Cycle Syncing

As a competitive athlete on Tehran’s swim team in Iran, I used to laugh at the notion of listening to my body, of slowing down when my hormones asked me to. I’d drink coffee to deny myself of any signs of burnout. High expectations and athletics ingrained perseverance and a sense of invincibility in me. But at the same time, I started to believe that my performance had to, under all circumstances, stay consistent.

“Consistency is Key.” But is it truly? Such a notion oftentimes leaves me fighting my body rather than tuning in with it.

This summer I decided to listen to my body and its hormonal composition rather than to caffeine. I cycle synced. In each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle, a woman’s hormonal balance is distinct. With the iPhone Application Eve and Alisa Vitti's book WomanCode, I kept track of my hormones, motivation, creativity, emotions, cravings, and workouts. Along the way, I picked up important methods and rituals that help bring out the best of the four phases of the feminine cycle of energy.

 

1st Phase: The Menstrual phase is the most prominent and well-known phase of the menstrual cycle. Skin breakouts, less motivation, and infrequent cramps are also part of the package.

Exercise:

  • Try not to add stress with exercise. Rather see exercise as something that is going to ease your mind- or body-related tensions.
    • Practice Yin Yoga

    • Take slow walks.

Nutrition:

  • Foods and spices that are light yet warm:
    • Yogurt drizzled with honey.

    • Add ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom to teas and baked goods.

    • Make sure to take your iron and Vitamin B-12 supplements.

    • Pumpkin seeds

Lifestyle:

  • I see my first day of my period as a sign to take a step back and reflect. Because of this tendency,  I block out time to reflect on the past 28 days and visualize the next 28 days. This is your body flushing out a month of toxins, flush your mind of its toxins too!
    • Rejuvenate and reward yourself

    • Journaling three pages upon waking,

    • Elongating yoga exercises in the morning,

    • Applying essential oils to your yoga clothes or the back of your hands,

    • Taking a stroll,

    • Reading 20 pages of a book

  • Closing your eyes and let your imagination work.

Photo credits: my own self-portrait

 

2nd Phase: Soon, your body’s estrogen levels start to rise and you will enter the Follicular phase. Your body will also secrete testosterone. You will feel more and more energized, motivated, and creative as days follow. Make time to foster these emotions!

Exercise:

  • With so much energy during this time, make sure to get active!
    • Soul Cycling,

    • The best time for long hikes,

    • Runs.

    • Hit the gym :) your body will love it!

Nutrition:

  • Think ZING! Appetite may be a bit suppressed.  Nourish yourself with energizing, light foods that promote your high motivation and bubbly creativity.
    • Vary your nut butter and embrace all the greens you can :)
    • Add pumpkin seeds to your trail mix
    • Nice cream for a treat
    • Flax seeds in smoothies

    • Lean protein

Lifestyle:

  • This is also your most creative phase - structure your time well.
    • Block scheduling to make time for your passion project or creative pursuits.

    • Reflect on your productivity levels each night so as to improve each day.

 

3rd Phase: Ovulation is the time of the month in which your estrogen levels reach a peak. You are the most motivated, active, and social. Expand your social and physical comfort zones by making new friends, trying new exercises to keep your body guessing.

Exercises:

  • If your body allows for strenuous exercise, level up your exercises from your luteal phase -- think of expanding your physical capabilities!
    • Try Hatha Yoga at Yoga to the People!

    • Longer runs -- make it a group activity too :)

Nutrition:

  • Energize, Nourish, and don’t be afraid of novelty
    • Add sesame seeds to your oatmeal

    • A dollop of hummus + cilantro to your salmon

    • A quinoa salad

Lifestyle:

Ovulation days are the best days for public speaking or activities that demand multiple skills and mental faculties at one time. Say yes to social events!

 

 

4th Phase: This phase of the menstrual cycle, also known as the Luteal Phase, is most visible in individuals with PMS: cramps, acne, irritability. No BS -- you may feel irritable and will be more assertive.

Exercise: Acknowledge that you may fall off your exercise schedule. Lower your expectations to avoid burnout. Try a short brisk walk to clear your mind or engage in a long, energizing Yoga session.

Nutrition: Find healthy wholesome meals that you can rely on to help ease agitation or irritability that may creep in. Give yourself space for cravings too.

  • Consult 4-tiered chart from FloLiving to help you choose the best foods

Lifestyle:

  • Reflect on the things that make you happy or have made you successful in the past
    • Download the app Brainsparker and set the photo to your lock screen

    • Admire your dorm room memoirs

  • B12 and Magnesium -- mood stabilizers :)

  • Don’t shy away from asking for help --  make a list of contacts

  • Light a lavender-scented candle, or in our dorms

  • To avoid dependency on social media and the resulting FOMO, try applications like Self Control (free), Forest, or flora (free)