Anna Maria Locke

self care

How to track your menstrual cycle

2019Anna Locke
how to track your menstrual cycle to de-mystify your hormones.jpeg

“Our lives are composed of countless transitions. The moon passes through a full cycle every 28 days, and a woman menstruates on average four hundred times in her life.

Our cycles carry the code for working with obstacles in creative, skillful, and miraculous ways. All stages are interdependent, and creativity is only complete through the interplay of each of the seasons. Each requires that we adapt our rhythms and shape our lives around it.

As our cycles ask us to oscillate our rhythms and our focus during different portions of each month, they stretch us in bite-size chunks, nudging us to slowly expand our capacity to be with the best and worst of life. They condition us to meet whatever’s there.

They cleanse us of what we no longer need and realign us with how we most desire to shape our futures, from within. When we ride this wave, we optimize our capability for renewal. When we fight it, we feel depleted… how then can we stop working against our cycles and start working with them?”

- Sara Avant Stover, The Book of SHE


When I decided to quit the birth control pill 3 years ago, one of my primary motivations was to regain my “natural” cycle so I could be more in tune with my body and prepare myself for an eventual pregnancy.

I originally started tracking my periods so I could tell how my hormones were healing post-pill.

You might have heard of the Fertility Awareness Method, which is a more in-depth practice of tracking your fertility signs so you know when your fertile window is, as either a method of birth control or to get pregnant. However, I soon realized that cycle tracking goes so far beyond fertility and hormone health.

A few things your hormones and cycle influence: productivity, relationships, emotions, creativity, how introverted vs extroverted you feel, mental energy, physical energy, muscle recovery and flexibility for workouts, sex drive, ability to communicate, on and on…

Hormones control our entire lives!!!

It took me almost a year to get a regular monthly(ish) cycle back, but once I did, I dove into the world of menstrual cycle awareness and it blew my mind how much we aren’t taught about our bodies! We’re left feeling hormonal, crazy, and like something is wrong if we have mood swings or emotions. It’s on us to educate ourselves, and that’s why I’m sharing this post about tracking your cycle as a self-care practice.

The content in this post is taken directly from my signature program Wild Synchronicity


What does it mean to have a cycle?

Sometimes we think of having a cycle as being on or off our period, but in reality our hormones are constantly ebbing and flowing, so our cycle is what is constantly happening to our bodies, just like the actual seasons of nature are constantly shifting on earth. Sometimes a particular season lasts longer or shorter, and there are some climates where the seasons are less pronounced, and so our bodies are unique and different too.

I like using the terms “hormone cycle” as opposed to “menstrual cycle” because there are varying seasons of life and reasons why we may or may not bleed on a regular basis, but our hormones are constantly working behind the scenes, even when we’re overriding our natural cycle on hormonal birth control.

Our bodies are all different and there is no right or wrong way to be. Whether you have missing cycles, clockwork cycles, PCOS, endo, if you’re on the pill, wherever you are right now -- meet yourself where you’re at instead of feeling like something is wrong or you need to automatically balance or fix your hormones. Honor your experience.

Tracking your cycle is even more valuable when you don’t have a clockwork 28 day cycle, because you’re going to be using your body as your guide. Imagine Grandmother Willow from Disney’s Pocahontas,  this wise, all knowing source of wisdom. I believe there’s a Grandmother Willow inside all of us-- the female wisdom that has been passed down to us from generations, and our cycle is a useful tool or pathway we can follow to go inward and tap into that embodied wisdom! It’s like a built in GPS system or blueprint from which we can create more success in our businesses and lives, and one of the most under-utilized and under-appreciated sources of power that no one teaches us about.


What if you’re on hormonal birth control or don’t have a period?

The cool thing about being on hormonal birth control or the pill is that even though you might not have the extreme shifts, your cycle will be regular and predictable. You can still track your energy and notice micro shifts throughout the month.

If you don’t have a period right now for whatever reason, another way to apply this cycle work to your life is using the lunar cycle.

Click here to learn more about tracking via the moon cycle.


So how do we track our cycle?

Tracking your cycle is the foundation of menstrual cycle awareness. It means playing the role of scientist or researcher for yourself: getting to know more about your body as well as how your energy shifts. Once you track 2-3 cycles so you can start to notice patterns such as certain times you can predict you’ll start an argument with your partner or have an existential crisis, and it can be pretty mind blowing.

There’s no right or wrong way to track your cycle, the only important part is that you do it.

Simply mark the first day of your period as Day One, and start numbering the days from there.

You can use an app, journal, or printable worksheets to do your tracking.

I personally prefer using a notebook for tracking my energy, mood, and emotions, since apps tend to disconnect us from our bodies (although they are extremely useful for tracking fertility!

You can use your regular journal or use a special notebook for your cycle. You can mark the date and day of your cycle on each page, or you can try the quadrant method I learned from Claire Baker.

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How this works - each page of your notebook will be designated for a certain cycle day. You’ll make a quadrant in each page so ultimately you’ll have 4 different cycles on each day (e.g. 4 cycles of “day 10”) this is great for noticing patterns. Patterns can be powerful. For instance, I tend to have a breakdown or an existential crisis on Day 21. There’s always a point where i notice, oh hey it’s my Day 21 Breakdown! So instead of feeling like I’m a failure, I can start to view the breakdown as a way to purge and release all the stuff that is not working in my life.

Same thing with inner critic, energy, productivity -- these patterns will help you bring a deeper awareness which we will apply to how you show up in your life, relationships, and business moving forward.

You can also use a circular chart such as this one from Red School. which is cool because you see your entire cycle on one day (this is best if you have really regular cycles).


What to track

The main things to track are:

  • Your cycle day

  • How you feel

  • Where your energy is at

  • Anything else to note, such as travel or stress

It’s best to track at the end of the day to reflect on the day.

Some examples:

-how was my mental energy today? (was I focused, foggy…)

-how was my physical energy? (fatigued, jittery, high energy…)

-what was my inner voice saying? (critical thoughts or positive…)

-how is my libido?

-any food cravings? What was my relationship with food like?

-physical body -- was I bloated feeling lean, hot, cold…

-how did I respond to stress today?

-how was my inner state today? (confident, grounded, sensitive…)

-record your dreams

My favorite “one and done” journal prompt: How am I feeling?

Stream of conscious style writing is a great way to channel whatever is going on deeper inside your mind and heart.

Figure out what works for you and have fun!

Try to track most days. There are times where you might feel less reflective or have resistance around journaling… track that! There is no right or wrong way to be.

Remember that scientists don’t judge themselves. They simply collect data and then reflect and draw conclusions from that data.


How to interpret your cycle

Once you have tracked at least 2 or 3 cycles (which might take a few months depending on your cycle length), you might start to recognize patterns.

For example, maybe you pick a fight with your partner around the same time each cycle. Maybe you have an existential crisis like clockwork, or have a more anxious week, or feel super social at certain times.

This is where the wisdom starts to emerge, as you begin to learn how your body and cycle operate. From here, you can start to anticipate what you will need at certain times of the month.

Remember that life happens too, and no cycle is the same. You might notice you have different feelings or energy on extra busy months, or times you’re doing a lot of traveling or projects, regardless of where you’re at in the cycle. We don’t live inside a vacuum, so allow yourself some variability and see what you discover!

xo Anna


RESOURCES

Access my resource vault with tracking worksheet, journal guides, and Cycle Sync Your Biz e-book.

If you'd like to learn more about living in sync with your cycle, I’ve created my program Wild Synchronicity to empower women to learn how to live in flow with the hormone rollercoaster, and to learn how to take advantage of our unique strengths in each phase of our cycle.

Books

Adore Your Cycle
Taking Charge of your Fertility
Womens Bodies, Womens Wisdom
Period Repair Manual

Apps

MyFlo
Clue
Kindara
Natural Cycles

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Journal prompts for each phase of your moon cycle (free e-book!)

2019Anna Locke
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Although you might not realize it, you’re already living your life through cycles and routines. Throughout the year we experience the changing seasons of nature. Every morning and evening you have a routine to start and end your day (even if it’s as simple as brushing your teeth and setting your alarm). Even though it’s easy to get caught in the constant “busy” of our modern lives, tuning back into the cyclical ebb and flow of nature and our own female bodies can help us stay grounded, calm, and protect us from burning out or losing sight of our priorities. I’ve found that creating a regular journaling practice can be one of the easiest and most accessible ways to tap into the wisdom inside of us and gain a deeper understanding of our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Ever since I was a little girl I loved to journal. At first it was a way for me to record my thoughts about life, express my emotions, leave my fears and frustrations on the page, make sense of the craziness inside my creative, introverted, sensitive mind. After I quit the birth control pill, I was amazed to re-discover my body’s natural rhythms through the ebb and flow of my hormones and menstrual cycle.

We aren’t usually taught how to take advantage of these energetic shifts that we experience throughout the year or month, but when we pause to bring a deeper awareness to where we’re at in our cycle we can unlock so many hidden “superpowers” like an instant connection to our intuition, deeper relationships, the ability to clearly communicate our ideas and vision, an ability to rest and renew our energy, and more. It’s pretty much endless and completely mind blowing!

Instead of viewing our cycle as a curse or hormones as something to be managed and controlled, we can allow ourselves to truly embody what it means to be a woman, endlessly shifting and changing and YES, emotional and deep and wild.

Where to start?

It’s tempting to go down the rabbit hole of books and courses and apps, but I always recommend starting with where you’re at when it comes to tracking your cycle, since our bodies are all different. If you bleed on a semi-regular basis (whether or not you’re on the pill or using hormonal birth control), count the first day of bleeding as Day One, and track the days from there until your next bleed. After 2-3 cycles, you might start to notice patterns in your energy, mood, mindset, etc throughout the month, which you can use to inform your routine, self care, when you schedule social events or big work projects, etc.

In this post I’ll share some of my favorite journal prompts for every day, as well as for each “phase” or season of your cycle so you can tap deeper into your intuition and pull out insights and guidance.

The four inner seasons of your cycle

Our menstrual cycle can be compared to the 28 day cycle of the moon, although our bodies are more complex so you most likely won’t bleed like clockwork every time the moon is full or new, and that’s ok! I like drawing comparisons between our hormone cycle and the energetic attributes of the four seasons, or the phases of the moon.

>> you may or may not experience any or all of these “seasons” throughout the course of your own cycle. This is why it’s so important to track YOUR energy and get to know your own body. This practice is not exclusive to menstruating women. It is for anyone who identifies as female, anyone who experiences a cycle, or anyone who does not have a physical cycle but is interested in exploring their feminine (as in “yin,”  not gendered) energy.

Winter // New Moon

When you’re on your period, you’re moving through the menstrual phase of your cycle, which can be compared to the season of winter, or the new moon. Your energy is drawn inward and it’s a season of rest and renewal before we emerge back into the world. This is a time to pause and slow down, and reflect on your goals or set new intentions for the cycle ahead.

Spring // Waxing Moon

After your period, you move into your follicular phase as your hormones start to kick back into gear to prepare your body to release another egg, and with that comes a surge of fresh energy much like the season of spring. This phase can be compared to the waxing moon or first quarter moon, the time that the moon is growing from new to full. It’s a transitional phase of new beginnings that can feel quite motivating or even overwhelming if you try to do too much too soon.

Summer // Full Moon

After the follicular phase comes ovulation, when your body releases an egg that will either be fertilized if you’re pregnant, or more likely travel down your fallopian tubes and be shed at your next period. This phase feels like summer - a time to pause again but in celebration of life and warm weather. It’s a great time to put your work into the world, socialize, and take advantage of the potent energy of the full moon.

Autumn // Waning Moon

After the peak of ovulation, your hormones will do a bit of a rollercoaster which can cause physical or emotional turbulence we call PMS. Like the season of autumn, this time can feel messy and stormy as we release what’s no longer serving us just as the leaves fall from the trees in preperation for winter to come. This season relates to the waning moon, the transition between full to new, as the earth’s shadow starts to cover the surface of the moon and it appears to shrink in the sky. This is a potent and magical time that can be full of insights and creativity if we channel our turbulent energy in productive ways, but we also have to make sure to start slowing down so we can rest during our coming winter. You might notice that if you push yourself too hard during this time, you’ll burn out or breakdown. It’s all part of the process!

  • We tend to focus on the new moon and full moon, but the transitional times in between are just as powerful (if not more so).. Lots of turbulent energy. That's why I've provided extensive journal prompts for inner spring and especially inner autumn, a wonderful time to dig deep and release since we tend to feel more emotionally turbulent in the week before our period.

How to use these prompts

You might be thinking either “yay, I love journaling!” or “ugh, I hate journaling.”

Either way, approach this practice with a beginner’s mind, because it’s a different kind of writing than you may have done before.

I recommend taking a stream-of-conscious approach to these prompts. Don’t overthink, don’t judge or censor yourself, and remember that you’re collecting data like a scientist. This journaling isn’t meant to be read by anyone other than you.

It might be helpful to create a bedtime routine so you can reflect back on the previous day. Keep a notebook next to your bed and set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes if you need some structure to stay accountable for getting it done. Remember that this isn’t an “all or nothing” thing, even 1-2 minutes counts!

Start with the daily prompts, and then once you start to recognize the ebb and flow of your own inner seasons, you can add in the seasonal prompts, or use them during the phases of the moon to bring more intention to your work and life!

Daily Prompts

  • What cycle day is it? (first day of bleeding is day 1)

  • How do I feel physically?

  • How do I feel mentally?

  • How do I feel energetically?

  • What is my body telling me?

  • What is my intuition telling me

  • What do I need right now?

Inner Winter/New Moon Prompts

  • What can I let go of?

  • What new intentions am I planting?

  • Where is life taking me right now?

  • What is pulling on my heart?

  • Anything else I need to know?

  • How can I give myself 1% more compassion and grace?

  • What does my inner Wise Woman (80 year old self) want me to know?

Inner Spring // Waxing Moon Prompts

  • What do you want to make happen this cycle? (brainstorm your plan!)

  • What new opportunities or projects do you feel called to begin?

  • Create some positive affirmations that resonate with you

  • How do you want to define “success” this cycle? This year? This season of life?

  • What are your top 3 business priorities right now?

  • Top 3 personal priorities?

  • How can you show up this week and honor your priorities?

  • How can you move your business forward in alignment with your new energy?

  • How can you pace yourself and surrender control over the outcome?

  • Imagine yourself as a little girl - happy and free. What does she want you to know?

Inner Summer // Full Moon Prompts

  • What can I celebrate right now?

  • What or who am I grateful for?

  • What does the concept of “open hearted” mean to me?

  • What do I desire right now?

  • What can I receive right now?

  • How can I slow down and trust that everything I am manifesting and creating is already on its way?

  • Connect with your inner Mother or Goddess archetype, the nurturing and expansive creative force inside of you. What does she want you to know?

Inner Autumn // Waning Moon Prompts

  • Connect with your inner Wild Woman archetype. What does she want you to know?

  • What is no longer working?

  • What can I release?

  • What fears or limiting beliefs am I holding?

  • What open projects or conversations are draining my energy? What can I bring to completion right now?

  • How can I surrender?

  • What self-sabotaging behaviors keep coming back to haunt you (the ones you’ve been “working on” for years but can’t seem to “get rid of”)?

  • Where are you doing something that doesn’t feel like you?

  • What do you fear is the worst that could happen if you allow the world to see who you “really” are?

  • What are you angry about?

  • What are your needs? What’s yours to own, and what isn’t? Where do you need to stand firm and set a boundary?

  • What are you ashamed about?

  • What fears are manifesting for you right now?

  • What is your inner critic saying to you? What is the underlying message?

Further Resources

If you'd like to learn more about living in sync with your cycle, I’ve created my program Wild Synchronicity to empower women to learn how to live in flow with the hormone rollercoaster, and to learn how to take advantage of our unique strengths in each phase of our cycle.

The Book of She and The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover

Adore Your Cycle e-book by Claire Baker (Claire also has amazing e-courses for connecting with your cycle and creativity!)

Red Moon by Miranda Gray

Lunar Abundance by Ezzie Spencer

Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle by Lucy Pearce


(this post contains affiliate links, so if you end up ordering a book I may receive a small kickback at no extra cost to you! yah abundance!)