The Benefits of Cyclical Living
I’ll start with total honesty.
When Emma asked me if I’d write an article about Cyclical Living, I envisaged myself cycling the local countryside, sampling all the cycling hubs and coffee spots around Hampshire…
Little did I know I was to be thrown into the world of living by one’s cycles; predominantly – the menstrual cycle. I know, I’ve said it… MENSTRUATION… but stick with me…
In essence, cyclical living is the belief that when we work in sync with our periods, we can optimise our life and improve our wellbeing, reduce stress, increase our creativity and productivity.
Sounds good right?
Luckily, I had an expert, the very lovely Lou Perham, on my side to help me get up to speed. Lou is a trained Menstruality Mentor with experience helping women find a flow (excuse the pun) within their natural cyclical rhythms.
The Two Energies Of Your Cycle
So, Lou tells me that there are two energetic sides to our cycle; ‘via-positiva’, the ‘rise’ and the ‘via-negativa’, the ‘fall’. Maybe unsurprisingly, in our ‘rise’ we are the more social, playful, extroverted versions of ourselves. Should we expect ourselves to be the same every day? Absolutely not. So, I reckon we can blame our ‘fall’ for those ‘I-hate-everyone-and-everything’ type days.
Turns out that we pivot between these two points in our physical cycle, ovulation and menstruation. No wonder life can often feel a bit like an emotional rollercoaster!
The 4 Seasons of Your Cycle
Now the teaching steps up a gear.
We’re not just working through two energy cycles but these energies also sync into four ‘seasons’ of our cycle too. And no, this isn’t a full day pass at a Four Seasons Luxury Spa – bummer.
It’s more like going through the highs of Spring and Summer and the lows of Autumn and Winter all in one month. Thank you, Mother Nature.
In the first week of your cycle, (starting from when your period has ended) oestrogen starts to increase. This is the follicular phase, known in the cyclical living world as our ‘Spring’, when we typically may feel more confident, positive and energised. Makes sense so far.
“Many people find a favourite season. I’m a natural ‘Springer’, it’s like coming out of a cave for me.
………I feel creative, innovative and playful. I’m usually full of ideas at this time and ok with making mistakes.” Lou tells me.
Summer is of course, ovulation. We’re in ‘full bloom’ so to speak. It’s the time to get sh*t done and the perfect opportunity for dedicating our energy to the things that matter most. Do you feel more engaged 2 weeks into your cycle? Ovulation is probably why.
Apparently, the crossover between Spring and Summer is a time to say ‘yes!’ to things again, finally. Our extrovert resurfaces and we have oodles of energy to make time for others, our time to feel like Super Women and tune into our Inner Champions!
Celebration at the end of our Summer, the time of post ovulation, is essential. It prepares us for our Inner Critic which commonly rears its head more in Autumn – aka, the pre-menstrual phase. Fantastic, just what we need after our Summer high!
Do men have any idea how easy they have it?!
The shift from Autumn to Winter (menstruation) is about going into hibernation, or nesting. We feel less social and more introverted.
“The transition from Autumn to Winter is often one that many people can identify with. When the laundry makes you want to cry.
If nothing else, just awareness of this point of the cycle is key. It’s a time when you may just need to say ‘no’ to things in order to look after yourself better.” Lou says.
As we finish menstruating and start coming out of Winter (Hallelujah), we should start to feel replenished, rested and ready to face the bright lights of Spring again. But Lou warns me here that it’s important to hold onto some of this energy as we need it to last us through the month.
“Your Autumn season may start to feel terrifying, but it can also be an incredibly efficient, creative and effective time. You’re essentially clearing out ready to ‘hibernate’, so you can get loads done!
……….When you learn to listen and manage your inner critic, you can love your Autumn, even if it does feel like such a stark contrast to your Summer.”…….
Your Cycle and Self Awareness
“Menstrual cycle awareness (MCA) is a mindfulness practice. It can be a really spiritual for some and a very practical one for others.”
Being aware of how you change in accordance with your cycle can be an incredibly empowering tool. However, Lou points out that being cyclical does not limit you.
“You can do all the things in life at any point in your cycle, it’s just how you are naturally in your energy, you may do it in a different way.”
Inner Champion and Inner Critic
I’m sure we are all pretty familiar with our inner critic. That pesky little voice in your head that is so super quick to criticise everything we do.
As if having an overactive inner critic wasn’t bad enough, Menstrual Cycle Awareness (MCA) gives our inner critic a comfy, snug home in our inner Autumn phase (premenstrual phase).
“Your inner critic may feel like the ‘bad guy’ but accept that it is part of you. It is there to serve you. And it is usually trying to tell you something important.”
But never fear, we also have a fantastic ally in our inner champion. Yay – some good news! It can be an uncomfortable thing to praise yourself, but your inner champion gives you permission to celebrate yourself and celebrating is a key part of cyclical living.
Sadly, many of us sit much more naturally with our inner critic. So, let’s all learn to lean on our inner champions a bit more for feedback when our inner critic starts taking over.
“Your inner champion encourages you. Your inner critic reflects on how we could do it better next time. Both are essential for balance.”
Coming Full Circle
In summary, I’ve always been pretty science-led. I like to know there’s evidence in a method before throwing myself into anything, so I was initially dubious about how spiritual this practice would be. But I was proven wrong, that a lot of the concepts within Cyclical Living sit atop the science.
“Learning to accept yourself in all versions gives you so much more compassion, understanding and empathy for yourself. There is power in this.”
Practical or spiritual, Cyclical Living won’t be for everyone. But, I came away from this with two clear facts of my own…
Firstly, it can only be a good thing that we all better understand our cycles, that we start to normalise conversations, have more awareness about the hormonal changes involved and how to better look after ourselves during each stage.
And secondly, and most importantly, Cyclical Living is already proving hugely helpful for many people. So surely that’s a positive argument enough in itself.
Lou studied at the Red School, where programmes are set up to help learners educate, uplift and inspire people to experience the full power of their cyclical cycle through menstrual awareness.
She offers a range of courses including ‘Discover the Power of your Cycle’, a four month programme and ‘Deep Dive into your Cycle’ a two-hour session perfect as an introduction.
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