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The 4 seasons of menstruation (and how to make the most of the weather)

The 4 seasons of menstruation (and how to make the most of the weather)

Have you ever noticed a slump in energy during the first few days of your period, only to experience a major surge later on in your cycle? You have the four stages of your menstrual cycle (or ‘seasons’ as Maisie Hill calls them in her book, Period Power), to thank for that neverending rollercoaster of energy, appetite and emotions. Hill, a women’s health practitioner and birth doula, works with women to help them harness the power of their hormones and use each ‘season’ to their advantage. Think of it as performance engineering for your hormones, but instead of managing computer systems, you’re managing the most powerful system of all – your body. 

Just before Hill delves into the four seasons in her book, she leaves the reader with a Native American saying, which at &SISTERS HQ, we think will resonate with anyone who has, does or will menstruate:

“At her first bleed a woman meets her power

During her bleeding years she practices it

At menopause she becomes it”

Winter

What to expect:

A woman enters her winter on the first day of her menstrual cycle, the day she begins bleeding. Oestrogen and progesterone are in sharp decline, leading to intense exhaustion (but luckily, a steady decline in PMS symptoms like bloating or breast tenderness) and a feeling of general malaise. Some women may experience an ‘awareness’ that they are about to bleed, while other women won’t know they’ve entered winter until menstrual cramping or bleeding begins. Once period pain begins to take hold, it’s not uncommon to also experience a feeling of bliss as pain-relieving hormones like oxytocin and endorphins are released – and as women are (unfortunately) teased about in movies and in the playground alike, a woman in winter may begin to feel more emotionally vulnerable as her hormones withdraw.

How to thrive:

  • Set boundaries. Winter may leave you feeling more emotionally vulnerable, so avoid major stressors and listen to your body to give it what it needs, whether that’s more intimacy or comfort food.
  • Pamper yourself. Now is the time to practice self care. Make space in your schedule to do something just for you. Treat yourself to a nice meal out, eat nourishing anti-inflammatory foods (check out our ‘Happy Period hummus here) or binge-watch Netflix with friends or your other half.
  • Rest and recharge. With winter comes low energy, so be sure to rest your body, but also your mind. You may find that you become easily overwhelmed by certain conversations or even your Instagram feed, so pay attention to your ‘internal battery’ and know when to take a step back. 

Spring

What to expect:

As a woman enters her pre-ovulation phase, or her spring, oestrogen dominates as the ovarian follicle grows. Oestrogen, what Hill refers to as our “Beyoncé hormone”, will leave you “feeling energised, motivated and interested in the outer world again”, much like an animal coming out of hibernation. As your energy levels increase and your inhibitions are lowered, you might also feel more positive, socially-oriented, resilient, curious or creative, great for achieving new goals at work or at home. You might also experience higher self esteem and libido as your skin clears up and increased vaginal lubrication makes sex more comfortable.

How to thrive:

  • Know your potential. With spring’s boost in creativity and energy, now is the time to feel your potential at work. Dream big and keep a journal of your ideas, and make plans to act on them in your spring and summer, when energy and confidence are at their peak.
  • Be curious and explore. Spring is a time for socialising, so make plans with friends and colleagues for spring and summer (but you may want to avoid making plans for autumn and winter, as low energy levels and a slump in mood may make a ‘play it by ear’ strategy better here).
  • Play, but don’t overdo it. With energy and curiosity climbing, you may wish to experiment with a new hobby, attend a power yoga class or go out with friends for a late night session. Just be sure not to overdo it – your energy is at a high, but it’s not unlimited. Always remember to nurture your body and go easy on yourself. 

Summer

What to expect:

What’s the first word that springs to mind when you hear the word, ‘summer’? In all likelihood, it’s ‘hot’, and the same goes for summer in your menstrual cycle. As oestrogen reaches its ultimate peak and your body pushes toward ovulation, testosterone and luteinising hormone are triggered for increased sexual energy. You’ll likely feel an intense burst of energy, your voice may raise in pitch, and you’ll develop a bit more sex appeal. As your body works hard to find sperm to fertilise its egg, you might also become more flirty, your libido will skyrocket, you’ll experience more vaginal lubrication and you’ll feel more physically affectionate. 

How to thrive:

  • Experience pleasure. A woman’s capacity for pleasure is at its maximum in summer, so leave space in your diary for fun and exploration. Get reacquainted with your partner, your own body and your desires, or if you’re single, try on a new outfit and hit a bar or restaurant for some flirting. 
  • Get to work. As energy levels peak, you may notice an increase in your productivity and efficiency. Take advantage at work and at home by taking on new projects, batch cooking (keep leftovers for your autumn, when energy begins to decrease again), and remember to keep a journal of your successes – you may need a reminder when you’re feeling low in autumn or winter.
  • Connect and communicate. As you begin to feel more social, confident and affectionate, you may wish to spend time with romantic partners, friends and family. You may even notice a better ability to communicate with difficult colleagues, roommates or in-laws. 

Autumn

What to expect:

As Hill calls it in her book, the premenstruum, or autumn, is like the ‘highway to hell’. Autumn usually begins at around day 20 of a 28-day cycle, when progesterone dominates. You’ll notice a sharp decrease in the energy that you enjoyed in spring and summer, and you may feel especially sensitive to criticism. Others may notice that you seem detached, withdrawn or even grumpy, but it’s not all bad news – you may also feel especially assertive and able to focus on what’s most important to you, and your women’s intuition will become even more powerful.

How to thrive:

  • Get lost in thought. As autumn comes into full swing, you’ll notice a “shift from the outward expression of spring and summer to the inward focus of autumn and winter.” You’ll feel more introspective and you’ll gain a sense of clarity that may not have been available to you in summer, so pay attention to what your thoughts and emotions are telling you. 
  • Use energy wisely. Energy levels decline throughout autumn, so be purposeful with the energy you do have. Notice where you peak in energy during the day, and plan to do your most difficult work during these bursts.
  • Accept help. While this can be difficult for women in autumn as they become more easily agitated and (let’s admit it) stubborn, accepting help from others will help make autumn more enjoyable. 

At &SISTERS HQ, we know not all menstrual cycles are 28 days, so we recommend downloading a period tracking app to help you better understand your seasons. We love Clue for tracking our cycle and making notes about our symptoms, from winter to autumn.

For more on Period Power’s Maisie Hill, check out our exclusive interview with the woman behind the bestseller here.