Before I get into things I want to share a quick note on cycle tracking and how a normal menstrual cycle generally works. Even though I am in perimenopause, I am still menstruating and roughly follow a normal menstrual cycle. It’s just that everything has become a bit more extreme and jumbled up. As I intend to start my entries with noting where I am in my cycle to provide a hormonal context, I hope it helps to give a quick overview of this subject first.
The general idea of cycle tracking is to keep a journal where you note where you are in your menstrual cycle and how you feel. In time this helps you to understand yourself better in relation to your hormonal cycle and to better identify and meet the needs associated with each phase of the cycle. The below is my general and personal understanding of it and may vary for other women (hence the importance of tracking your own individual cycle).
Day 1 is the first day of menstruation and starts the inner season of winter. While it can be physically challenging, on a mental/emotional level it’s actually a very calm and grounding phase for me when I feel most settled within myself. However, just like winter in nature, it’s a slow, quiet time that asks for rest and retreat, especially as our physical energy levels can be extremely low. When these needs aren’t met, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and therefore irritable. Personally I really enjoy solitude during my inner winter and find meditation sessions to be particularly productive. Somehow the mind settles more easily and more deeply during this time.
Once menstruation is over, inner spring begins, usually around day 6 (each woman’s menstrual cycle slightly varies). This is when energy levels finally start picking up again and I feel like I want to get on with stuff and get out into the world again. I feel bouncy, sociable and productive.
Day 12 (ish) marks the beginning of inner summer and the time around ovulation. Like summer in nature it’s a time when we seek pleasure and enjoyment and generally feel good about ourselves. It’s the most sexy time of the month. However, some women, including myself, can also experience heightened anxiety around this time. My personal theory around this is that this increased sense of vulnerability makes us more prone to seek out a partner for emotional support. In that way, it lowers our emotional barriers and makes us more approachable. Fact is that physically, our immune system is at its weakest during this time in order to make it as easy as possible for male sperm to reach the egg.
Around day 20 most women enter inner autumn, when our energy levels start to slowly go down again and we feel a need to withdraw a bit more and to turn inwards again. Similar to inner winter, due to less energy, things that feel easy during inner spring and inner summer can quickly start to feel like too much and with that sense of overwhelm, irritability tends to set in. It’s also a time when our inner critic is at it’s worst, and when we can’t take it anymore there can be a tendency to unleash him or her onto others instead, just to catch a break. For me it’s definitely the most unpleasant time of the cycle and to me, perimenopause actually feels like an extended inner autumn.
If anyone wants to find out more about this, I highly recommend the book “Wild Power” by Alexandra Pope and Swanje Hugo Wurlitzer. It was a game changer for me and set me on the path of working with my monthly cycle instead of against it.
They just recently released the book “Wise Power” which is about menopause and equally as good. It certainly opens your eyes to look at this transition phase as an opportunity and potential gift instead of just a nuisance.