Your period is normal, your pain is not, says Berrion (Berri) Berry – Integrative Health Practitioner and founder of the Flo Academy with a mission to make periods pain free for menstruators around the world.
Your period is not meant to be a painful or dreaded experience. It is a powerful tool and by syncing up with your period you can take advantage of your life both professionally and in reconnecting with yourself.
The menstrual cycle includes 4 key phases each lasting around a week, starting with menstruation (Inner Winter), followed by the follicular phase (Inner Spring), then ovulation (Inner Summer), and lastly the luteal phase (Inner Autumn).
Here’s how to make the most out of each phase of your cycle.
Phase 1 Menstruation: Let Go During Your Inner Winter
This phase starts from the first day of bleeding, where the lining of your uterus is shedding and your hormones are at its lowest. It is time to rest, reflect and refill your energetic cup. It’s a great time to eat blood-building food to remineralise the body and kidneys and keep workouts slow such as chi gong, light yoga or just avoid it during this phase. When you let go and let your body to rest and recharge, inspiration lands effortlessly.
To find balance between rest and work, Berri reminds us to:
Give yourself permission – we have been conditioned to power through it. As soon as you start feeling lethargic, carve out 3 vacation days – the day before your period, the day of and the day after – to scale back, and turn your focus internally. This is the time for analytics, numbers, improvements in systems, and being solution oriented in this phase.
As much as we would love to hibernate and ignore all calls and messages, sometimes we cannot control what is on our to-do list. Berri suggests looking at the bigger picture and to:
Think about what season of life you are in. Even though I want to be resting, I am in the sprinting season of my business where a lot of people want to talk to me, be it clients or interviews. So, I ask myself how I can structure my week not only to be of service to others but also to myself. Prioritize what’s important and then give yourself permission to let everything else get done when it gets done. It’s not about not working or not doing things, it’s to give you permission to not be so pressured.
Let go and allow. This is the time to root deeply into yourself, reconnect with who you are and realign with your truth after taking on the guidance and lessons that arrived during your Inner Autumn. Release emotionally and shed all the baggage from your cycle so you can enter a state of renewal. The emotional release often manifests physically too through painful cramps and other discomfort.
If you experience pain during your period, Berri suggests getting to the root cause by asking yourself:
What is your worth at right in this moment – are you feeling worthy or do you struggle with that? Again, it’s easy to look at what you’re not but remind yourself what you are. Meet the darker moments with compassion and avoid running from your shadow because you are running from the truth, which is where you find the lessons. Seek the truth, learn the lesson and then move onto the next!
Phase 2 Follicular: Treasure Yourself During Inner Spring
This is the first of two high energy weeks where your estrogen levels slowly rise, alongside your confidence and energy. In Spring you are ready to slowly re-emerge out of hibernation and it’s time to start moving your focus externally, making it a great time to start new projects and put all the creativity and inspiration gained during your Inner Winter into action. With an increased ability to focus, it’s the perfect time for planning ahead, team building, meetings, strategic planning, researching and learning new things. The energy increase makes it a great time for muscle strength and warm up/cool down exercises. Aim to build momentum slowly, in line with the slow rise in energy levels so as to avoid overwhelming yourself and burning out.
When it comes to connecting to yourself, Spring is where you must truly treasure yourself. Treasure every moment and focus on uplifting yourself and appreciating all the wonderful small things – from fresh laundry, a hot cup of tea, beautiful weather or nourishing rain, and complimenting yourself in the mirror as you get ready. Do whatever you can to cheer yourself on during this week of your cycle. Of course, these are all things to do throughout your cycle but during your Inner Spring it is important to meet yourself with tenderness in order to become more comfortable with being you, so that you can truly stand in the fullness of who you are in your Inner Summer phase. However big or small – treasure it, appreciate it, love it and be grateful for it.
Phase 3 Ovulation: Blossom in Your Inner Summer
This is the phase of your cycle that Berri likes to describe as your ‘Diana Ross’ moment, where energy and confidence reaches its peak. Although ovulation only lasts 24 hours, the effects can be felt for 3-4 days after so even though you technically enter early luteal phase, it takes some time for your body to come down from that hormone high. The surge in hormone levels support the verbal and social centres of the brain, making it the perfect time for execution and communication. Be that social butterfly, book those back to back meetings, do a 15 hour day if you please! Utilise all this energy for HIIT workouts and other high energy fitness.
Celebrate yourself and be seen! Put your work out and let it be seen by others, network and enjoy socialising (safely). Embrace your magnetism and infectious energy by leading meetings, hosting social events and asking for what you want – be it your boss or the universe! Inner Summer is the moment of execution, the most productive phase in your cycle where all the loving preparation up to this point peaks so your confidence is heightened and you are able to complete and carry out all your tasks with enthusiasm and embrace the power of being visible. Everyone blossoms differently, so understand how that manifests for you and celebrate it! This is your time to enjoy being you and to live in that fullness out in the world.
Phase 4 Luteal: Create space for yourself in your Inner Autumn
The hormone high of your ovulation wears down, as estrogen levels start to drop. During this phase, your body craves rest so it is time for self care; face masks, movies, afternoon naps, long meditations, and slow walks in nature. With food, eat light but often and with fitness it’s time to dial it back and opt for stretching, yoga and light hikes.
When it comes to work, Berri advises utilising this energy for internal focus: reviewing, analytics, brainstorming, improving old ideas, editing and reviewing work. At this stage, your focus is best placed on detail oriented tasks and wrapping up projects. As energy levels drop, your inner cheerleader is soon replaced with the inner critic. Embrace your increased sensitivity and feel into the heart of creative projects again.
Your Inner Autumn is all about creating space for yourself. Your inner critic challenges you to grow, delivering its message with a sting in order to create a disturbance in order to really help you align with your truth. It’s time to review, evaluate and decide what’s in and what is no longer working for you and needs to go. Through the act of creating space for your discomfort and sitting with it, the gift gained in this phase is wisdom. However, also create space for everything that is good about yourself – stand up to your inner critic to get past the harshness in order to receive the guidance.
When asked, how do you handle the Inner critic, Berri suggests:
Feel the feelings. Being in tune with your cycle gives you the permission you need to have your meltdown and then remember who you are. Appreciate the wins and think about what you’ve learnt from the rougher days. We get so caught up in doing the next thing, the next task when during the luteal phase it needs to be: do less, God bless! It’s so easy to think about where you fall short and what you are not – not good enough, not smart enough, haven’t done enough. After you think about what you are not, start writing down what you are – worthy, thriving, loved. Take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come, it’s so important to assess the wins as that’s where the grace comes from. Breathwork is also a great tool to help slow down and connect with your emotional body.
When first starting to track and sync with your cycle Berri’s tops tips are:
First, it’s really about honouring your menstrual cycle and being in sync with the blueprint. An easier way of thinking of it is 2 weeks of high energy (spring and summer) and 2 weeks of low energy (autumn and winter).
Second, take it one step at a time. There are a lot of coaches and educators on periods right now – find one or two you like and trust, and stick with them.
Finally – find your rhythm. We live by routines and tell our bodies what to do rather than listening to our bodies. Some days your rhythm is faster, others it is slower. Take the time each morning to listen to how your body feels and then understand what it needs.
For people with chronic conditions, know your rights! If you are not being listened to, you can ask to see another OBGYN – this is your right. You don’t have to be in pain and discomfort and think this is normal. If you have irregular periods, think about the level of stress and anxiety in your life, as the release of cortisol when you are stressed affects the environment of the hormones in your body. Also make sure you get protein, fibre and a healthy fat in each meal and of course, give yourself that permission to rest and relax.
If you are interested in learning more about how to go deeper and sync with your cycle, Berri runs a 12 week menstrual education and transformation group coaching programme called the Flawless Flo Programme. The programme is designed to help you heal your cycle, master your fertility and optimise your flow with helpful and practical tools, and also working with your partners so that your loved ones can understand how to support your cycle.
We are expected to be the same every day but our body and our mind is changing day by day as our hormones fluctuate. Syncing up with your period allows you to harness your energy to be your healthiest and most productive self. However, be patient. It does take a few months to learn the rhythm of your body. If you don’t get it right one month, remember – you will have another period to keep practising with!