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Guest Editor: Lucy Peach ‘Period Power is a Thing’

In Body + Soul, Features, Stories by Nicole Fuge

It’s called a ‘cycle’ for a reason and the truth is it’s so much more than the presence or absence of your period and how to ‘manage’ it. You don’t need to push through the hormonal ups and downs, holding on for dear life, because there is a better way, and it’s pretty bloody amazing.

By Lucy Peach

Every month, you have four hormonal phases. They each arrive in turn, one after the other, bearing their own gifts and ways of making us feel.

And once you know what they are, you can predict them, plan for them and use them over and over again.

“I guarantee that if you get to the bottom of how truly marvellous you are in every phase, you will be UNSTOPPABLE (except, of course, when you choose to stop). Before you know it, you will have developed your cycle superpowers.”

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Time to dream (menstruation)

After making it down the ‘mountain’ that was your last month, your hormones flatline. You’re ready to let go and menstruate.

It’s time to find a quiet cave in a peaceful valley and stop, drop and feel.

If possible, surrender to the slowness and stillness that your body craves.

Fill your cup to the brim with self love – the more energy you conserve now, the more you’ll have for the month ahead. Dial in to your intuition and ponder big questions:

How do I feel about the month I’ve just had?

What will I grow and give life to next?

You have the gentle power to dream deeply now, about new ideas, inspiration, solutions, projects; everything is ahead of you but it all starts here, at your beginning.

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Time to do (pre-ovulation)

After you finish bleeding, your oestrogen rises until you’re ready to skip on out of that cave like nobody’s business.

You emerge resplendent, restored, recharged and ready to climb up that huge mountain.

Whatever it takes, you can do it. As you ready yourself to drop a new golden egg, this is your power week.

After the lovely hibernation of the Dream phase, it can be a bit overwhelming to step out and up with this surge within you.

Just put one foot in front of the other and get started. Whatever ‘it’ is, you’ve got the power to do it.

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Time to give (post-ovulation)

You champion! You made it to the top of the mountain.

At ovulation, take a moment (or better yet, a few days) to marvel and to revel in all of this beauty.

It’s everywhere – around you, IN you, all over you! What a thing to be alive.

You have a bounty of hormones after ovulation and this abundance can make you feel like saying yes! Yes! To everything!

Everyone’s invited to celebrate how fabulous you are as you give this playful and exuberant energy back into the world around you.

Everything is possible, until suddenly it isn’t.

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Time to take (pre-menstruation)

Your hormonal cup is fast emptying, and there’s just enough left to get you back down the mountain.

Look behind you and reflect on how far you’ve come this month; you have dreamed, done and given your absolute all and it was wonderful, but now you must prepare to let go again.

After saying ‘Yes!’ last week with such generosity, you might find yourself saying ‘Hell, NO!’ now with a touch of protective ferocity.

There is an intensifying need to turn your back on the world and connect to your deepest self while you make your way down.

Go at your own pace.

Your potent superpower now is to take, to take the goodness from this whole cycle, and whatever else you need (the last piece of cake, the comfiest chair, your sweet time), to get ready to bleed.

You are bound for the valley again.

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A heads-up on the big feelings

During Do (pre-ovulation) and Give (post-ovulation), it’s generally easier to be kinder to yourself because these middle two phases are more socially acceptable (because you’re doing and giving, duh).

Others reward us more during these phases, too, and that feels pretty good.

Generally, if we feel good, we don’t question it, we just feel good.

How lovely to feel strong, capable, positive, at ease, excited, sociable and confident.

But, unless you are a very rare breed of unicorn, you absolutely won’t feel like this all of the time.

You’ll climb some incredible mountains (metaphorically speaking), and you’ll feel on top of the world and have all kinds of adventures up there. But, dear woman, when the time comes, you gotta come back down.

It will come as no surprise that the other half of the cycle – Take (pre-menstruation) and Dream (menstruation) – can present more challenges.

When we feel overwhelmed, tired, grumpy, irritable, impatient, frustrated or ‘peopled out’, we can turn these feelings inwards, against our precious selves, and be inclined to think the problem is with us.

Many people wish they could skip these less socially acceptable parts of the cycle altogether.

It’s important to remind ourselves that the real problem is feeling you are meant to be the same all month long when you aren’t.

In time, you’ll find that the more introspective phases (Take and Dream) can be beautiful; not only that, but it’s also entirely necessary to surrender to them in order to garner the stamina required to make the most of the more outward-looking phases (Do and Give).

The alternative – powering through life regardless of phase – is unsustainable.

Whatever emotions you’re experiencing, listen and make adjustments where you can.

By seeing yourself through the lens of your menstrual cycle, you’ll come to realise that at different times of the month you just have different needs and different gifts.

Women aren’t straight lines; we move like waves.

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How to track your cycle

There’s no wrong or right way to track your cycle, just start on any day you like and aim to continue for at least three months.

Talk to your body. Listen to it.

What is it that you need? Quiet time alone? To be barefoot in nature? A good chat with a friend? How do you feel physically and emotionally? What helps and what doesn’t on each day?

Write it all down.

You’ll soon get a pretty good picture of how your body works, and you’ll start to see patterns.

Once you get to know your phases, you’ll know what to expect and consequently there will be fewer surprises, better ways to prepare and care for yourself, and better ways to be.

Eventually, you will be an expert in you.

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Top tracking tips
  • Take your time and enjoy it, like you would getting to know a new friend.
  • Begin by tracking your bleeding so you know when your period is due. Day 1 is when it starts.
  • Find out when you ovulate. Ovulation is the most important part of your cycle. Generally it occurs 14 days before your next period starts.
  • Treat yourself to a nice new journal. Make tracking a daily ritual. Cup of tea? Light a candle?
  • Every night, jot down what day you are on and how you feel – what were your moods, energy levels, anything that’s important to you. What did you feel drawn to focus on? And what was easy and what was hard? What helped?
    Write a few lines or draw a picture. If you stop for a while, just start again when you remember.
  • Consider using an app once you’ve got the hang of tracking how you feel. Include the physical changes of each phase.
  • Invite your friends to join you in tracking their cycles.
  • Look up, like millions of women before you, to notice the moon. Maybe you’ll be reminded of your cycle when you notice hers.

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Use your superpowers by planning for them

By writing down what you need and referring to it, you show your body that you are listening, that it matters and that you will remember what worked well for it in the months ahead.

Listen to what your body is telling you, then respond accordingly and you’ll be rewarded.

It’s that simple, and this is when your superpowers really come into play.

As you continue to observe your cycle, you will learn about your physical and emotional landscapes in more detail, and see how they affect each other.

Soon, you’ll be able to predict upcoming changes. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to plan for them.

I know scriptwriters, students, mums, scientists, painters and popstars who swear by planning around their cycles.

Knowing where you’ll be in your cycle will help you make decisions. Whether it’s tackling big projects, important social events, difficult situations or deciding whether you want to go camping on that particular weekend with those particular people at a location that requires a five-hour drive while sitting next to a dog.

This is how you scaffold, so that you know when to push and when to pull (the pin, if necessary)
  • Try highlighting sections of your diary with four different colours to reflect your (predicted) phases and remind you what tasks will be easiest for you, and when.
  • If work allows, plan weekly tasks according to your phases.
  • Pay attention to clues over time. Do you always feel energetic on Day 6 or do you sometimes feel wobbly? What made you feel that way? Did you do something differently that time?
  • Once you understand what makes some days harder, avoid these tasks/activities/people on those days next month.
  • Maximise the easy days. You’ll start to get a picture of exactly how you would like to spend them in future cycles.
  • Set intentions as you transition into each phase for how you want to care for yourself. What you want to focus on? How do you want to use your superpower?
  • Notice where you feel most at home in your cycle and which phases are more challenging.
  • Delve deep and focus on one particular phase per cycle to learn about your nuances and strengths. Finetune your superpowers one by one to discover your brilliance.
  • Divide your wardrobe into phases: comfy clothes for Dream, activewear for Do, fancy for Give and dramatic for Take.
  • Condense your findings after three months into a cheat sheet with tips and self-care recipes for each phase. Print this and keep it by your desk, stick it in your diary or save a photo of it to your favourites and update it often.
  • If an issue feels Really Big? Run it through a whole cycle. Check in to see how you’re feeling about it every few days to taste how it feels over a month.
  • Ponder this personal data to maximise your cycle, your month and your WHOLE LIFE.
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Your powers are unique

So many factors make you who you are and determine how you respond to the bazillion things that happen in your life: your genes, your family, your living situation, your diet, how much time in nature you get, and your cycle.

Like everything else about you, how you respond to your own hormones is unique.

And even if you can’t always give yourself what you need immediately, just knowing what it is that you need will provide deep relief.

This is where the art of truly being a period queen comes through: in knowing your signs and what they’re telling you.

Week by week, month by month, you will learn more of your innate power.

You will learn about what makes you tick, what makes you twitch and what makes your heart sing.

Look out, world! Period power coming through!

From Period Queen by Lucy Peach, illustrations by Ngaio Parr. Murdoch Books RRP $29.99