How do you relate to your cycle? Are you in a hormone revolution - realising that your hormone cycle is a power source not just a blight on your fine month? Or do you suffer from it once a month and ignore it the rest of the time pretending that you are in fact more like a fella than you actually are?
Your ability to lead with wellbeing at its core can be affected by your embodied behaviours and beliefs about your hormone cycle as this is a foundation of being a woman.
What do you believe is the cost to women to succeed? Is that true?
Do you ignore your bleeding cycle or symptoms of peri-menopause?
Or do you believe that you deserve to look after yourself as a woman?
Why do feminine leaders, the powerful queens, need to know their hormone flow or have an awareness of their hormone season (ovulating, peri-menopause, menopause)?
Because it means two things:
1 - we can harness our hormones for our best work on a foundation of health & wellbeing
2 - we can understand our unique power as women
This article addresses the gifts in ovulating/cycling women which would usually be until around 35 when peri-menopause and hormone cycle changes can begin. (Menopause is the time when bleeding has fully stopped and a woman's hormone profile has changed and becomes more stable around 50. I’lll save that topic for its own article. But if that's you, listen to expert Dr Northrup here).
Red School, leaders in menstrual empowerment, call following your hormone flow:
“the ultimate self care and stress management practice for women.”
Alisa Vitti says in her book Woman Code:
“Women who partner with their hormones live more efficiently and strategically. These women end up becoming the fullest expression of themselves and live as leaders and change-agents in their lives and communities”
So what am I talking about when I say ‘hormone flow’? Am I just talking about noticing that you bleed once a month? No, we have gifts in our cycle through our whole month and noticing the full cycle can in fact help with lowering symptoms and optimizing your schedule if you know how to work with what your body better needs.
For a quick run down on the full Flow Cycle -
Bleeding Time is when we lose the lining of our womb, but it is also when the next eggs (follicles) are starting to grow in the ovaries.
It is more reflective and the brain is more open to R-L communication.
It is considered as a Winter season when we can turn inward for insight.
Follicular Time is when we are growing our eggs.
It has more physical energy with rising testosterone, FSH, estrogen and progesterone.
It is an outward focussed time.
It is considered as a Spring season when we are more of a go-getter, more dynamic.
Ovulation Time is when we are lubricated for making babies, let's face it.
It is a more magnetic, directed, people-connecting time.
It is considered as a Summer season when we are most vibrant and personable. (We also have peak testosterone at this time and research shows we may even get more dressed up to be our most attractive because of this).
Luteal Time is when our bodies are winding down in energy and dropping Estrogen as it transfers its energy to possible growth of a child with Progesterone at its peak.
This stage is creative, critical and you may be winding down in energy. The closer we get to our bleed we benefit from a buffering of our stress with more self-care to keep us balanced on the way to the big hormonal dip at menstruation.
Our inner seasons subtly (or for some more bluntly) affect our mood and our innate qualities. Our hormone cycle it may come as a surprise is a tool to capitalise on in our workflow as leaders, as much as in our personal life. However, even putting the symbol of the 'leader' & 'bleeding' in the same sentence may stretch your symbolic library!
Culturally we have subconscious ‘stories’ or presumed narratives about breeding and birthing as much as we hold stories about there being only one Queen in the Queendom. The Queen stopped bleeding so she could lead surely? Uhu. She is there bleeding every month like the rest of us! (Full respect to those women who are menopausal Queens on the way to Elder).
Ok, without carrying on about the menstruation part of the cycle (I know it's making some of you blush), consider your leading qualities, when you feel magnetic and alive and completely radiant and powerful. You are handling all the family and creative challenges, making complex deals and leading meetings like a breeze. Chances are those are the times you are ovulating with testosterone and other hormones at their peak. Yes biologically we are quite different creatures at this time. The fact that we have an ovulation cycle is an awesome thing and a feminine superpower, yet we don't usually talk about it. You may be familiar with the first part of feminine honoring - the cultural tradition of honouring the bleeding cycle made famous in the book The Red Tent, written about by Anita Diamant.
Audrey of Lotus Power Health, an integrative health coach for women says of the Red Tent reflection time:
“Way, way, back when, in ancient cultures, menstruation was a time for a woman to take a
step back from society, and reawaken to her innate wisdom and power. Today, our
society doesn’t stop for menstruation (or for much of anything else). But, you can choose,
in your life, to make space for stillness and rejuvenation”
And in ovulation time…
“it’s time to share your joy by connecting with others… a time to continue on with the high energy/productivity levels (of follicular stage) and share those elevated spirits with others.”
You may think that Red Tent cultures are a long way from your board room. And maybe right now they are. However, workplace policy change is coming as women start to shape the environments that they are contributing to.
Jane Hardwick Collings is sharing her message about hormone workplace policy change and was involved in a research project called ‘The Waratah Project’ funded by the Victorian Women’s Trust and written about in a book titled "About Bloody Time" where more than 3500 women were surveyed about their experience of menstruation and menopause.
A key finding was that:
“58 percent of women said that a day off to rest would make their period a better experience every month.”
The sad news was that many women feel that they need to lie about their health needs at work around their period. Removing shame from this topic could move the needle for women, especially those that need support and give us ways to support our health, wellbeing and contribution as women.
Our cycle does not make us weaker or more volatile. It is a natural process that can be buffered and optimised.
Jane’s article reports that British company Coexist has shown great leadership in this field and is conducting research on the effects of their new menstrual policy.
“The fact that we still live in patriarchal society, which means that people who menstruate are expected to fit into a system designed for people who do not menstruate, is something which Coexist wishes to challenge; the menstrual cycle is an asset not a weakness, and we believe it should be valued as such.” Coexist.
Other Examples of companies with a menstrual workplace policy include:
How is the hormone revolution in your office? In your home?
4 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HONOUR YOUR CYCLE
1 - Use a cycle planner app on your phone. They’re not just for when you’re planning or avoiding pregnancy. They empower you to know your flow and when you can expect your different moods. Try - Flo or Flo Tracker by Flo Living which gives you lifestyle/functional nutrition tips for each stage. Or maybe you'd like to try a calendar.
2 - Map your buffer zone. Ask for more support in the week leading up to your menstrual (bleeding) time. Get more help with what you lead or with what responsibilities lie with you outside the office. If a friend asks you to a busy event or late night, perhaps you want to decline and have a hot bath instead. Asking for help and getting social support has shown in research to be positively correlated to lower PMS.
3 - Don’t simply blame things on your cycle. Oh I feel crabby and snappy - it’s because Im pre-menstrual. Our hormone cycle can also show up where we are out of alignment with ourselves. Are you getting enough support? Have you got hormonal imbalances? Do you honour your cycle or ignore it and mis-treat it? It could be telling you something. Speak to a Womens Health specialist if you have emotional or physical issues that persist. Check out my article on painful periods.
4 - Find pleasure, stress relief and self-care times. When women are affected by stress our stress hormones rob us of our sex hormones. This can lead to further knock on effects with hormone imbalance. Do yourself a favour and create positive habits to buffer the stress in your life. Check out how to buffer stress through cultivating spacious habits here.