BroadMinded Director Cat on how and why our hormones can be our allies.
Why does talking about periods make people so uncomfortable? We hide tampons up our sleeves on the way to the loo and we use euphemisms like ‘that time of the month’ (as if our periods were Voldemort - ‘she who must not be named’). The narrative around hormonal cycles is almost exclusively negative too – pain, PMT, irrational mood swings. What no one bothers to tell us is there are positive effects too. At certain points in your cycle you are particularly creative, at others you are an especially effective communicator or decision-maker. As our hormones rise and fall, Maisie Hill in Period Power explains, so too do our skills in particular areas.
So what are these skills and how do we harness them? Dr Jan Toledano, a specialist at the London Hormone Clinic, talks about cycles in terms of seasons – labelling the four phases of the month winter, spring, summer and autumn.
In winter, oestrogen and progesterone decline. When your period starts there can be a release of endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller. What does this mean? Lowered oestrogen and progesterone mean your energy becomes at its most inward. This can be a time of great insight, when you can get really clear about what you want going forward. Your heightened emotional awareness also makes this a particularly creative time.
In spring, the lead ovarian follicle for the cycle is developing, and as it heads towards ovulation it pumps out increasing amounts of oestrogen – what Hill likes to call your ‘Beyonce’ hormone. This means, your energy, stamina and self-esteem are all on the up. As Oestrogen increases, your memory and mental agility will also improve, as will your confidence and natural sociability. Fun bonus – oestrogen also makes your features appear more symmetrical and clears your skin up! Spring is a great time to learn something new as well as to plan social occasions.
In summer time, oestrogen reaches its peak, triggering luteinising hormone and testosterone to arrive on the scene. The cumulative effect of all three hormones can be intense. You may find yourself feeling both productive and capable, so stretch yourself. Your appetite and need for sleep at this time are often slightly reduced, meaning you’re somehow able to do more on less. Your oral ability is also at its greatest; you are more than usually capable of articulating thoughts clearly and confidently. If you’re going to ask for a promotion or pay rise, do it in your summer.
And finally, Autumn. You’re entering your luteal phase which means progesterone dominance will slow you down and make you more cautious; your energy will once again turn inwards. The rose-tinted specs of Summer are replaced with X-ray specs - you will be more likely to see things with clarity as well as to consider the bigger picture in a more effective way (what Maisie Hill calls ‘helicopter vision’). Some find this can be a time of great insight and you have the clarity to make decisions effectively.
So, contrary to the negative press, your hormonal cycle is not just about PMT. It’s about skills and talents you already have being subtly heightened, enabling you to take on different challenges in each season. We should delight in the body rather than fear it; listen to it rather than ignore it. We should talk about cycles and hormones and mood fluctuations rather than feeling ashamed of them. Let’s lean into our season-specific strengths to adapt and thrive.
30th August 2020
Contrary to the negative press, your hormonal cycle is not just about PMT. It’s about skills and talents you already have being subtly heightened, enabling you to take on different challenges in each season.