Do you have days where you feel capable of taking on the world – super productive, social, creative, or confident? Then, are there other days where getting anything done feels like a challenge or that you want to cancel all of your plans and enjoy your solitude and nap?

If you’ve never tracked these ebbs and flows of your body, keep reading to see how your hormonal cycle could be playing a role!

What hormonal cycle?

Our bodies release varying amounts of hormones throughout the day or month depending on factors such as sex chromosomes (XY, XX, XXY, etc.), age, stress, sexual activity, and more. For example, many XY individuals are on daily testosterone cycles that decrease with age (some also experience seasonal shifts). For menstruators, there is a monthly cycle with estrogen and progesterone peaks and dips that decrease during menopause.

This article is dedicated to menstruators with a pretty big and multilayered asterisk. The following information is based off and developed for cis women, who experience the natural fluctuations of menstrual cycle hormones. There is less information available about people on hormonal birth control, which regulates the amount of progesterone and sometimes estrogen levels so they are steady throughout the month. Theoretically, this would mean there shouldn’t be a cycle with peaks and dips. HOWEVER, don’t dismiss the information below completely. Many of us still experience energy, mood, and sense-based influences of a cycle, even when it is being regulated.

The second piece of that asterisk is that research on this topic often leaves out people with PCOCs, endometriosis, intersex menstruators, menstruators/formal menstruators on T (testosterone) as HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and non-menstruators on estrogen/progesterone HRT, and a host of other situations.

My advice? Read anyway and see what resonates for you. If you decide to try the activity at the bottom of this article and want to share your experience, send it to me at [email protected] or on Instagram at @yaelthesexgeek!

What are the expected phases of the cycle?

Cycle length can vary from as little as three weeks to as many as five to six weeks. Therefore, instead of naming days that each phase lasts, I’ll describe them instead. This section can be skipped by those who don’t menstruate or have unpredictable menstruation.

Phase 1: Menstruation – Vision time

Your cycle starts on the first day of bleeding. This is a great time to be ideating and visioning for the month. You are probably still low energy, so rest is recommended but as you rest, let your dreams and visions flow.

Phase 2: Follicular phase – Planning time

This also starts on the first day of bleeding, but for our tracking purposes, consider this the time between when you finish your period through the ovulation stage. This is your opportunity to plan what you’ve been ideating on – strategic planning and detail-oriented, analytical tasks are made for this time period. It’s also a good time to begin connecting with others.

Phase 3: Ovulation – Get it done time

This is egg release time. For folks on 28-day cycles, this occurs about 14 days before your next period. Your body is ready to be in the world – socializing, connecting, and bringing that energy. You can also use this boost of energy to get things done! Whatever you ideated during menstruation and prepped during follicular can be knocked out during this phase. This is a great time to host events, give talks/presentations, and facilitate spaces.

Bonus: because testosterone peaks during this phase, it can be a horny time. Enjoy, but also be aware because the time right before and during ovulation is peak get pregnant time.

Phase 4: Luteal phase – Reflect and Review

This post ovulation through beginning of menstruation phase is a time for reflection and evaluation. Take stock of what you’ve been doing this month. Celebrate your wins and come up with solutions for what needs to improve. This is also PMS time, so you might find you are experiencing intensified emotions, especially increased lows and aggression. At the end, you may also experience decreased energy. This is a great time to rest and give yourself space from others, especially if you tend to experience impatience during this time.

Map out your own experiences

Every body is different. Even those who are experiencing natural and regular cycles may find that they differ from what I shared above. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use tracking to help you predict your unique body’s ebbs and flows. Below is an activity I share with clients and students who are seeking to become more attuned with their bodies.

Choose a place to track your info

Ideally, you’d want to track your cycle for three months so that you can compare what’s happening month to month. You can track on paper, online, using calendars or apps (be careful with these, as some of them share data).

Pick a day to start

If you currently menstruate, the day you start bleeding is a great day to start since that is day one of the menstrual cycle but you can really start any day.

Choose what you would like to track

There are a host of feelings and experiences you might want to track. To begin, you might choose pieces that are most important to you, or you can go full speed ahead and track it all! This includes:

    1. Moods, such as feelings of anxiousness, excitement, hopefulness, sadness, anger, desire to cuddle/touch/ nurture, etc.
    2. Creativity & concentration levels
    3. Sexual energy/response/arousal
    4. Energy levels
    5. Observations about how your body changes throughout the month (which can include fertility markers such as discharge consistency and body temperature)

Resources to check out

Berrion Berry is a menstrual cycle expert and she has a book coming out in October on this topic. Lucy Peach has a book called Period Queen and courses about this.

Don’t forget to share your experiences with menstrual cycle tracking. It’s about time we moved away from a testosterone-based work cycle to an estrogen-based one!

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Sex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
Yael R Rosenstock Gonzalez is a sex educator, researcher, author, speaker, and curriculum developer. As a queer, polyamorous, white-presenting Nuyorican Jew, Yael has always been interested in understanding the multi-level experiences of individuals. This led her to found Kaleidoscope Vibrations, LLC, a company dedicated to supporting and creating spaces for individuals to explore and find community in their personal identities. Through her company, she facilitates workshops, develops curriculum, offers Identity Exploration Coaching, and publishes narratives often left out of mainstream publishing.

Yael has been engaged in workshop development and facilitation since she joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as a teen peer reproductive rights educator at 15 years old. Since then, she has served as an educator with children ranging from 10 months old to adults in their 70s with different organizations and communities. In her work as first Program Coordinator, then Director of Programming, and finally Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Yael developed and led events, workshops, and programs with an intersectionality lens.