Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Feeling Exhausted Every Month? It’s Hormones, Baby – Here’s How to Work WITH Your Cycle & Build Your Best Routine Yet

Heard of cycle syncing before? Women are affected by their hormonal fluctuations throughout the month, and establishing a routine that works WITH those phases and hormones rather than against them like we’ve been taught to do is the key to productivity, clarity and happiness, says guest writer and neuro-linguistic programming practitioner Olivia Chitty. 

Ladies, let’s have a quick check in…have you ever wondered why sometimes during the month you’re bursting with energy, super social, productive and confident, but then other days you feel exhausted, drained and your inner critic takes over. You can’t concentrate and just want to be alone. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there – but it’s important to acknowledge, it’s not your fault.

It can be so easy to beat yourself up if you’re not able to operate at 100% every day.

We want to be Wonder Woman, #missindependent, the girl who’s got it all together. So, when we have a to-do list that we’re determined to tick off, it’s easy to ignore our body when it’s desperately calling for rest.

However, women are cyclical beings with fluctuating hormones, energy levels and emotions due to our menstrual cycle. We’re not the same everyday so it’s unfair to expect the same output every single day. With worrying levels of burnout, mental health issues and hormonal imbalances in women, it’s never been more pertinent to take a step back to reassess our priorities and the pressure we put on ourselves.

Oliva Chitty

We’ve been brought up with this expectation that we need to be ON all the time, constantly doing and achieving in order to be successful. It’s like, if we’re not hustling, we’re lazy. This narrative needs to change. The answer? A new perspective that encourages self-care, work/life balance, and space to breathe. With this, we can achieve holistic success, and I’m not just talking about money, I’m talking about quality connections, creativity, spirituality, and physical, mental and emotional health.

As an NLP practitioner and life coach, I’m constantly supporting ambitious women who are overwhelmed and exhausted. A common issue is this internal battle between wanting to take it easy, but then feeling guilty, like they don’t deserve rest because they haven’t achieved enough. It can come back to a few things: Firstly, a lack of self-worth which leads them to constantly seeking external validation through achievements. Secondly, a lack of education around their menstrual cycle and hormones, and how it actually affects them. Then, finally, the ‘go go go’ nature of society and the rat race to success.

There’s this idea that having a consistent daily routine is the key to productivity and success. Yes, there’s some truth in that, but there’s also a bit of BS. I do love a good routine but not the kind where you have all of these rigid rules and heavy expectations on yourself. That approach tends to set you up for disappointment and leads to negative self-talk when you don’t have the energy to meet those expectations.

Body clocks in men vs women

The standard ‘same shit every day’ routine works well for men because they only have one body clock to deal with (The Circadian Rhythm) and the same hormone and energy cycles every 24 hours. Women on the other hand, have a second clock to consider. Our Infradian Rhythm, the 28-day cycle that regulates our menstrual cycle and affects six different systems of the female body.

It blew my mind when I found out our brain chemistry can change up to 25% across the month, messing with our mood, our emotions, our focus and our communication. It’s only natural to experience such highs and lows, as our hormones take us on a rollercoaster.

We also have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in one part of our cycle, and not only that, our metabolism speeds up and slows down across the month. That’s why it’s important to adapt what you eat and the intensity of your workouts each week in order to optimise your metabolism and energy. If you continually push yourself when your mind and body really need a break, you will only bump up cortisol levels even further, adding to your stress and inflammation. This will also disrupt your hormones, leaving you feeling anxious, unfocussed and a bit depleted.

We’ve been brought up with this expectation that we need to be ON all the time, constantly doing and achieving in order to be successful. It’s like, if we’re not hustling, we’re lazy. This narrative needs to change.

Olivia Chitty

It’s fair to say our bodies go through a lot. So please realise you’re not crazy and you’re not lazy – you are perfectly normal! Once you start to learn more about your hormones and what’s really going on in your body, you can create a routine that evolves and works WITH those phases, rather than against them like we’ve been taught.

We really should have been taught more of this in school but I’m on a mission to change that.

After my own battle with burnout when I built my first business, I felt disconnected from my body after 10 years on the pill. I went on a journey to find a better and more balanced way of living. I went down the most empowering rabbit hole, educating myself on the incredible menstrual cycle and female hormones.

However, this knowledge only helped me fight half the battle. I had to break out of my masculine mindset to find my feminine flow. Once I had that breakthrough, I was able to truly embrace a more cyclical way of living and find ME again. This changed my life and how I approach everything. 

As a go-getter, productivity has always been a priority, so I started planning my work schedule to suit the unique strengths of each phase. This was a game changer. It was purposeful rather than panicked and I was able to achieve my goals with passion NOT pressure.

How to create a routine that supports your cycle

There are four phases in our cycle, beginning with our menstrual phase (day 1-7 when you have your period, or new moon – half moon). This is our inner winter, when our energy and mood take a dive, whilst cravings, emotions and cramps creep in. The goal for this phase is to REST and reflect. Dial down the workload, clear your schedule and chill! Swap the weights for a walk or some yin yoga, and make sure to include foods rich in iron and vitamin C to help replenish levels lost during our bleed.

Follicular phase is next, our inner spring (half moon-full moon), with rising estrogen, you may notice increased energy, focus and willpower, so it’s a good time to ramp up exercise, trial that healthy eating plan and get organised by planning the month ahead.

Ovulation, our inner summer (full moon – half moon) is the perfect time to take advantage of increased energy, confidence and sex drive! You may feel more social and outgoing so it’s an optimum time for first dates, dinners with friends, presentations and collaborations. However, you could experience some cramps so listen to your body!

Finally, we have the luteal phase, our inner autumn (half moon – new moon). As estrogen and progesterone plunge, as does our energy, mood and confidence. Increase complex carbs, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B to curb the cravings and balance your energy. The goal for this phase is to stay focused, finish projects and tie up any loose ends so when your period comes, you can enjoy guilt-free relaxation time.

And, it’s important to note, even if you don’t get a period you can still embrace this cyclical lifestyle by using the moon phases as your guide.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out Olivia’s  ‘Burnout ~ Balance’ course, and her ‘Balanced Life Dashboard’ – a digital platform to manage your work, life and wellbeing all in one place. There’s even a cycle syncing tool and monthly planner to help you put things into practice. The course is intentionally created to help ambitious women overcome the limitations of their own mind, reconnect with their inner guidance, and to bring their life back into balance. Balancedbyolivia.com 

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