Image courtesy of STIL at Unsplash

Image courtesy of STIL at Unsplash

Have you ever had days when ideas are flowing, your to do list is being ticked off and you feel on top of the world.  Yet there are days where you struggle to get motivated and instead of getting things done all you want to do is curl up on the sofa, eat chocolate and binge watch netflix.  You can't understand why this happens and you wonder what is wrong with you?  If so, then I may have the answer for you.

At the beginning of this year I read a book that made me realise that I had no knowledge of what it means to be a woman, even though I was approaching my 45th birthday.  Don't get me wrong I knew that we had a time of the month (yes a period, I said it!) and I knew I could be a little irritable for a few days before (yes PMT!).  I also knew that each month I suffered with horrendous pains but due to my job I would be all over the country, in meetings and social events when all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and hide from the world.  That was my limited knowledge of what it meant to be a women each month.  Yet that was about to change.  When I read this book, it was like a lightbulb went on in my head.

In the book "Code Red" by Lisa Lister I learnt that as a woman we actually go through a monthly cycle each and every month and each day we are in a different phase that can have an impact on our body and mind and we will alter and shift, much like the seasons.  Being a woman is not limited to periods and PMT.  So what was some of my biggest takeaways:

  • It made me realise that when I am doubting myself sometimes it has nothing to do with me as a person and everything to do with my hormones
  • It made me realise that trying to being consistent as a woman is bloody difficult when we have different hormones affecting our bodies at different times of each month
  • It made me realise that there are times when my body will alter and change from season to season (throw out the scales ladies!) and my appetite and cravings will be different at different times of the month
  • It made me realise that I am an extrovert by nature but there are times when I just want to be an introvert and thats why I won't want to answer the phone or be sociable
  • It made me realise that as a woman I go through the seasons like nature each and every month and that doesn't mean I am crazy or incompetent - it just means I am a woman.  Hallelujah!  
  • It made me realise that I am a woman and because of that I am bloody amazing!!

So how do you manage your life as you go through these seasons each and every month?  We may be full of the joys of spring and then wanting to hibernate in our winter phase.  Well we are all woman but we are all different, so first thing you need to do is start to track your cycle. Start to write down the day of your cycle and every day make a note of your mood, your productivity levels, any changes to your body, your self talk, your energy or any information that you feel is relevant.   You may see similarities on a a particular day each month.  For instance I might notice on day 20 I may feel extrovert, want to be around other people, be very productive with good energy levels but on day 3 I can find that I struggle to focus, want to work quietly on my own, have lower back ache and have a mild level of anxiety.  

So once you have tracked your cycle for a couple of months you may have a little more understanding of yourself and your own patterns each month.   I know you may be reading this thinking that you have little or no control over your diary and you don't know how you can plan your diary around how you feel but here are some tips to help you no matter how busy your diary is: 

1.  Use your different energy and moods for different tasks.  Once you are more familiar with your monthly cycle you can look at planning when is the best time to do certain tasks.  I used to try and make myself be creative on a Monday but that just doesn't work for me.  Some Mondays I can be creative and other Mondays I don't have a creative bone in my body.  Find what works for you and see if you can shape your diary to work in those different phases.

2.  Look at when you plan meetings, events and social get togethers.  You may notice what days you do and don't feel like socialising.  There may be certain things that you cannot control but when you can, think about where you are in your cycle and be ok with saying no.  I find when I am in my spring and summer phase I want to plan and be social but if I overplay for when I want to be introverted, I look at my diary and wish I didn't have planned what I have committed to.  So where you can be mindful of your diary commitments.

3.  Schedule extra self care for when you need it.  There may be times of the month that you will struggle with energy, concentration and being around others but you have no chance to clear your diary so in these times think about having an early night, taking a lunch break or having that bubble bath.  Pull some extra self care practices out of the bag and give yourself a self care hug.

4.  Use your time wisely when you are in good energy.  There will be times when you are full of beans and on fire so think about how to use it.  Batch cook meals, be creative, be sociable.  Get stuff done for the times when you may need to slow down or have no desire to cook, create or socialise.

5.  Be careful not to burn out when you are in your energetic time.  Oh yes there will be times when you feel like you are on fire and you just don't want to waste that energy.  Harness that energy but be careful not to burn yourself off.  

6.  Don't be so hard on yourself.   This one is super important.  When we recognise that we are a human that goes through 4 seasons in one month, we need to accept that we won't be firing on full cylinders all the time and if we don't thats ok.  It doesn't make us useful or incompetent and in fact when we allow ourselves to slow down we make space for new ideas, etc.  The best thing we can do is talk kindly to ourselves.

7.  Create a toolbox of tools, rituals and techniques.  You may start to figure out that there is not a one size fits all solution.  Throughout the month you will need different things on different days and that's ok.  Some days you may need some upbeat music, other days you may need a meditation, other days you may feel like a gentle yoga sequence,  others you just need silence and a duvet.  Whatever works for you.  Start to ask yourself what does my mind and body need today and give it that.  Learn to flow with your cycle and not fight against it.

Now I worked in HR for over 20 years and we never talked about how being a woman could affect us in the workplace each month.  In fact I would go so far to say that it is a taboo subject in most workplaces and we hide it (as well as our tampax up our sleeves!).  This needs to change.  We need to be able to open up about something that is so natural and look at how women may need support, some flexibility around their working patterns or even just a duvet day. Now I am not for one minute saying that women cannot do the job, in fact I am saying that there are days that she may need to take it slower but she will definitely make up for it when she is in her energetic phases and would wipe the floor with the productivity of any man (sorry guys!).

I really hope one day in business that this is a subject that is discussed, that policies are in place to support women in the workplace around their hormones and monthly cycles and there are duvet days for when you just need to retreat to your woman cave.  A woman can dream can't she.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this so please do let me know in the comments below your views, your opinions, your ideas and insights.  Look forward to chatting with you.