Several things to report before I dive into this post. First off, I highly recommend reading ‘Period Power’ by Maisie Hill if you want to begin to educate yourself on your menstrual cycle, and second off, I also recommend following Claire Baker on Instagram who is a menstrual coach. Both have really helped me get to grips with what’s going on with my body and how to begin charting it.
Now, there are tons of cycle-tracking apps out there (I believe the most recommended and well-known one is ‘Clue’), but I’ve chosen to simply track my cycle by hand at the back of my bullet journal. I’m a handwritten kinda girl and this allows me the freedom to describe and journal as I please, whilst helping keep me off my phone!
I’ve been charting my cycle for the past four months and in doing so I am now fairly clued up on when my period is due (my cycles vary between 29 and 31 days), but also at recognising exactly when all my ‘seasons’ occur, and what my symptoms are for those ‘seasons’. My hope is that in continuing to journal it I’ll continue to learn more and therefore help myself live a better quality of life – if only because I’ll stop berating myself for feeling ‘bleurgh’ when I have no reason to (when the reality is that OF COURSE I feel bleurgh on day 15 because every month I feel bleurgh on day 15).
In Maisie’s book she talks about how we go through Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn in our cycles. They last for varying lengths person to person, and in understanding when yours occur, you can work out at which points in your cycle you should cancel social plans, factor in some ‘me’ time or GO GO GO with work.
I totally get that not everyone has the flexibility to shape their lives around their periods but it’s definitely eye-opening to track what’s going on and get a feel for when you’ll likely fly off the ABSOLUTE FUCKING HANDLE because your boyfriend is in fact sitting on the sofa whilst you huff and puff over the washing up.
Winter begins on day one of your cycle, the day you come on your period. You then move in to spring once your period has finished. Summer starts at ovulation and autumn begins in the build up to your period returning.
So at the back of my bullet journal (you can just use a normal notebook instead if that’s easier) I dedicate one page to each month. I write the numbers 1 to 29 in one colour on the left hand side (I add to this if my cycle lasts longer) and then on the date I come on my period (and therefore entering day one of a new cycle), I write that date next to the number ‘1’. And then the next day’s date next to number ‘2’ and so on, so that at any given day I can flick to that page and see which day of my cycle aligns with that date.
I use different colours to write different feelings or emotions or physical symptoms so that they all stand out against each other. It’s really up to you what you want to track but some of the things I write down include: when I am tired or when I’ve needed a nap, days where my hunger is never satisfied and days when I think about food less, when I have cried, when I have argued, days when I’ve been productive, or felt really happy or content, days when I’ve wanted to go slow or days when I’ve felt like I need physical company. I also write days when I have writer’s block, or days when I’ve had great creative ideas.
I also write down some more physical symptoms – the days my period is heavy, the days it is light and the days I am spotting. I write down if I have a migraine or feel crampy or have an upset stomach.
The reality is that a lot of things I write down might not be related to my cycle, but in writing it down and tracking it, I get to see patterns emerging and can start to recognise things happening before they even do.
Some days I write nothing, there are whole weeks of nothing, and other days I write ten different adjectives.
Things I’ve written down include ‘Trackies and no make-up’, ‘Do not want to go into London’, ‘Want to be busy’, ‘Want to be anti-social with candles and a takeaway’, ‘Want to organise and clean’.
The sweet joy of journaling in this way it is that you can make it exactly what you want it to be and make it work for you so that you get the most out of it.
In the past few months I’ve gained a clearer idea of how my menstrual cycle affects my mood, energy levels and cravings, and I’ll outline below how it looks – although yours could be very different!
Day 1: Ridiculously heavy period arrives. Upset stomach. Do not want to do anything and want to prioritise going slow and self-care above all else. Craving a takeaway, the sofa, and wrapping up in a duvet with tea, candles and chocolate. Content and at peace but easily overwhelmed.
Day 2: Period still heavy. All of the above still applies but at 75% of the ferociousness of day one.
Day 3: Period now light. Want to start getting out into the world again, but at a slow pace.
Day 4: Period even lighter. Hang on, do I… do I recognise myself again?
Day 5: I AM BACK BITCHES. (And yes, my period is almost entirely finished).
Day 6 – 14: I feel glorious. The world is my oyster. I am amazing, life is amazing. I am incredibly productive and chipper, I am a queen. I have the get-up-and-go to tackle big work projects, to exercise, to multi-task, to be the most glittery version of myself. I am fast-paced and I don’t depend on doughnuts and pints of tea to get me through the day. I want more, I want everything, I am constantly looking for my next adventure or challenge.
Day 15: FUCK. Ovulation. Crampy lower stomach. I AM ANGRY AT YOU ALL, WHY ARE YOU ALL SO ANNOYING?
Day 15 – 25: I am ridiculously hungry. I am tired. I am easily annoyed. I am lacking inspiration and creative ideas. I want to shout at everyone when things don’t go my way. I feel a bit down? I am anxious, I am unsure of myself, I am questionning my identity and all of my decisions. I don’t know what to wear. I don’t want to meet new people. Everything feels on edge.
Day 26: The inner contentment is back, and I am spotting. I feel more at peace, there is a sense of calm sweeping over me. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Day 27 – 29: I want to read and take long baths. I want to organise and clean. I want to stay away from my phone and stock up on carbs and keep to myself. Happy with my lot but particularly volatile and likely to cry at car adverts. A good time for slow, brain-dumping blog posts and less of the paid partnerships.
Day 29 (or 30 or 31). Cycle is over, back to the start.
I always assumed the worst days for PMS for everyone were the couple of days before bleeding started and whilst I was bleeding, but for me ovulation is the real fucker. I jump right off a cliff around day 14-16 of my cycle and struggle to pick myself back up again – I essentially do not have the ‘Summer’ season, much like the United Kingdom (ha!). But there is a release from the anger just before my period arrives, and I just feel so slow and at peace with myself for a week and it’s just lovely. Obviously my favourite part of my cycle is my ‘Spring’, when I can move quickly and pile my plate high and take on challenges and they don’t overwhelm me. But now I know that’s when to throw myself into work, when I can say YES YES YES, and when I need to pull back and focus on myself and my family.
How does your cycle look compared to mine?