a beginner’s guide to tracking your menstrual cycle

Jul 14, 2020 | all, period, wellness | 1 comment

How to track your menstrual cycle

Getting to know your menstrual cycle through cycle tracking is the key to unlocking your sense of wellbeing in all aspects of your life. From your work schedule to your social calendar, your skincare routines to your self-care practices, knowing what your hormones are up to and what you can expect from your body, behaviour, and moods at each stage of your menstrual cycle can help you learn how to take care of yourself and set reasonable expectations for yourself, every damn day.

First things first – what is cycle tracking?

Cycle tracking is having a quick check-in with yourself each day and keeping a record of how you’re feeling, physically, mentally, and emotionally, every day. Okay, so maybe every bloody day sounds like a bit of a stretch for you, especially if you’re the kind of person who took one look at the bullet journal trend and promptly wanted to scream. But the great thing about cycle tracking is you can adapt it to suit you – you’re the only one who stands to benefit from this, so have a think about how you’ll get the most out of the practise. Do you want to scribble a general overview of your weekly mood every sunday? Try to make a note of any key symptoms every three days? Track fewer symptoms but multiple times a day? The cycle-tracking sheet is your oyster.

How to start cycle tracking

It’s best to start cycle tracking on the first day of your period, as this is the first day of your menstrual cycle. Your menstrual cycle ends the day before your next period starts. Of course you can start keeping a note of your mood and symptoms any day – hell, do it right now – but you likely won’t know which day of your cycle you’re on til your next period begins and you can start counting from square one.

Getting stuck into cycle tracking is as easy as writing down the first day of your period and then keeping a note of how many days it is until your next one starts. This will give you an idea of how long your cycle’s seasons are – a 22-day cycle will have considerably shorter seasons than a 35-day cycle.

Then start logging basic physical symptoms, mood, and energy. You don’t have to log the same symptoms every day, just a few key ones.

Tracking my period symptoms

Keeping a log of your menstrual cycle will look different for each person – maybe you just want to write down any words that spring to mind, or maybe you’ll come up with a couple of categories that you want to check in with and maybe even give a 1-5 rating for each day.

Symptoms you might want to track include: sex drive, energy, tiredness, mood (happy, sad, axious, excited?), pain and/or cramps, bloating, appetite, and how you’re feeling about your significant relationships (like with your partner, flatmates, or parents… or even your boss, if you think you have something to gain from keeping a track of how they make you feel!)

The further you get into your cycle-tracking journey, the more factors you may want to keep note of. For example, logging when you had sex, if you argued with a friend or had a stressful day at work, when you drank alcohol, or if you had an unusally high or low caffiene intake on a given day could also affect how you feel. These are not necessary when you’re just starting out but are useful for the more obsessive among us (guilty) when we’re looking to differentiate between situational influences on our mood or stress levels and internal hormonal fluctuations that may be influencing us.

How to use your cycle information

Keeping a note of your cycle trends is key to actually benefiting from this practise. Once you’ve been tracking for 2-3 cycles, you’ll be able to identify broad trends such as when your sex drive is highest or when you should remember to wear your stretchy trousers because of how much you bloat on certain days. Below are prompts you can use to begin identifying common trends throughout your cycle.

In my winter I usually feel…
In my spring I usually feel…
In my summer I usually feel…
In my autumn I usually feel…
I am most motivated when…
I am likely to be more irritable when…
I should remember to take it easier during workouts when…
I should schedule in quality “me-time” when…
My appetite changes throughout my cycle like this…
My energy levels are at their highest when…
I feel sexiest when…

The four seasons of the menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle can be broadly divided into four phases which describe when your body goes through every bloody cycle, from day one of your bleed to the final day before your next period starts. It’s a useful framework for understanding just what on earth is happening in your body and how your hormone levels are fluctuating throughout your cycle. It helps to think of these four phases as mirroring the seasons of the year – Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

Every cycle, we pass through each of these seasons – the length of each will vary depending on how long your cycle is and can be affected by external factors – the date of ovulation, for example, can change cycle-to-cycle, which will affect the patterns on the other seasons.

Phase one: This is the menstrual phase (more commonly known as the bleeding-from-vagina phase), which we refer to as Winter. During Winter, your reproductive hormones are all at their lowest levels of the whole cycle and your uterus is working hard on shedding that lining. This is the perfect time to practise letting go of things which aren’t serving you and cast a critical eye over your life in order to set goals for the rest of your cycle.

Phase two: The follicular stage occurs after your period ends and is known as Spring. As your oestrogen levels rise, so does your mood and energy. This is the phase where you’re eager to try new things, take risks, and break from routine.

Phase three: The ovulatory phase, aka summer, arrives around the middle of your cycle. As Spring moves into Summer, oestrogen and testosterone peak, progesterone is on the rise, and you experience ovulation (aka you’re probably hornier than usual, super confident, and at your most energetic and sociable). Post-ovulation, oestrogen starts to fall.

Phase four: the final phase of the menstrual cycle is the luteal phase, or Autumn – the final stage before the cycle starts all over again. During this phase, progesterone peaks, encouraging you to retreat inwards, rest, and prepare for Winter.

The finish line

At ohne, we’re huge fans of cycle tracking. Knowing where you’re at in your menstrual cycle and what your hormones are up to is a great way to stay in tune with your body and adapt to its needs at any given time. Once you’re in tune with the rhythms of your reproductive and sex hormones, you’ll become aware of the ways in whcih they affect your energy levels, mood, motivation, appetite, etc, differently every day. You can use this information to sync your schedule up with your cycle and prepare adequately for events, obligations, and socialising.

Bella

Bella

content manager

Bella is a pet-less animal lover, serial plant-killer, and obsessive playlist-maker. When she’s not writing about periods and waxing lyrical about the joys of organic tampons, you can find her writing here. She listens to too many podcasts and thinks you should probably drink more water.

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