Period Tracking for Mental Health
1. Get a period tracking app.
Unless you want to go old school and make a handwritten chart (props to you if so), I highly recommend getting a period tracking app to log in all your info. Some apps are really great and have all sorts of info you can track such as a variety of different moods, as well as physical information like how high or low your cervix is, your BMI, and cervical mucus. Unless you're actively trying (or avoiding) having a baby, you probably don't need to log in all this information but I do highly recommend getting an app that includes more than 3-5 moods. I really liked the app "Flo" because it had several different moods I could choose from.
If you don't know when you ovulate, try out one of these methods to become even more attuned to your body. Not only is ovulation pretty much the only time during your cycle when you can get pregnant (spans between 1-3 days for most women), but it's also the time in our cycle when we are at our most active & motivated, a super helpful thing to know about yourself if you want to feel happier. I've tried all the different ways of figuring out when I ovulate but for me, the BMI was the one that worked the best for me. I've heard different things from different women so if waking up at the same time every morning to take your temperature sounds like a royal pain in the a$$, try a different method.
2. Make it a part of your daily routine.
It takes about 30 seconds from each day to mentally check in with how I feel each day and log it into the app. Every evening, I log my data into the app as part of my bedtime routine. However, it might be equally as beneficial to log your data during the middle of the day while it's fresh on your mind. Whatever works for you!
Pro tip: make sure to log your data at the same time every day so you don't end up forgetting and going like 3 days without logging in anything (not speaking from experience or anything). Set an alarm if you have you or log it when you take medication if you take a daily med.
3. Go slow.
Part of the benefit of logging your moods in conjunction with when you ovulate, your luteal and follicular cycle & menstruate, is to notice your natural patterns. That means you might have to log in information for 2-3 months before you can really start to notice any trends. And if you have irregular cycles, it might take longer. Implementing changes based off of your menstrual cycle is a mindfulness practice and takes some patience. If you're feeling like giving up... keep at it! I promise the payoff will be worth it!
4. Implement changes to behaviors based off of your observations.
This is the last part of the whole process. Once you've logged about 2-3 months worth of data, you can either go back into your app or make your own graph to start noticing trends. For example, I started to notice that I logged "excited", "in love" and "motivated" more during the days around when I was ovulating (right around cycle day 12 for me). I also noticed that I was much more likely to go on walks during this time in my cycle and walked significantly less during the end of the luteal phase, or days leading up to my period. If you're interested in learning more about the different phases of a menstrual cycle, check out this great article from The American Pregnancy Association which gives a lot more details than I can.
Once I noticed the different trends I was experiencing mood-wise in relation to my cycle, I started to implement changes. Some of the behaviors that I found helpful to observe and implement were based around social time with friends or colleagues, vacations, adding extra meetings or events to my schedule, how I dress and exercise. For example, I know that I am more likely to want to stay at home watching Netflix on the days leading up to my period so I try not to schedule any social time or meetings during those days. Instead, I spend those days doing really nurturing things for myself like doing a restorative yoga class, taking a long bath or just actively trying to be slow and easy with myself. When I've given myself permission to nurture myself during the days when my body is asking me to, I can feel more refreshed to socialize and schedule all the things when I'm ovulating and more energized.
These are just a few of the ways that I've implemented change based off of my tracking and I can't even begin to tell you how much better I feel. And I'm not alone... this is the same kind of feedback that I've been hearing more and more from mental health professionals who work with women. Not only does tracking your cycle help with feeling more attuned with your body, but it's also a great way to plan your schedule around how you know you'll be feeling (goodbye, guilt about cancelling so many plans last minute and spending all day in PJs!). And anytime we can have a stronger mind-body connection, research tells us that we feel happier. So try it out. See what you think!
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