All The Benefits of Menstrual Cycle Awareness

Should you be paying attention to your cycle beyond the days of your period? 

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We’ve come a long way in over the last decade when it comes to talking about periods (yep, even though a certain corner of Ireland still get their knickers in a twist over tampon ads). We now speak openly about painful cramps and heavy flow, and compare notes on MoonCups and period underwear. Conditions like endometriosis are finally being taken seriously, as is impact of period poverty. There even exists a red blood droplet emoji to symbolise menstruation.

But for as much as we know about periods, the intricacies of the rest of our cycle are probably still a mystery to most of us. Our bodies are hard at work for those 20 or so days, with hormone levels rising and falling – but what exactly is going on, and does it have an effect on our bodies and minds? Should we be on friendlier terms with our cycle? Fans of a practice called Menstrual Cycle Awareness say yes.

Lisa de Jong is a menstrual coach who helps women to understand and work with the rhythms of the menstrual cycle. “I had really bad period pain ever since I can remember. I went on the pill, but got side effects – it just didn’t sit right with me to be on and off the pill for so long, so I started to go down a more holistic route,” she says. Her life completely changed after she discovered Menstrual Cycle Awareness, leading her to train as a coach herself so she could help other women achieve the same. “I call it a recovery journey because I still might have days where I have painful periods, but I manage my life completely differently based on what I understand about the female body and the cyclical nature of hormones.”

Those who practice Menstrual Cycle Awareness tend to look at the stages of the cycle as seasons: ‘Winter’ (typically day one to day five of the 28-day cycle) starts on the first day of your period, when we feel a little like ‘hibernating’. Then we move into ‘spring’ (days five to ten), where hormone levels are rising and we have a little more pep in our step. Ovulation falls during ‘summer’ (days 10 to 20), bringing a ‘superwoman’ level of energy. ‘Autumn’ (days 20-28) meanwhile, is when we start to feel a little more tired and moody, with our bodies preparing once again for our periods. 

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Of course, no cycle is exactly the same, and conditions like endo or PCOS can make things unpredictable. But according to Lisa, recognising the cyclical nature of your own body can have many benefits. “It feeds into not just your physical health and energy levels, but also your emotions and mental health. This in turn helps with creativity, relationships, communication skills, and how you show up at work. You can discover your strengths and vulnerabilities on certain days of the month, which helps with things like your expectations of yourself, and how to take care of yourself.

“We live in a productivity-addicted culture that’s not conducive, I don’t think, to women’s bodies. And then what happens is, because we haven’t been educated about this and we don’t understand our bodies on that hormonal level, they start to scream at us. PMS and heightened emotions are not ‘irrational’, they’re there for a reason. It’s usually something to do with a need or an expectation that is not being met.”

Basically, your menstrual cycle has more influence on your overall wellbeing than you’d think, but there is potential to play it to your advantage. If you find that you’re super productive in ‘spring’, it could be the ideal time to schedule those pesky jobs you’ve been putting off. If in ‘autumn’ you can barely get through a gym class you’re usually a pro at, you’ll know to cut yourself some slack. I am firmly into my ‘autumn’ as I write this, and can barely concentrate from one end of a sentence to another. This day last week, at the tail end of what would have been my ‘superwoman summer’, I was firing stuff out with ease. But how will I know for sure that this is my hormones causing mischief? Lisa is a big proponent of tracking how you feel throughout your cycle, and comparing it month on month.

Apps like Clue are good for logging the basics, from physical symptoms to moods, but if you’d like to go further, Lisa suggests using a journal to make quick daily notes under these headings: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual, if you fancy. “It doesn’t have to be a huge about of journaling, just ten minutes to jot down a few notes. ‘Physical’ could be anything from bloating to cramps to libido. ‘Mental’ is your general thoughts, inner critic, or concentration. ‘Emotional’ is the general tone of what was going on emotionally. Some people to like to write a few notes about feeling connected, or creative, or time they spent meditating. Dreams are another area too.

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“If you start tracking every day, or as much as you can, for four to five months, you can look back on your different seasons and identify certain trends over time. For myself, I’ve worked with my cycle for a long time, and I used to be really moody and irritable when I was pre-menstrual, but I’ve learned what my needs are at around that time. I need friends and nice company, but I don’t need loads of XXX, because I’ll just be wrecked.” 

‘That time of the month’ has taken centre stage in our discussions of the menstrual cycle, but there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. Why not dip in, learn a bit about it, and see where it takes you? “[Tracking your cycle] is a lovely self-care practice to have,” says Lisa. “The cycle becomes your support system, as opposed to a burden.”

The seasons of your cycle

Want to track your cycle? The first day of your period is ‘day one’ – note it down on your calendar or in your diary, and see how you feel as your ‘seasons’ unfold


Days 1-5

Winter starts on the first day of your period. “It’s normal for women to feel this call to withdraw and rest,” says Lisa. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to down tools for a week and do nothing – it can just be simple things like wearing more comfortable clothing, preparing your meals in advance, taking a little more time in the morning, and maybe not putting so much pressure on yourself to be amazing all the time.”


Days 5-10

You’re more or less out of your ‘period cave’, as Lisa describes it, and ready to face the world again. Oestrogen is building up in the body, and while you might be on a more even keel emotionally, it’s still wise to pace yourself. “If you haven’t rested enough [during winter], you might feel burned out quite quickly. Be kind to yourself.”


Days 10-20

The summer stage is characterised by an almost ‘superwoman’ level of energy and emotional resilience. Oestrogen is at its peak here due to ovulation, and you’ll likely feel ready to take on anything life throws at you. “We have to be careful here because that energy can be a little bit seductive – if we say yes to everything, two weeks later, we can kind of regret that,” Lisa advises.


Days 20-28

Because what comes next? Autumn – the pre-menstrual phase, where things get complicated again. Energy starts to decline, and we may feel moody and irritable. It has its upsides too, though: “A lot of my clients say that it’s the ‘no nonsense’ part of the cycle, and they can see things quite clearly. Autumn is a good time to get things done on your to-do list.”

Find out more about Lisa’s work and book a coaching session at

Words by Valerie Loftus