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Go with the flow

Nurturing

FOUR IN ONE Depending on which phase she is in, a woman can feel irritable and restless, tired and withdrawn, extrovert and assertive, or confident and sexual.

Learning to adapt to the phases of your menstrual cycle can bring big benefits

Mental Matters
Jannah Walshe

A woman’s menstrual cycle gets a lot of bad rap. It’s seen as the cause of bad moods, physical discomfort and pain, food cravings and tiredness, and generally as being an inconvenience to life.  
The cycle is rarely seen as a positive by either men or women – and that’s a shame, as this monthly cycle can bring a lot of positives to a woman’s life, if used in the right way.
The menstrual cycle can be connected to mental health and it is often worth taking into consideration when assessing our mental health. What do I mean by this? Well, first we need to go over the different stages of the menstrual cycle and the hormones involved.
The menstrual cycle consists of the following phases: the luteal phase (the week before your period); the menstrual phase (when you have your period); the follicular phase (the week after your period); and ovulatory phase (3-4 days in the middle of your cycle).
On day one of your menstrual cycle, the first day of your period, the hormone progesterone plunges. During this week your energy is low and you may feel tired and withdrawn. You may want to rest more than you usually do, or take some time off.
The follicular phase follows just after menstruation. Oestrogen and testosterone start to rise during this phase. Energy levels get a boost, mood improves and you can start to feel more extroverted. You may feel more assertive and willing to take some risks.
During the Ovulatory phase, oestrogen and testosterone are at peak levels. You now feel the most confident and your sex drive may be getting a boost too!
At the start of the luteal phase oestrogen and testosterone decline and your body starts producing progesterone. This is sometimes described as the natural Valium, so you may feel like winding down. Practicing good self-care during this week is said to reduce PMS. Try spending extra time alone, eating healthy foods, doing gentle exercise, sleeping more or doing anything that makes you feel balanced. When you honour your body’s need for rest and relaxation during this phase, you will find it easier to get more out of the other phases of your cycle.
Getting into a rhythm of supporting the body in each phase is one way to live a more focused, healthy and happy life. It makes you appreciate all the work the body does in a month and helps you to prioritise self-care.
In each phase of the cycle, you can benefit from choosing the foods, activities and types of exercise that best meet their bodies’ needs at that time. Planning around the phases of the menstrual cycle can allow you to know when it’s best to be more active or when to rest more. Working with your own body and how you feel at that time can have a very positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing. Why not give it a go and see do you notice any difference?

Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at info@jannahwalshe.ie or 085 1372528.

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