Those of us who get periods are familiar with when PMS symptoms start and what that feels like, but what we may not know is that our hormones are actually fluctuating during our menstrual cycle, causing all sorts of changes in the body. To make the most out of each time of the month, you'll want to know the best hacks to sync up your life with your menstrual cycle. This includes making changes to your habits that can help align you with everything from your mood, your energy levels, and even to how your brain functions.
"Not only do [women] have to deal with the ins and outs of everyday life, but our bodies go through cyclical hormone changes every month that makes no two days the same," registered nurse and a certified holistic health coach Kelly Kristin tells Bustle. "Luckily, we can use these hormone fluctuations to our advantage. When you learn how to tune into your body and give it what it needs on a mind, body, and soul level [during] each phase of your cycle, you will be surprised with just how easy and in 'flow' it can be."
Your cycle consists of four phases: the Luteal Phase (the week before your period), the Menstrual Phase (when you have your period), the Follicular Phase (the week after your period), and Ovulatory Phase (3-4 days in the middle of your cycle). Each of these phases consists of changes in hormones which affect how you feel. Here are 11 hacks to help you make the most of these phases and feel your best, all month long.
1. During The Luteal Phase (Premenstrual): Choose Low-Impact Exercises
It’s important to keep your body moving throughout your cycle, but during the luteal phase, you might want to skip that bootcamp class. "The week leading up to and during menstruation, choose slower activities that connect you to your body and mind like yoga, tai chi, Pilates, or anything low impact," certified holistic health coach Alexandra Napoli tells Bustle. "The increase in movement and blood flow can help eliminate cramps and discomfort, and your mood will be lifted from the endorphins."
2. During The Luteal Phase (Premenstrual): Get A Lot Of Sleep
Getting a good night's sleep is critical to your mental and physical health, especially the weeks before your period. "Sleep deprivation can affect your ability to be efficient at work, school, and home," Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN tells Bustle. "Focusing, thinking clearly and reacting to everyday activities is compromised. Emotionally, you will feel frustrated, moody, irritable, and stressed, especially if you are already feeling hormonally challenged."
3. During The Luteal Phase (Premenstrual): Load Up On Vitamin B
Even with all the PMS cravings, make sure to get some vitamin B in your diet during this time. "Focus on foods like grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon or veggies like spinach or collard greens," says Kristin. "As you transition into menstruation, make sure you are getting enough magnesium through leafy greens." This way your body can get ready for menstruation in the week leading up to your period.
4. During The Menstrual Phase: Eat Iron-Rich Foods
When you lose blood, you lose iron, so maintain your iron levels by eating iron-rich foods such as leafy greens, red meats, and beans during your period. "Many women also find they’re more tired than usual, so make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep a night and opt for light exercise instead of high-intensity workouts," Aspen Laneman, MD, OB/GYN, tells Bustle.
5. During The Menstrual Phase: Stay Away From Alcohol & Salt
If you're bloated, consider reducing booze and high-sodium foods when you're on your period. "Limit your alcohol consumption during this sensitive time during your cycle, since it makes bloating symptoms worse," says Ross. Food high in sodium can also contribute to these symptoms, says Ross, so pay attention to how you're feeling and make adjustments if need be.
6. During The Follicular Phase (The Week After Your Period): Exercise Often
During the week after your period, your estrogen increases, and you might find that you're ready to tackle anything. "This is the time of the month that many women find to be their best," says Laneman. "Increased estrogen can boost energy levels."
7. During The Follicular Phase (The Week After Your Period): Try Something New
"In your follicular phase, it is a time of creation and curiosity," says Kristin. "Go try that new restaurant you have been eyeing, and start to fill in your social calendar." It might also be a good time to toy with some ideas at work, tackle a big project, or try a new activity you're curious about.
8. During The Ovulating Phase (3 - 4 Days In The Middle Of Your Cycle): Schedule Meetings
You might feel more communicative, energetic, or social during ovulation, so use that to your advantage and go after what you desire. "Scheduling important events, like meetings for promotions, around the time of ovulation may make you feel more confident," Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG tells Bustle.
9. During The Ovulating Phase (3 - 4 Days In The Middle Of Your Cycle): Go On Date Nights
Women's libidos tend to increase during ovulation, which makes it a great time to do something fun with a partner. "Scheduling romantic getaways around time of ovulation may increase your sex drive, but it also increases the chance of an accidental pregnancy, so reliable contraception is important," says Twogood.
Everyone experiences the menstrual cycle differently, but consider these hacks as guidelines to help navigate through the changes in your hormones.