One of the most common mistakes women make when it comes to wellness is looking at their hormones as a liability rather than tapping into their power.
For example, we may struggle to stay in the exact same routine with food and exercise or even the same work flow structure all month long, only to blame ourselves for lacking willpower or having a hard time focusing during “that time of the month.” However, getting familiar with the shifts that take place through your cycle can help you optimize each phase by changing up your diet and workouts and identifying the tasks you’re most suited to through each phase.
FloLiving founder, best-selling author and creator of the popular MyFLO app, Alisa Vitti has been working for many years to empower women through biohacking their menstrual cycle. Her company serves as an end-to-end support system helping women to embrace their hormones and free themselves from the symptoms that reduce their quality of life.
Because of how we’ve been conditioned to think about our bodies, says Vitti, “most of us really do carry around the belief that we have to work around our hormones—ignore them, suppress them. The truth is that they’re there to help us be the most successful we can be.”
However, if you have a hormonal imbalance, she adds, “you may not feel like they’re there to optimize your well-being.” To help identify and address imbalances, she encourage women to track their period and symptoms to become aware of what shifts they can make through each phase to feel their best. “Tracking your cycle throughout the month is hugely helpful in learning to troubleshoot” with food and other lifestyle tweaks in order to eliminate symptoms and restore balance.
You can prevent energy crashes
Do you struggle with cravings or insatiable snacking during PMS? It’s actually totally normal to feel hungrier the week before your period, says Vitti. “Our metabolism changes through the month, and cravings can get the better of us.” During this phase, Vitti counsels her clients to enjoy nutrient-dense meals with slow-burning complex carbs to keep their energy up and curb mindless snacking.
You can improve your interactions with others
Being able to predict when you may be more susceptible to mood or energy shifts that impact how you feel emotionally or the degree of patience you have gives you a roadmap for taking the self-care steps you need to stay balanced. For example, you could make sure you schedule in extra breaks or remind yourself to take a breath and pause before hitting “send” on an email response or text to someone who’s pushing your buttons.
You can schedule strategically
Though you can do anything at any point in your cycle, “each phase has a unique cognitive gift,” says Vitti. For example, she explains, during ovulation the communication centers of the brain are enhanced by the boost in estrogen, making this phase a powerful time for negotiations. She adds “At other phases, you might feel excited about starting new things and making lists, but in the luteal, PMS phase, this is a great time to finish things. If you can, you may want to set deadlines and aim to finish projects during this phase.”
Knowing which workouts to prioritize during different phases can also help, says Vitti. “This can affect your mood, mental clarity, ability to focus, and energy. Doing the right workouts is a great way to get the most out of each phase.”
You can optimize your self-care
Probably not surprisingly, different self-care practices will benefit you most in different phases of your cycle. When asked about her own routine, Vitti shares that in the first half she enjoys positive things like “going to a wellness event or doing something that’s social or inspiring.” In the second half, she favors things that help her feel grounded, “like going to a stretching class, a steam room, or getting a massage or a facial.” The bleeding week, is a good time for quality time with yourself and reflecting.
Again, it’s about going with the ebb and flow of your hormones—not fighting them. “With self-care in our instagram age, the message is you’ve got to do so many things all the time and do all the self-care all the time and that’s another thing we have to be perfect at and the same very day. We’re not static creatures. We change every week. That helps take the pressure off. I just focus on what feels good in that case and simplify my life that way.”
By: Jess Cording
* This article is a repost which originally appeared on Forbes.