Hey darlings, remember that time we got *really* into detail on the topic of your menstrual cycle?
As we discussed back then, though one week of it in particular receives the most attention, our hormones are in constant flux, and we could all get a little more familiar with how they affect us every day – not just that one time of the month!
On top of that, now we are adapting to a new and unfamiliar reality of self-isolation and perhaps complete quarantine – it is even more important to take care of yourself with your hormone levels in mind.
From what you eat, what you wear, to how you act, your hormone balance at any given time can have a profound impact on your behaviour. So how can you be more mindful of this under the current lifestyle limitations?
Here’s our revised breakdown of the phases of the menstrual cycle, and how to best care for yourself at every state – quarantine-style:
Tips on managing your Menstrual Cycle
This is when your period begins. Though this isn’t most people’s favourite time of the month, the good news is that your oestrogen level hit rock bottom yesterday – so it is all downhill from here! Any nasty PMS symptoms you experienced the week before are already easing off. And although you may be feeling a little fragile, these are the best days when it comes to indulging in self-care. And being at home with no responsibilities to force you out of this comfortable cocoon happens to be exactly what you need right now.
You may want to consider a long-term menstrual product if you haven’t already, as just a one-time online purchase of a menstrual cup or reusable pads means you are sorted for years. This can be a game-changer now that supermarket trips and online delivery slots are hard to come by – not to mention the reduced waste and ecological impact!
A good time to:
Self-care – Seriously: if not now, then when? Not only are you trying to keep your head amidst global panic and social isolation, but to top that, now your body is sending you a biological plea to take it easy. Take some time out for yourself and don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel at your physical, mental, or emotional peak. Get that hot water bottle, your chosen form of entertainment, and relish in some alone time. The great part is that even if you have to work from home, you get the rare chance to wear exactly what makes you feel good and keep movement to the bare minimum during this time.
Minerals – Now it’s especially important to make sure you get plenty of magnesium, potassium, and iron to replace what you are losing through your blood and to support the abdominal muscles. Nowadays, you may not be able to have as varied a diet as usual, but as long as you keep well stocked up on cupboard staples such as beans and lentils, and keep green vegetables in the freezer like spinach and kale, you can still get these vital nutrients. And supplement with a multi-vitamin when you can!
Hydrate – Menstruation will also likely leave you more dehydrated than normal. Upping your H20 intake will also ease any nasty symptoms – and now that you are never more than a few strides away from your kitchen sink, it’s never been easier to drink water throughout the day!
Follicular Phase & Ovulation
Oestrogen is now increasing by the hour making you more upbeat, productive, optimistic, and (perhaps to your dismay, right now) sociable. You are also officially most attractive during this week, by the way, as you are the most fertile. This means that your skin becomes more glowing and your face even becomes more symmetrical?! Hey – at least you may look better on your video calls…
Let’s be honest – nowadays, this sudden surge in energy, confidence, and a yearning to take risks and try new experiences, can be a bit deflating, and leave you bouncing off the walls…
A good time to:
Work out – You can (most likely) still burn this nervous energy on your daily walk or run. You not only will perform your best right now, meaning you will get more out of the practice. It will make you feel much better, dissipating any of the oestrogen-fuelled jitters or anxiety that many of us get as an unfortunate side-effect of the peak of this hormone.
Get creative – Channel the sudden gust of creativity into new projects you can do from the comfort of your home, such as painting or writing. This will not only keep your buzzing brain busy, but it will give you a sense of purpose during these uncertain times, and also help to fill your days with something other than the endless stream of anxiety-laden news.
Following ovulation, there is a sudden hormone change. Your estrogen now drops and your progesterone and testosterone levels rise. Lethargy is accompanied by oily skin, irritability, and all the emotions. While water retention and bloating make you feel larger (only intensifying said emotions…)
You may also struggle with drops in blood sugar during this time of the month – an unfortunate accompaniment to your overall irritability and aforementioned heightened emotions – which is why many reach for the sweets at this point. If you snack on fruit (or whatever else you fancy!) throughout the day, you can avoid the unpleasant shaky feeling which should also keep your mood swings at bay.
The good news? The quarantine lifestyle is basically all you want right now. So draw those curtains, whack on Netflix and cook yourself something comforting. Your body needs it, okay.
A good time to:
Face mask – With your skin likely doing its own thing right now, it’s a better time than ever to experiment with face masks to keep you feeling fresh. And now you can apply them whenever you want – no one needs to know! Just be sure you won’t have any video conference call surprises…
Enjoy a hot bath – A hot bath is a great way to soothe any crappy mood. And now it can be your little spa haven within your own four walls. Taking a relaxing bath has actually been proven to decrease cortisol levels, which in turn makes sure that the rest of your hormones are in check.
Meditate – Similarly, this may be a great time for you to have another crack at meditation. It should help to calm any racing thoughts, current affairs burnout, and general health anxiety – as well as any hormonal irritability you now have on top of all that. It serves as a nice way to wind down and reconnect with yourself before your most challenging time of the month hits in a few days’ time. And if you struggle with meditation in the classical sense, then try some alternative ways to unwind and ground yourself.
Oestrogen now hits rock bottom. And so do your energy and motivation levels. Meanwhile, your appetite and desire to sleep are suddenly off the charts… Now that your progesterone levels are at their peak, you may experience swollen or painful breasts and your urge to cocoon yourself away from all of life’s responsibilities is hard to resist. So here’s an idea: don’t resist it. Be kind to yourself and take care of your body during these challenging days.
Perhaps appropriately, you are attracted to familiarity during this week – think comfort foods, known and trusted environments, and an aversion to meeting new people or trying new experiences. Sound familiar…?
These desires are completely normal during this phase, as your body is in the final stages of preparing for a potential pregnancy and so you naturally crave stable environments and many calories… As such, your growing desire to curl up in bed, eat for two and watch cute animal videos is actually completely natural and justifiable – not to mention currently government-approved!
A good time to:
Eat like a queen – Speaking of which, some research suggests you are actually burning more calories during this time, as your body is basically in nesting mode – and likely craving high iron and magnesium-rich foods. So give your body what it needs – dark chocolate, whole grains, green vegetables, bananas, tofu, and beans are great examples – and should keep any cravings and bouts of dizziness at bay.
Work out – It may take extra will-power to get into your sports bra this week, but don’t skip your daily (and responsible) jog. The after-effect will only have more of a high. If you struggle with progesterone-inflicted breast tenderness, then getting your blood pumping can ease this too.
Sleep like a baby – You are likely much more tired these days – not only because current affairs make us want to hide under the covers, but all this progesterone is lulling into a soft slumber. On the plus side, especially if you otherwise struggle with insomnia, you can now benefit from much better quality sleep. Don’t fight it! Your body needs that extra rest.
…Because then, you get to start all over again
So that’s a wrap on the general hormonal rollercoaster that you can enjoy as a menstruating human in quarantine or social isolation. Once you know what to expect each week and the reasons behind your inclinations, you can better care for yourself and give your body and mind what they really need.
This is of course only a general guideline since we are all different, with varying hormone levels and cycle lengths. But if you struggle with prolonged, unexplained hormone fluctuations, then look into underlying issues.
And if you’re not the best at keeping track of when you’re next due to bleed – never mind the rest – then get yourself an app! I recommend “Period Log” to keep track of your cycle, and “Hormone Horoscope” to get a rundown of your hormone levels each day.
What strange symptoms or emotions do you get on a monthly basis? And how are you now coping while stuck at home? Let us know down in the comments!