first learned who Claire Baker was when we published an interview with her last summer. Claire is a women’s coach based in London who teaches women how to find their flow by living in sync with their menstrual cycle phases. I started following her on Instagram, curious to better understand this woman who was building her career by being a period expert. Almost a year later, I’m fully bought in. Now, not only does Claire’s work make sense to me, but I also think we would all benefit from a period coach—or at least consistent cycle tracking and a better understanding our own bodies.

As a woman with a regular period who works in a creative role, I was excited to try Claire’s Creatrix course, which explores unlocking your creative productivity and potential by aligning with the natural rhythm of your body. The lesson I needed most from this course was encouraged in spades: permission. Permission to believe, to acknowledge, to create, to protect my boundaries and energy.

Here, I’ll share some of my Creatrix takeaways.

YOU are a creative

Right from the start, Claire explains that creativity isn’t necessarily drawing or writing or painting, but simply how we express ourselves to the world around us. We are all creating, all the time, so anyone with a menstrual cycle can benefit from this course. Within the different phases of the menstrual cycle, our hormones are rising and falling. This can affect confidence, productivity, alertness, mood…if you haven’t started tracking your cycle yet, I’d highly recommend it as the patterns you’ll find may surprise you. For many of us, our output changes as our bodies change, so whether your creative outlet is something tangible or simply a way of self-expression, understanding the nuances of each phase can allow you to harness the unique energy of each phase.

Unlocking your creative power during menstruation (yup, it’s possible)

For me, creative output has always necessitated high energy and motivation—Brainstorm ideas! Write! Edit!—but Claire explains that there’s space between “walking away from the canvas” and fully succumbing to mindnumbing Netflix binges. If we stop berating ourselves for feeling sluggish or slow, we might see the intuition and guidance our menstrual, or “winter,” phase can offer us. Claire advises that menstruation isn’t a time for to-do lists and strategy, but rather for forming intentions and gaining clarity. Most importantly, take this time to connect back to yourself and your creative endeavors.

Your Inner Cheerleader Lives in Pre-Ovulation

Claire describes the pre-ovulation, or spring, phase as the “inhale of the menstrual cycle.” You’re likely to have more energy than in your previous winter phase, and it’s a great time of the cycle to take action. Because you may feel a boost of confidence from that energy, it may be a good time to keep your progress to yourself and ride that wave. Claire recommends trusting your gut here and waiting until a later phase in your cycle to ask for feedback.

Celebrate Yourself in Your Summer

Claire’s guiding word for the ovulatory, or summer, phase of the cycle is “manifest.” This is the shortest phase of the cycle, but for many women, can be a period of high confidence and energy. Claire suggests launching your creative project into the world during this time, or scheduling speaking engagements, high-pressure meetings, or hosting a social event like a dinner party. Have fun and let yourself be seen here—but don’t give all this energy away. Many women tend to say “yes” a lot in this high-energy phase, so don’t go overboard, or your winter self may suffer when you need to cancel engagements made overzealously in your summer phase. Most importantly in your summer phase, find and remember the pleasure in creating.

Push Past Your Inner Critic in Your Autumn Phase

Understanding your menstrual cycle phases is game-changing for many women in that it helps to explain certain symptoms and feelings that occur during distinct times throughout the cycle (hello, PMS). If you find yourself feeling groggy or introverted before your period, it’s because your hormones are fluctuating (estrogen dips right after ovulation, rises again mid-autumn, and goes back down again for menstruation). The inner cheerleader of your summer phase seems to be in hibernation, and feelings of self-criticism may take over. Claire talks about how you might hear a little voice telling you you’re lazy, unproductive, even an impostor, and check, check, check, I tend to feel all three in the days leading up to my period.

So what can we do to combat this voice and make our autumn phase as beneficial as the other three of our cycle? According to Claire, your autumn superpowers include tapping into sensitivity and feeling into the heart of your creative project again. We’re intuitive in this phase, and sometimes this can make us feel tender. Try to use this intuition as a place for editing, examining, and improving creative projects, rather than slowing yourself down with unnecessary, harsh criticism. If the inner critic gets to be too much, acknowledge what may be true of the criticism (Claire estimates it’s probably about 5%) and let the rest go; create boundaries and chat with a trusted friend or advisor.

The Importance of Paying Attention to Your Own Menstrual Cycle Phases

Understanding your cycle, and your body more generally, can be an incredible tool for increasing productivity, letting go of negative self-talk, and understanding your own boundaries. Remember that it’s normal to watch your motivation for a creative project shift from week to week—you’ll probably feel that same shift in the kind of workouts that appeal to you or the types of foods that best nourish you. The more we pay attention to the messages within our own bodies, the more confident we become in how we express ourselves in our art and in the world.

Featured image by Eugenia Maximova

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