Just imagine if your monthly cycle was as predictable as the seasons, your hormonal ups and downs as smooth as spring passing to summer, before gliding into autumn and on to winter.
Well, believe it or not, it can be. Rather than being judged a ‘handicap’, your monthly fluctuations can be used to turbocharge your sex life, career, health and relationships.
You just have to embrace the four ‘seasons’ of your cycle, which each last for about a week every month.
First, there’s ‘winter’, when you have your period and hormone levels fall, typically leaving you withdrawn. Then, in ‘spring’, you’re playful and light, as oestrogen floods back.
Maisie Hill revealed how understanding hormones can be used to turbocharge your sex life, career, health and relationships (file image)
Next is ‘summer’, when oestrogen and testosterone rise as your body prepares for ovulation, making you feel sexy. Finally, in ‘autumn’, progesterone falls ahead of your period, bringing emotional storms.
But, instead of being at the mercy of your hormones, you can learn to predict when your four ‘seasons’ will arrive and use that to achieve success at work, closer bonds with friends — and, yes, a better love life.
I’ve helped hundreds in this way over a decade as a women’s health practitioner. So, to start making your hormones work for you, track your patterns for a few months.
Beginning with the first day of your period, each day write down in a diary one word that encompasses your feelings — such as ‘restless’, ‘tired’, or ‘sexy’. This will start to reveal trends.
Everyone is different, so you may find your ‘spring’ is less than a week or your ‘autumn’ drags on longer. Or maybe your overall cycle doesn’t last a uniform 28 days, but is more like 34 or 35. Tracking your cycle will help establish your ‘normal’. (This only works for those who don’t use hormonal birth control, such as the Pill, coil or implant.)
You’ll soon be able to predict what symptoms and moods are coming — and start living life to the fullest.
Winter: Hibernate and focus on yourself
Maisie recommends taking time to focus on yourself by withdrawing from the world during winter, while progesterone and oestrogen levels are at their lowest
The first day of ‘winter’ is the first day of your period — and the beginning of your hormonal cycle.
In ‘winter’, your hormones — progesterone and oestrogen — collapse to their lowest levels. It’s a time to hibernate and withdraw from the world, to focus on yourself and take things more slowly.
As any pre-menstrual ‘autumn’ symptoms clear up, some women enter a dream-like state where they feel a bit ‘out of it’. Others feel a sense of bliss as their body releases the natural pain-relieving hormones oxytocin and endorphins.
DO . . .
- Stockpile. This can be a tricky time, so do what you need to do to have a good ‘winter’, whether it’s stocking up on comforting treats or setting aside ‘me-time’.
- Review the previous month. Read through your cycle-tracking diary and note where you had peaks and troughs in your energy, mood and desire.
- Release pent-up feelings. Try free-writing, a technique in which you continuously write for a set time, without worrying about spelling, grammar or topic. If you run out of things to say, just write: ‘I don’t know what to write,’ until something comes up. It’s a great way to dump accumulated mental chatter from your brain.
- Allow inner thoughts to come to the fore. Your intuition is at its peak during ‘winter’. Perhaps you’ll get a fresh sense of direction or realise that you’re feeling frustrated because you want to try something new.
The health practitioner advises against committing to anything unnecessary, she says throughout winter it’s fine to take a break from socialising (file image)
DON’T . . .
- Commit to anything unnecessary. Can you skip that work meeting?
- Take on high-energy activities. We’re taught to believe we’re superwomen, but most find this a natural time to rest. Change your exercise to something much gentler: walking instead of running; restorative yoga instead of a fast-paced class.
- Feel you have to socialise or show physical affection. It’s fine to take a break, including explaining to a partner if you don’t want hugs or cuddles at this point in your cycle. Let them know how they can show affection in other ways — such as by making you a warm drink.
Autumn: More assertive – but snappy
Maisie believes it’s vital to identify the day when autumn arrives, she says you’ll know you’re there by feeling introverted, agitated or sad
For some, the ‘summer’ buzz might last up to a week after ovulation. Others may find themselves dumped in ‘autumn’ the very next day.
You’ll know you’re there when you feel introverted, agitated, sad or tired. Oestrogen and progesterone levels tumble, hugely affecting your feelings.
Identifying the day when ‘autumn’ arrives is vital, as it allows you to plan and avoid beating yourself up about it.
By charting your cycle, you can predict when you’ll feel the wobbles: lack of energy, sensitivity and a vanishing libido. Then there’s sore breasts, bloating, night sweats, headaches and backache, most of which are caused by falling hormone levels and an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone. You can be snappy, too.
DO . . .
- Treat yourself. You’re more assertive now, as oestrogen — the hormone that makes you more compliant and social — has collapsed. You may want to watch a film no one else does or have a long lie-in. Don’t feel guilty for this.
- Focus on admin and tie up loose ends. You’re likely to feel an urge to complete things, owing to fluctuating progesterone levels — nature’s way of getting you ready for your next period.
- Exercise if you can. Regular aerobic activity helps reduce period pain.
Maise says it’s important not to loose sight of romance during autumn, try to remember why you love your partner (file image)
DON’T . . .
- Conceal your anger. We feel it for a reason. How many bigger problems are caused by swallowing feelings? Realise your feelings are real, and your hormones are helping you voice them.
- Fight dirty. Yes, you should express your feelings — but passive aggression won’t get you anywhere. Be clear and be direct. Tell your partner you’re tired of doing all the housework, or ask your boss why you didn’t get promoted.
- Lose sight of romance. In ‘spring’ and ‘summer’, your body wants you to see past your partner’s faults. This is because your hormones are trying to get you to have sex and conceive. Now, without those feelgood hormones, you could find yourself focused on your other half’s annoying habits. Try to remember why you love them — even when they talk with their mouth full!
Spring: You’ll buzz with ideas and your skin will glow
Maisie revealed the rise in oestrogen during spring can make most women feel energised
‘Spring’ is a time for new beginnings, when your body is pumping out oestrogen in preparation for ovulation (your ‘summer’). The rise in this hormone makes most women feel energised.
But how do you know when your ‘winter’ has finished?
There’s a gentle upswing of oestrogen production from day three of your cycle, so pay attention to the following days — oestrogen will take over and you’ll feel lighthearted, playful and motivated.
Your skin will clear and your features will appear more symmetrical, according to many studies of the effects of oestrogen production.
You could find yourself buzzing with ideas. As oestrogen increases, your mental agility improves. Mid way through ‘spring’, you’ll also have a rise in testosterone, making you ready for new challenges.
The health practitioner suggests experimenting in spring with a new hair cut or style of clothing (file image)
DO . . .
- Socialise. You’re in the mood to form new friendships and improve your bonds with old ones.
- Experiment. Longing to cut your hair short or try a different style of clothing? Do it now, when you’re most open to ideas and accepting of change.
- Form good habits, such as regular exercise. In ‘autumn’ and ‘winter’, hormonal shifts make healthy habits harder to maintain, so do the groundwork now and you’ll be more likely to keep them up.
DON’T . . .
- Be too busy. Oestrogen can make you feel like you have a jetpack strapped to your back, but try not to take on too much. If you find yourself feeling drained in ‘spring’, ask yourself whether you’re getting enough rest during your ‘winter’, when you replenish your energy supplies for this busy period.
- Get distracted. The aim of oestrogen is to get you on the move, so that you can seek out a potential mate. But it also has the side-effect of making you feel preoccupied. Endeavour to remain focused on any burgeoning plans or ideas — or you’ll miss out on the productivity that arrives in your ‘summer’.
Summer: Sexual desire is at its peak
Maisie revealed that oestrogen levels peak during summer, she advises taking the opportunity to pursue pleasure and get ahead at work
You’re at your sexy best as ‘summer’ moves towards ovulation. Oestrogen levels peak, triggering the release of the highest levels of luteinising hormone, which stimulates ovulation, and testosterone, fuelling desire.
There are three segments to ‘summer’. The first is dominated by ovulation and the hormonal rush this brings.
Afterwards, though, levels of oestrogen, luteinising hormone and testosterone drop, while progesterone — the nesting hormone vital to sustaining pregnancy — is yet to rise, and so some women’s mood and libido drop.
But then progesterone and oestrogen slowly climb again and you’ll feel the serene effect. Your appetite will increase, as will blood sugar instability, mood swings and ‘hanger’. Eating protein and healthy fats can help.
DO . . .
- Pursue pleasure, in and out of the bedroom! This is an ideal time for first dates, or reviving a relationship. Orgasms are more likely around ovulation.
- Get ahead. Use the spike in confidence before ovulation for opportunities at work. At the start of ‘summer’, verbal ability is highest, making this a good time to be interviewed or to ask for a promotion or pay rise.
DON’T . . .
- Say ‘yes’ to everything. Are you loading up your diary until the middle of ‘autumn’? That won’t work out well.
- Skimp on sleep. As progesterone rises towards the end of ‘summer’, it makes nodding off easier. Catch up on restorative shut-eye.
Adapted by Maureen Brookbanks from Period Power: Harness Your Hormones And Get Your Cycle Working For You by Maisie Hill, published by Green Tree at £12.99. © Maisie Hill 2019. To order a copy for £10.39 (offer valid until June 16, 2019; p&p is free on orders over £15), call 0844 571 0640.