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There is always a two-week period within the month where Beyonce’s lyrical masterpiece “If I were a boy” resonates a bit too much. Our energy levels are low, cravings are high and a general sense of discomfort is prevalent in many ways. For many women feeling foreign in their own body is not an unfamiliar feeling. The modern work and school day run on a twenty-four-hour cycle, while women run on a monthly cycle. Throughout the month, menstruating people have significant fluctuations in hormones, significantly affecting their mood, social habits, energy level and nutritional needs. 

Modern attitudes towards menstruation often neglect these fluctuations and their effects on the female body and psyche, causing many women to feel burnt out as they try to adapt their bodies to this 24-hour cycle. The stigma and ignorance around the menstruation cycle are relatively new and unique to American cultures. In indigenous cultures, such as the tribe Ojibwe of the midwest, members viewed menstruation as a time for meditative and restorative practices. Women visited the moon lodge, where they would participate in activities such as storytelling, crafts and bathing. In the modern context, in countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Spain, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia, women are granted menstrual leave days to have time to restore and rest during their period.

As shown by practices around the world, your cycle does not have to hinder you. Understanding your cycle and hormonal needs can help you capitalize on your body’s natural ups and downs, allowing you to feel more connected and at home in your body. A practice that can aid you in this process is called cycle syncing, in which you adjust your diet, exercise and social habits to fit your natural hormonal changes throughout the month. While this may be intimidating, especially with the hectic schedule many students have, there are many ways to build these habits around campus. 

There are four phases that the body goes through during your cycle: Menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal. Understanding these phases is critical to aligning with them. The menstrual phase occurs in the first seven to eight days of your cycle, where you experience low levels of estrogen and progesterone accompanied by normal vaginal bleeding. Some symptoms of this phase include cramping, vomiting, and Diarrhea. This is the time of the month when your body needs meditative practices and rest; exercise should be light to help you conserve energy while still relieving cramps. Activities could include light walking, Yoga, and Pilates. The recreational sports facility (RSF) here at Berkeley offers both live virtual classes and recorded videos for these exercises, which you can use to stay active in the comfort of your own home. Berkeley walks also offer a variety of fun routes around campus that can help you get some light walking in.

As for diet, the Iron levels are low at this time, so it’s essential to eat food that can help with bloating and blood restoration. This could mean checking out the meats, lentils and beans offered in the dining halls, as well as the cereals and alternative kinds of milk for Vitamin b-12 (which can boost your energy). After the Menstrual phase, follicles start developing in the ovary and a thickening uterine lining. Estrogen and Progesterone levels begin to increase as well. Starting with the follicular phase and continuing into your ovulatory phase, your energy levels rise, which makes it the perfect time to focus on higher energy exercises such as Zumba, HIIT and CrossFit. These classes are offered as group exercises at the RSF, with the schedule and classes available here. This phase prepares you for ovulation; it’s helpful to focus on fiber and zinc-rich foods such as eggs, vegetables and whole grains.

Next is your ovulatory phase; estrogen peaks during this time, and you are the most social and fertile. This is the perfect time to go to social gatherings, plan an interview, or get out of the house. The natural rise in energy levels makes this the ideal time to get in any cardio you’ve been meaning to do. To help balance your hormones, you can eat foods that help promote gut health. Maybe check out the salad bar for some quinoa or couscous, or hit the Berkeley Farmers Market to get some berries. 

Your last phase of the cycle is the Luteal phase. This is when your estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease. It’s normal to experience brain fog, anxiety, bloating, acne and PMS systems in this phase. You might need to rest or stay in more during this phase. You have a higher appetite during this time; listen to your body, indulge in healthy fats and slow-burning carbs. Examples of these include sweet potatoes, beans, avocados and walnuts. Physical activity can consist of spiritual exercises or strength training to match the naturally lower energy levels. 

While it may be tempting to ignore these fluctuations and push your body towards constant productivity, it’s crucial to take a step back and re-evaluate how we judge ourselves and our bodies. As women, we must be aware of how much patriarchy affects how we view our femininity and menstruation and try to deviate from these negative perceptions. Your body’s needs are real and serious, and it is not dramatic to need time to restore- it is natural.

Yasna Rahmani

UC Berkeley '26

Hello! I am a freshmen here at Berkeley hoping to major in the liberal arts. I love writing articles because they give me an outlet for all the corny word plays I think of. Writing also gives me a chance to make all my thoughts tangible and communicative. And the sense of being understood I get as a result is the most rewarding feeling for me.
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