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In my last post, Hormones & Fatigue: Part 1 – My Health & Weight History (and Update), I explained what I have gone through in the last ten years regarding my health, weight loss and weight gain, and understanding my hormonal cycle. This is one of the things I shared in that post:
In this post, I’m going to share with you the nitty-gritty of what that looks like, exactly. It is my hope that this post gets you thinking about YOUR body and YOUR symptoms, so that maybe you can learn to better manage your life around your cycle as well.
I saw this video posted on Facebook a long time ago and what surprised me were the comments and how many women said things like, “Wow! I had no idea!” or “This makes so much sense!”
I highly recommend charting your symptoms (no matter how small) for a few months and try to see a pattern. Check the bottom of this post for some printable period trackers and app suggestions!
First, some menstrual cycle basics:
The menstrual cycle is comprised of two “halves” (although they might not exactly be equal in length). The first (approximately) 14 days, from menstruation to ovulation, is knows as the follicular phase. The second (approximately) 14 days, from ovulation to menstruation, is known as the luteal phase. During the follicular phase, estrogen increases to prepare the body for conception. During the luteal phase, progesterone increases to prepare the body for implantation. Towards the end of the cycle, both hormones drop off drastically to prepare for menstruation.
Below, I will detail the specific symptoms that ***I*** experience throughout the cycle. I hope that as you read, you will think through what you experience. Perhaps this will trigger some “AHA!” moments for you.
Follicular Phase Part 1
- Menstrual cramps
- Excessive bowel movements
- Increase in positive emotion
- Weepiness, crying
- Sweating and shedding water weight
- Rest and drink lots of fluids!
- Drink period or red raspberry leaf tea
- Stay close to home (if you can) for bathroom and menses emergencies
- Utilize heating pads and OTC menstrual medications to manage symptoms
Follicular Phase Part 2
- Highly positive mood
- Higher overall energy
- Intense desire to connect with friends and family – and even strangers
- Positive body image
- Surge of creativity
- Nesting instincts (strong desire to plan, organize, clean, etc.)
- Intense love and affection for those I love
- High libido
- Romantic or erotic dreams
- Feeling talkative and gregarious
- Feeling impulsive, making impulsive purchases or plans
- Feeling strong and capable, invincible
- Better capacity to exercise, strong body coordination
- Finding it easier to eat and drink healthy
- Healthy food cravings
- Obsessive thinking, racing thoughts
- Symptoms of OCPD
- Trouble falling asleep at night, mild insomnia
- Bursts of intense energy
- Feeling of glow, feeling attractive
- Ovulation cramps
- 24-hour cold symptoms (low grade fever and congestion) around the time of ovulation
- Eat healthy
- Channel creativity into positive projects
- PACE YOURSELF. Enjoy the bursts of energy and utilize them to “catch up” on things left undone, but make sure to take time for rest as well.
- Try to temper impulsive, especially impulsive spending
- Connect with those you love and ENJOY them. This is the best time to schedule coffee dates with friends or social events!
- Try to “bottle up” these feelings so that you can remember them later in the month when you feel like crap!
Luteal Phase Part 1
- A feeling of disorientation when waking (what day is it, where am I)
- A feeling that I’ve slept very deeply, trouble waking up
- Extreme daytime drowsiness, sleepiness. Not just tired but can’t-hold-my-eyes-open sleepy
- Middle of the night tingling in arms and hands
- Night terrors or being easily started after falling asleep (I often wake up to a slight disturbance, screaming)
- Extremely emotional dreams (crying, screaming, yelling, being very upset)
- Fewer bowel movements, mild constipation
- A feeling of sluggishness or heaviness, being very winded during any physical activity
- Brain fog
- Acne breakouts
- A feeling of being lost in my own head and not really connecting with reality, just “going through the motions”
- Carb and sugar cravings
- Sore or full breasts
- Bloating and water weight
- Increase in weight of 1-3 lbs.
- Extreme introversion
- Mild irritability
- A need for quiet
- Sleep or nap when tired
- Rest and take it easy – don’t push myself to be very active
- Drink water
- Don’t carb load, even though it’s tempting
- Tell myself that the depression is normal and this isn’t who I am all the time
- Keep music off and get as much quiet time as possible
Luteal Phase Part 2
- All of the symptoms listed in Luteal Phase Part 1 plus…
- Higher levels of irritability, frustration, and annoyance
- High annoyance at little things that might not normally annoy you
- Skin that feels like it’s “on fire” (increase in Keratosis Pilaris irritation)
- Extreme introversion. Everyone go away and leave me alone!!!
- Feeling disconnected from God, friends, and family
- Feeling like no one understands me or cares about me
- Very negative body image
- Extreme bloating
- Angry dreams
- Desire to listen to angry or aggressive music to vent frustration
- Try not to take out anger on the people you love
- Get as much time alone as possible
- Work out frustration with INTENSE exercise to some high powered music
- Drink water
- Exercise exercise exercise
- Try to eat as healthy as possible
- Have a safe friend to vent to
- (Are you getting the point here?)
Luteal Phase Part 3
This is the 48 hours prior to starting the cycle all over again.
- A beginning of the shedding of water weight
- Night sweats, waking up drenched
- Increase in daytime sweating
- Increase in bowel movements
- Feeling of emotional relief
- Decrease in anger and frustration, increase in positive emotion
- Crying and weepiness
- Have a good cry, it’s okay!
Some personal notes:
The way this works for me is that I try to utilize my high-energy days more effectively and efficiency, “giving in” to estrogen-filled frenzy and trying to accomplish as much as I can during that time. On my low-energy days, I try to give myself a LOT of grace and a clear calendar. These are the days I stay home, watch a lot of Netflix, and take a lot of naps. By “riding the waves” of my cycle, I’m not as upset with myself when I can’t seem to get anything done. I don’t feel as guilty for being irritable or depressed.
I may or may not have “chronic fatigue syndrome.” I also might have PMDD. But either way, understanding how hormones impact my everyday life has been key for me in managing my fatigue and making life work.
Your symptoms may not look like mine. Your cycle may be longer or shorter than mine. (I purposely didn’t put cycle day numbers on these sections because I run an average 33 day cycle.) The point is to get to know YOUR body!
Helpful period symptom trackers:
- Printable Period Tracker for Dates & Symptoms, with Two Different Tracking Methods and 8 Color Combinations.
- PRINTABLE Women’s Monthly Period and Symptom Tracker, 18 Months
- Period Tracker Printed Planner Insert
- Period Tracker with daily “How are you feeling?” checkboxes!
- Period Tracker for bullet journal, with notes section
- PERIOD TRACKER PLANNER with moods and symptoms sections
Period apps that have symptoms and mood trackers:
- Fertility Friend (a premium FF account lets you add your own symptoms to track)
- Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker
- Period Tracker Deluxe
- Period Tracker Period Calendar
- iPeriod Period Tracker +
- Life Pro: Period Tracker, Period & Ovulation App
- Flutter – Period Tracker and Endometriosis Journal
- Period Tracker by PinkBird