When your best friend gives you a challenge, you must accept, right?
Right. So if that challenge is a blog for her new business, and your skill is writing, it seems like a doddle right? Well, in this case, that is wrong: really bloody wrong! You see my friend knows me well – she knew (the cheeky little minx) that her challenge would become a full on exploration of myself; one she knew would change the course of my life. No dear reader, this is not sensationalism – read on and I’ll prove it!
It started so simply…
…a casual conversation one day over a cup of hot chocolate (I should have been suspicious – she is always ‘encouraging’ me to remove the sugar from my life!) “Can you write me a blog Claire?” she asked. Seven simple enough words. “It’ll be quite quick Claire,” she said, “just observe your menstrual cycle for a month.” Well, with the benefit of hindsight, I call bullshit! She knew. She knew it would turn into a MUCH LARGER beast. But, of course it would, I am ‘programmed’ with academia so, obviously, I then conducted a 4-month research project (this meant I could use quantitative data (measurable = numbers and graphs) as well as qualitative data (thoughts and opinions) and be able to judge the reliability of my methodologies and set in plans recommendations for the future.)
Tara Perlaki (Founder of The Feminine Space) gave me a quick brief: “Your menstrual cycle has four seasons and they are represented as follows:
- Winter – the 7 days (or your number, if like me your cycle is short) of your bleed;
- Spring – the 7 days before ovulation begins;
- Summer – the next 7 days (usually incorporating ovulation);
- Autumn – the 7 days leading to your bleed (or PMT hell as I call it!)
She furthered explained that the simple act of charting my cycle, what happens to my body, over a month should give me an idea of the truth of my monthly journey – an idea of how I behave (or misbehave usually in my case!)
I was also tasked in ensuring I consumed the pertinent information on these seasons and I have done my best to make it succinct for you:
The four seasons of menstrual cycle
Winter – this is the time of your bleed. In this period (don’t pardon the pun, I meant it!) we should attempt to be still, quiet, inward, reducing physical activity and increasing our rest, including meditation if we are capable. (I am not capable lovely reader; my meditation consists of silent contemplation – the most I can manage!) You should do no more than gather the information that seems important now but hold on to this – now is not the time to act. (I wish I had known this earlier!) Should any ‘niggles’ be bothering you, the spring and summer will show you if these need action, otherwise it’s time to do as Queen Elsa would and “Let it go!”
Spring – this denotes the end of your bleed: hallelujah! This is the time leading up to Ovulation and hence a time when you are truly dynamic. This is the most creative season of your cycle – time to plan, create and action new projects. Your energy should be super high and super sustainable. (A HUGE bloody yay to Spring!)
Summer – this is the time from ovulation to PMT time (for me anyway!) This is where you should feel your most ‘comfortable’. Your energy is good, as is your empathetic ability and patience. This is the time for you to focus on the detail of new projects as evaluating and analysing abilities are strong.
Autumn – now this (certainly for me) is the most difficult of the seasons and this is the season leading to your bleed (or PMT for some!) This is where women are prone to feel frustrated, our energy is depleting as the womb and other bits do their work and our body needs energy to do this. We may feel pulled in different directions although our inner truth may be more obvious here. We can spot these niggles but we must not act – DO NOT ENTER INTO BATTLE. Any niggle now could be truth but it could also be a symptom of our irrationality (and this is acceptable irrationality – let’s forgive ourselves for it: it is nature – we are not in control.) Knowing that we are less coordinated, connected or in control in this season is the first step – resistance is futile as it will only create antagonism.
Month 1: realisation and the path to acceptance.
So off I went folks, blindly into this ‘quick’ charting of my cycle. The insights happened rapidly and having the information above was a true revelation – I felt okay about the peaks and troughs (these were now written down by someone else) so I gave myself permission to feel how I felt and, by the powers of greyskull, this alone was hugely liberating! I also quickly realised that I have peaks and troughs within the month that I wasn’t previously aware of: AT ALL! Finding out that I am a maximum of 23 days in my cycle wasn’t a massive surprise as I charted my ovulation before conceiving my children, but I thought that it may have extended as I have got older. Alas no, I bleed every 23 days at least (sometimes I come on a week quicker and get DMT!!) I tried not to focus on the fact that this meant I bleed 16 times per year, as opposed to the ‘typical’ 13 times per year: if only I were worse at maths!!
It felt great though – the writing down of my thoughts and feelings: from the lovely, “this is clearly a great day to utilise in the future,” to the, “I simply could not cope alone – had to call in the Grandma reinforcements for help with the children: were they always this f***ing loud?!” However, being armed with the information above, I allowed myself to have these feelings: they did not mean I did not love my children but simply that there may be times in the month when having help with childcare is more profitable, more useful. Already this was getting bigger and bigger…
Month 2: I’m really getting into this!
So, month 1 had given me a great insight but I had started to realise that this journey was much longer – I had to see whether patterns were repeated and if those ‘high’ days are replicated every month (what a day for a sales meeting, for instance!) As Tara’s specialisms are wide ranging, I had an idea to start charting the 5 areas we always discussed (and that her research had proved were all linked to the cycle.) So, could I find any way to chart, analyse and thereby improve:
- mental health;
- physical energy;
- the need for solitude;
- levels of creativity;
- food/drink cravings?
The only way (as a maths teacher) that I felt I could show correlations was to start using qualitative data – this way I should be able to see at a glance where my patterns were. I gave myself a mark from 0-10 for each area. The closer to 0, the more negative I felt (bad food cravings, needing to be alone, inactive, grumpy and uncreative are the benchmarks for this.) The closer to 10, the better I felt (in control of food, wanting to socialise, exercise, smile and work!) My first month (technically month 2 but the first month of quantitative data) looked like this:
As you can see, my patterns were very similar for all of the areas – I have definite, visual peaks and troughs and they are my truth – what my body, brain and ladies’ bits go through month on month.
Month 3 brings some serious changes…
Only once I had a visual explanation of my cycle did I realise the true power of it – taking serious notice could benefit me in planning my work month. Now that my diary is my own, and because I had failed thus far, taking notice of the days and what I had been like previously could help me to produce a monthly business plan: one that plays to the affinity I am feeling, more according to my cyclical ‘abilities.’ More than this, I implemented meetings, writing at home, sales marketing and social media updates based on how I felt the month before and, do you know what, it bloody worked! I found that I was able to work more without pressure of what I should be doing, in other words GUILT FREE (hallelujah to this shift alone!) This lead to a much more stabilised month with regards to mental health, physical health and my solitude and cravings.
The results of month 4
I am delighted to tell you that in one third of a year (all us busy professional mums now how quickly that flies) I can note and illustrate to you that both my mental and physical health is significantly improved. I truly believe that this is largely because I can now feel better about how I deal with things – I have given myself permission to be whatever I am, to find solace in the similarities to my sisters and bingo: not exercising leaves no guilt.
My business is booming (despite me thinking it would be a while before it took off) and I credit this to now truly understanding how to utilise myself, according to me. Wow: it feels liberating to just write this down!
There’s still a way to go though…
Although things have definitely improved in some areas, it is clear from the month 4 chart that I still need to work on my food intake. How will this ever happen? (I’m asking myself more than you lovely reader!) I will use the next two months to focus more on food and breaking this down into sugar/cars/protein/alcohol and attempting to improve these micro-sections step-by-step and it by bit! I also need to learn to centre myself creatively although I do accept that this will always be a little unpredictable: stereotypes are usually borne out of a commonality after all.
However, the biggest difference is in my mental health, little did I know how much of a slave I was to my guilt, to this idea that I should be feeling a certain way or I should be able to do something. How many of us give ourselves the hardest time for the way we feel? I hear you sisters, I feel your pain. But let us ask this, do men? Do they question their every move and worry about everything – my husband’s answer was simply, “no, what would be the point of that? What a waste of time!” And lovely ladies, alas he is correct. In this case, let’s take a lesson from my energy efficient spouse. Let‘s not worry, let’s not feel guilty. We absolutely are what we are and we feel the way we feel. We must give ourselves permission, allow ourselves to be whatever we want to be, if that means we recede on certain days, put our feet up and eat chocolate, so f***ing what?! I am my cycle, I am at its behest and I am listening! I am also thoroughly bloody enjoying the happiness it brings me and I feel free to own my womb!
Over to you my sisters – go forth and own yours!
This amazing blog was written by guest speaker Claire Duffy from Claire Duffy Copywriting and Creatives.
For more information on Claire’s work, visit: www.claireduffy.me or follow on Facebook at Claire Duffy Copywriting & Creatives.
TARA PERLAKI – YOUR FEMININE FLOW CHAMPION!
Tara works with women to educate them with positive, helpful and healthy ways in which they can work with their fertility, their periods and embracing their femininity.
If you’ve found this blog to be helpful, feel free to hop across and have a read through some of the others that are on the website or check out my latest courses here.
Also, I have The Feminine Space Facebook page, which will be great for you to ‘Like’ and keep up to date with the latest goings on from The Feminine Space.
P.S.: As an extra little special treat, I have also set up a private Facebook group called “Connect to your Feminine Flow” – come and join us! It’s a small, intimate group, that’s been created as a safe space for you to get curious about your body – after all, it’s the only one you have!
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