By Natasha Richardson
For me, living by the moon isn’t about moon-gazing, it’s about womb-gazing. Menstrual cycles aren't scientifically linked to the lunar calendar, but with four distinct phases each, it's easy to see why that's a common comparison. The term ‘menses’ also actually comes from the word ‘month’ in Latin, which is a measurement taken from the moon.
I learned about the link between the physical and emotional effects of the menstrual cycle through the wonderfully poetic metaphor of the moon cycle. It helped me realize that it’s okay to not feel the same every day. It’s okay to not feel like partying all the time. It’s ok to have down days and hyper days. It all comes and goes — once I understood the pattern, it was easier to not get hung up on the negative bits.
I was able to embrace my party-hard energy while ovulating, and my hermit-like tiredness while menstruating. I was even able to see the wisdom in my monthly premenstrual irritations. Now, I teach this beautiful metaphor to my patients who are seeing me for herbal medicine and students of my Peaceful Period online course because I know what peace of mind it can bring.
Bear in mind that the following measurements for each cycle phase are only estimates. If you haven’t a clue when you ovulate, I recommend getting to know yourself a little bit better by charting your cycle. Besides my online course, I also recommend checking out the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.
Dark Moon (Menstruation)
Most people wouldn’t describe their periods as a walk in the park, but menstruation doesn’t have to be all blood and pain. It can be a time of rest, self-indulgence, and duvet-days. It’s a time each month when we naturally feel self-reflective, we don’t necessarily want to talk, and that’s fine!
Take notes on your reflections, concentrate on recharging your battery, and reap the rewards later. I used to schedule 3 do-nothing days on either side of the first day of my cycle, so I never clashed social events with the start of my period. It was one of the best things I did for relieving my period pain.
Waxing Moon (Pre-Ovulation)
Most of us breathe a sigh of relief once we stop bleeding. Our energy is rising and we want to go out and see the world. This is a good time to talk through any reflections made earlier in your cycle as communication skills are improving. Put some plans in place and start getting on with it!
Full Moon (Ovulation)
You’re bursting with energy and feeling irresistibly sexy (and let’s face it, you are!). Feel free to harness these vibes whether it’s in a work meeting, with friends, or on a date — people will find it hard to say no to you at this time in your cycle. Put your ideas into action and celebrate life!
Waning Moon (Premenstrual)
PMS was my favorite behavioral excuse for years. Just a moment of hormone-induced madness, right? Wrong. PMS isn’t a random state of madness, it’s a magnifying glass for your life. It makes already bad things seem worse. It very rarely creates a problem out of the blue. It’s better to think of these symptoms as your Premenstrual Truth.
While your energy wanes, so do your communication skills, so I don’t recommend using this time to make any big confrontations. Jot your feelings down for later and return to them when you’re feeling less instinctual and more logical. When the PMT magnifying glass has passed you’ll be able to view things in their true proportion and act accordingly.
It’s normal for immunity to drop during this time (possibly to accommodate a potentially successfully fertilized egg), but if you are in a cycle of sickness consider your work-rest balance as a potential source of the problem — or better yet, see an herbalist!
An herbalist may be able to see clearly what patterns in your lifestyle and diet have lead to the current problem and coach you on how to break the cycle. They’ll prescribe herbs, dietary changes, and lifestyle improvements in a practical and manageable way. Even I see an herbalist, and I’m one myself! Sometimes you just need an outsider's point of view.
I have found that knowing about the natural ups and downs of my hormones helps me ~ride the wave~. It has made me realize that my premenstrual phase can inspire a massive download of brilliant creative ideas. Often, the things I deconstruct during my premenstrual phase turn into brilliant solutions while I bleed, amazing plans in my pre-ovulatory time, and fabulous experiences during ovulation.
If you’re ever really stuck on a big problem, give it a month and see. I guarantee it’ll enable you to see the same issue from at least four different angles, and lead to some epic breakthroughs.
How do you keep track of your cycle now? Do you feel more connected to your body and its symptoms? Share your methods with us in the comments!
Natasha Richardson is a medical herbalist from London, England. She has been helping menstruators solve their period problems for over 10 years, and is currently writing a book on stress, menstruation and herbs, due out in 2020. Join her mailing list for updates.