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When it comes to periods, one thing we usually want to know is, when will it come? There are a lot of clever apps out there that can tell you when your period is likely to arrive, saving any unwelcome vacation or date night surprises. But, the truth is there's so much more to your cycle than your period.
The menstrual cycle is a universe all of its own, affecting mood, libido, tolerance and self-confidence throughout the month. By tracking the whole cycle instead of just your period, you can open up a well-spring of wisdom and understand how your hormones affect your life. Menstrual Cycle Awareness is a beautiful practice that can bring you back into alignment in times of imbalance, keep you aligned when your cycle has stopped (e.g. due to pregnancy) or provide an anchor when your cycle starts to change in peri-menopause.
Why should you track your menstrual cycle?
The hormones that govern the cycle also have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and our loved ones, the world around us and how we fit into that.
If you've ever felt like four different people in a month, it's because you are! But, far from being a liability, having a hormonal cycle is actually a superpower, when you know how to harness it. Understanding how your cycle affects you, means being able to work with it. Imagine a planned weekend visit from your in-laws. Asking them to postpone it to the following week to avoid the two days of your cycle where you feel irritated and unsociable can be the difference between a fight with your partner or not.
Imagine the ease of being able to ask a friend to take the kids after school on that one day where you tend to feel teary and just need some time alone. Or, even better, having a circle of friends with the same awareness of their cycles, making it even easier to ask each other for help.
Cycle tracking is a simple but profound tool for self-development and self-connection which can have a ripple effect on your family, friends and society around you.
The best way to track
The best way to track your cycle, is the way that you're most likely to do it! If you're a pen-to-paper kind of person, then journaling or creating a simple grid may be better for you. If you love your mobile phone, then the Notes app might be more fitting.
Try not to get too hung up on the how. Cycle tracking is a journey and you might find that you switch methods as you go, until you find one that work best for you. You may also find that you like to have a combination of the easy analysis of apps, with the space you can have with journaling.
There is no right or wrong way, there's only your way.
Is menstrual cycle awareness complicated to do?
Your tracking can be as complex or as simple as you like. A daily check-in can be done in as little as one minute, with a word or two sum up your day. Or, if you love detail, you can make it complex with a spreadsheet and formulas to really dig into your pattern. It's completely up to you!
How to track your menstrual cycle
The first day of full bleeding (not spotting) is considered as your cycle day 1. From there, you simply count each day as you move through the cycle, and when you start your next period, you start all over again. If you're on hormonal contraception where you still have a bleed, your first day of bleeding will count as day 1.
If you're not currently having a 'natural' cycle (e.g. if pregnant, breastfeeding, post-menopause) you would use the moon phases as a guide. New Moon would be considered as your cycle day 1.
There will be times when you forget to track. It happens, so try not to get too hung up on it. If you notice that there are days where you consistently forget (or on the other side have a lot to say) this is valuable information to have too.
What to track
Since everyone's cycles are unique, the things to track will be too. You'll get the most out of it if you take a few moments to tune into areas of your life you already feel need some attention.
If you feel like your energy levels are consistently low or completely inconsistent, this might be something to track. If repetitive arguments about lack of sex or intimacy in your relationship are an issue, you might want to track your sex drive. Likewise, if you feel your confidence in parenting fluctuates a lot, you might want to track that.
Some other things you may want to track include:
- how critical you are of yourself and others
- spirituality or connection to your Self
- how argumentative you feel
- how sociable you are
I recommend starting small to start with, and keeping to the same things for at least three cycles so you can start to identify patterns. You might be able to identify specific days in your cycle where you feel emotionally sensitive, or a whole week where you feel juicy and creative. You might also find days where parenting comes easily and you feel in harmony with your children and partner.
The beauty of tracking, is that you're not trying to align with someone else's rhythms. You can live in a way that is true to you.
If you're curious about tracking, I have a free printable PDF tracker which you can get by joining my email list where I share cycle empowerment and free resources.
About the Author
Natalie Martin is a Menstrual Cycle Awareness and Empowerment Coach specializing in guiding women to discover the power of their PMS, and trade period struggle for period bliss. She loves cacao, making endless Spotify playlists and snuggles with her partner.
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