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The Total Guide To Hormones and Body Confidence

A photo of Cherrelle Slaney, period and menstrual cycle educator, wearing a bralette.

Let’s talk about how your menstrual cycle can affect your body confidence. Through the different phases of the menstrual cycle, we have changes in our hormone levels which can affect both our mood and our physical appearance. Do you feel rubbish about yourself just before you’re due on? Yet just two weeks earlier you were feeling super confident? Or perhaps you notice that your body feels different one week to the next? Your menstrual cycle plays a huge part in these changes.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you’ll know I’m obsessed with my cycle. For anyone who hasn’t heard me talk about this I will quickly explain the basics of the menstrual cycle. You have 4 phases in your cycle, each with their own set of hormone changes which can really affect your mood and your energy levels.

the menstrual cycle seasons

We can liken thes phases to the seasons of the year, so you have:


menstruation (which is when you’re on your period) – this is the winter phase.
pre-ovulation, which is exactly what it sounds like – its the time between your period ending and when you ovulate – this is the Spring phase.
ovulation, which is your summer phase (you can tell when you’re ovulating by changes in your cervical fluid). And lastly,
• the premenstrual phase, which is the time between ovulation and the start of your next period – this is the Autumn phase.

 

When you get your next period the cycle starts again and you’re back to the Winter phase.

 

If you’re using hormonal contraceptives, your body might not follow this pattern because of the way hormonal contraceptives work. One of the ways they work is to stop you from ovulating, and because you’re not ovulating, you’re not having a true menstrual cycle – so what I’m about to share might not resonate with you if that’s the case.

So, the seasons look something like this:

Winter is low energy, but you’ll probably find you’re quite a good thinker during this phase. You’re probably better able to make decisions and come up with new ideas, but you might not have the energy to follow them up.

Spring is when you start to get some more energy back, and those ideas you came up with can start to come to life.

Summer is high energy, high mood. So you’re really spirited here, a real “get shit done” kinda girl.

• And Autumn, is typical PMS territory. You’re likely moody, impatient and self-critical.

That’s a quick rundown of the 4 seasons, but what does this have to do with body confidence? I’m gonna run you through some of the changes that happen within your body during each season so you can better understand why you might feel a bit all over the place one week to the next.

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the premenstrual phase

Let’s start with your inner Autumn, because if any of the phases has you feeling shitty, likely it will be this one. With the autumn phase comes this inner critic. We are way more self-critical during this phase than any other, so that negative self talk is likely more prominent here.

 

Couple that with the fact that you’re holding water, bloated and potentially even constipated. A rise in progesterone leading up to your period can slow your gut down, causing some of these symptoms. You’re looking physically different and your mind is not feeling kind about it. It can be really hard to love yourself during this phase.

menstruation

Your period, or your inner winter – this is when you’re on your period. When you get to this part of the menstrual cycle, you get a huge hormone dip which signals your body to start bleeding. The major dip in hormones which causes you to bleed, also gets your gut moving again. This can lead to more bloating.

 

That same hormone dip also creates a release of tension. That frustration you might have been feeling about your body in the autumn phase get released.

 

With the winter phase, comes hibernation. Okay, not literally, but your energy levels are at an all time low here. Makeup is a no go, doing your hair is absolutely not happening, and you’re wearing nothing but baggy sweats for 3 days in a row. You might look in the mirror and just feel a bit “bleurgh” – but that’s okay.

 

Although you’re probably not looking and feeling your best here, positive self talk is much easier. You’ll probably find you’re more able to be kind to yourself.

pre-ovulation

Your inner spring phase is when things start to get a little more interesting. I mentioned already that this phase sees you feeling a little more carefree. So you’re more likely to let go of your insecurities here.

You’ve come out of the period cave, and you’re excited to be wearing your favourite clothes again. Maybe you’re up experimenting with new makeup or getting some beauty treatments in. (Side note: if you’re a waxer, this is a good time to get it done because it actually hurts less in the Spring phase.)

That bloating you’ve had through Autumn and Winter is fading away at this point, and your boobs are likely softer during this phase too. Although there are physical changes happening here, the biggest shift is in the mindset. Suddenly you’re feeling playful and flirty. You’re likely just feeling way more confident.

ovulation

In your inner summer, your energy is super high. Your mood is lifted and everything in the world suddenly just seems way more attractive to you – including yourself.

 

Physically, your boobs will be perkier at this point. Your skin is likely at it’s best, and that water retention and bloating you had earlier in the cycle is gone. But again, it’s that mental shift that’s most important.

 

You’ll be feeling your best, super confident and more inclined to love what you see in the mirror. At the end of the day, ovulation is baby making time, so it makes sense that this is the phase where you’re feeling your most attractive. If any of the phases has you feeling yourself, this will be the one.

 

You can see how your mood and your physical changes impact the way you feel about your body. And it’s important to realise what effect your hormones have here. I find it really useful to understand how I’m likely to feel during each phase, because it helps me be more rational.

 

Instead of looking in the mirror and being harsh on myself during my Autumn phase, I understand that my body is just doing it’s thing. That my mind is overly critical here. It just helps to know that, and to put those feelings of inadequacy to one side until I’m in the Winter headspace.

It’s about working with your cycle to become more empowered within yourself.

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3 Self Care Secrets For A Better Period

A photo of Cherrelle Slaney, period and menstrual cycle educator sitting on a bed.
Are you feeling burnt out during your period? Does menstruation make you tired? Tiredness during your period is totally normal. But what can you do when you feel worn out while bleeding?

If you’ve read my blog before, or you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice there’s been a bit of a theme developing. Yep, ya girl is obsessed with periods. I used to HATE having my period. The cramping, the blood, the spots, the tiredness, the misery – oh the misery! Over time, I’ve learned how to work with my cycle instead of against it, and now period week is probably my favourite time of the month.

self care for your period

Let me make this clear, my period has not changed. I still get the cramping, the blood (obvs), the spots and the tiredness, but I learned to let go of the misery. By learning about what is happening in my body, and the understanding way it makes me feel, has really helped me to lean into the joy of menstruation. And yes, menstruation, your period, shark week, whatever you want to call it, absolutely can be a bloody joy if you let it.

Getting to know your body and listening out for what your body needs during this time is the key. Self care is a prerequisite for uncovering the magic of menstruation. Here are my 3 essential acts of self care for when you’re on your period.

Feeling tired on your period?

When you’re on your period, your energy levels are low. You have a huge drop in hormones here and your oestrogen levels are at their lowest point. Low levels of oestrogen can affect your energy levels. Instead of desperately trying to fight through that and clinging to you to-do list like your life depends on it, schedule some time to sink into that rest your body is so deeply craving.

I know, we all have responsibilities, and just because you’re bleeding doesn’t mean your responsibilities all melt away, but some forward planning earlier on in your cycle when you are feeling more energetic can really give you the time and space you need to take it a little easier through your period. For some this might look like batch cooking during your ovulation phase, or getting laundry done in advance so you can let it slide for a couple of days.

Obviously, there will be some commitments which mean you can’t just go taking naps willy-nilly, but do what you can to rest. Sit rather than stand, take a bath rather than shower, or order pizza instead of cooking. Whatever you can do to conserve energy during this phase, do it.

 

Even 20 minutes rest is better than no rest at all. Whatever little time you can spare is worth spent resting during your period. Grab yourself a cuppa, go lay down for a while and switch your phone off. Your body will thank you.

Your body is shedding your uterine lining. Yes, that sounds like a big task (I mean, it kinda bloody is – pun intended) so it’s perfectly acceptable for you to feel tired. Taking it easier, especially during the first two days of your period, and restoring some much needed energy will save you from burnout later on in your cycle. If it’s available to you, taking a couple of days to slow down means you will be able to make the most of the high energy you experience during ovulation.

It makes sense to rest when you need it. YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEEL GUILTY FOR THIS. Lemme say it again for those at the back…

 

YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEEL GUILTY FOR SLOWING DOWN WHEN YOU ARE BLEEDING!!

 

Yes, your children will still need looking after. And yes, you might still need to provide food for your family. But there is no shame in taking the easy route, or asking for help where you need it.

If a friend called you and said “Babe, I got my period and I’m so tired. I feel like crap. Could you watch the kids for an hour? I really need a nap.” – what would you think? “Lazy.. using their period as an excuse to slack off from being a parent! The cheek!” Or, would you be more like “Honey, I feel you. This was me last week, I’ll be right over”. Just as you wouldn’t judge someone you love, those who love you are not going to judge you for looking after yourself.

Setting healthy Boundaries

Self care does not always look like bubble baths and face masks. In fact, one of the most important self care strategies you can implement is to set healthy boundaries. Boundaries are essential, and when you’re not used to setting them you can feel like you’re being selfish – but trust me, you’re not. Saying no to things you’re just not up for when you’re bleeding can help you to get the rest your body needs.

I know, so often we’re out to please everyone and we hate saying no unless we have a “legit excuse”. But guess what, even if you aren’t prioritising self care throughout the rest of your cycle, during your period it’s paramount. Oh, and FYI, you really don’t need your period or any other “legit excuse” to prioritise looking after yourself. But, as Claire Baker puts it in her book, 50 Things You Need To Know About Periods, “Think of your period as the pit stop of your month… if there’s one week of your cycle I encourage you to prioritize yourself, this is it.”

When you’re bleeding, you might not feel like being very sociable, and that’s okay. If you track your cycle, you can start to learn when your period is likely to come. There are plenty of apps out there you can use to do this such as Clue or Flo, but if you prefer to do this with pen and paper I created a cycle tracking sheet just for you. Getting to know when you’re likely to bleed means you can mark out these days in your diary and schedule your plans around your period.

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If you’re caught out by your period and can’t face plans that you’ve already made, that’s okay. Plans can be rescheduled for a couple of days time when you’re feeling a bit more up to it. Likely, at least some of your friends have periods too, so saying something like “Oh man! I just got my period and feel like shit. I really need to rest. Can we reschedule?” is probably a notion they can relate to. It’s totally okay to set these boundaries – guilt not required.

Asking For Help On Your Period

Just like setting boundaries, asking for help when we need it is also a tender act of self care during your period. You’re tired, emotional and more than likely to have dropped the ball. That’s okay – don’t beat yourself up for it. Just ask for some help.

 

You don’t have to completely shut off while you’re bleeding and let everyone else to run around after you (although, if this is an option I’d definitely be inclined to indulge), but asking someone else to help you out is no bad thing.

 

Even the smallest asks can make a huge difference to your wellbeing and stress levels while you’re bleeding. I know one thing I definitely don’t have the headspace for when I’m on my period is organising meals for my family. I tend to have a stock of homemade ready-meals in the freezer in preparation for this, but if I’ve not been organised enough to plan ahead, I ask for help.

Asking my husband to take care of the dinner, or sometimes even just asking him to decide what we’re having and I’ll do the cooking, takes a lot of pressure off.

 

The thing is, while we are all capable of asking for help, sometimes guilt gets the better of us. There was a great post on Instagram recently from Natalie Lee @stylemesunday about how often, as parents, we live in this world where we expect ourselves to be everything for everyone all the time. Nat said:

 

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with making time for yourself and ensuring you’re top of your own priority list. It’s not selfish to look after yourself. There’s something about being a mother that has become synonymous with sacrifice and martyrdom, well that doesn’t always work for me. My kids need someone who isn’t always burnt out and tired. My daughter threw a coin into a fountain recently and made a wish – she wished for me to be happy and it really struck me to my core. So, I’m making it my priority to be happy.”

 

Parent or not, taking time out for yourself is not selfish. Asking for some help when you’re not feeling your best is not selfish. Taking care of yourself should be a priority, and while it might feel impossible for it to be at the top of our priority list all of the time, I encourage you to make sure you are looking after yourself while you’re bleeding.

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The Secret To Harnessing The Power Of Your Menstrual Cycle

A photo of Cherrelle Slaney, menstrual cycle and period educator, sitting on the bed wearing glasses while tucking her hair behind her ear.
Ah, the menstrual cycle. What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear this phrase? Your period? Right? Well, your cycle is more than just your period. I wanna discuss what the menstrual cycle actually is, what happens to your body through the cycle and how you can learn to work with it’s natural rhythm.

What is the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is the hormonal cycle your body goes through in order to prepare for a possible pregnancy. Whether you’re interested in getting pregnant or not, you cycle is worth getting to grips with. Working in sync with your cycle can be the key to enjoying the cycle as a whole, rather than just dreading your period every month.

The cycle can be broken down into 4 phases. Each of these phases comes with a set of hormonal changes that can affect your mood and your energy levels, as well as bringing physical changes to your body. You might not feel huge shifts between these phases, it might just feel like you slip gracefully from one phase to the next – much like the changing seasons of the year.

Menstrual Cycle Phases

The 4 phases of the menstrual cycle go as follows:

 

 • Menstruation (your period)

 

• Pre-ovulation

 

• Ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg)

 

• Premenstrual

What is menstruation?

Menstruation is another word for your period. Although you might think of you period as the end of your monthly cycle, Menstruation actually signals the very beginning of your cycle.

The first day you get bright red blood flow from your nether region, is day one. It’s important to note that if you get some spotting before your period, this is perfectly normal, but it doesn’t count as your first day. Wait for that full flow of blood. This is day one of your cycle.

While you’re menstruating, you might feel tired. Your body is doing a bloody big job behind the scenes. If you’re not pregnant this cycle, your oestrogen and progesterone levels drop which signals your body to shed the uterine lining. This is your period. These low oestrogen levels can cause you to feel tired and sluggish.

When you’re on your period, that tiredness you feel might seem like a bit of an inconvenience. You need to work, look after your children and maintain your home – but taking a rest while your bleeding is always a good idea. I know it might seem impossible when you have responsibilities to see to, and you may well feel guilty for taking some time off for something as “trivial” as your period, but as far as I am concerned – it’s essential. If you can learn to better prepare for your period, and let go of the guilt that surrounds taking a break, menstruation can become much more enjoyable.

Your perfect period plans might look like snuggling up on the couch with a hot water bottle, a snack and some Netflix – but if you can’t always take this much of a break while bleeding, do what you can to rest. If it helps, think of your period as your inner Winter – a time for hibernation.

What is the pre-ovulation phase?

The follicular phase is the time between menstruation, and ovulation. Just like thinking of your period as your inner Winter, you can think of your Follicular phase as your inner Spring. That tiredness you felt during your period has started to wane, and you’re ready for new life.

After you finish bleeding, you get a steady increase in oestrogen. Remember how we said that low oestrogen levels cause tiredness? Well, as your oestrogen levels start to increase, you start to have more energy. You’ve awoken from the period slumber and are ready to start exploring the world. Because each person will have a slightly different cycle length, it’s hard to say which day of your cycle this will happen for you, but when you finish bleeding is a big indicator.

During your follicular phase you might notice that you’re coming at life with a new found curiosity. It’s a great time to do some learning or try something new. You might also notice that any worries or insecurities you had when you were pre-menstrual start to melt away. This is a time for feeling energised and carefree.

Charting your cycle is a great way to start to notice patterns in how you’re feeling month to month. All you need to do is jot down how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis. You can do this in the corner of your diary or in a journal. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just a few words about your general mood and your energy levels will be enough, although if you want to go in deeper with this, by all means, do!

What is ovulation?

Ovulation is when the egg is released from the ovary. Those rising oestrogen levels you experienced during your follicular phase come to a peak at ovulation. This means that when you’re ovulating (and for a few days either side) you are feeling super energetic. Think of this phase like your inner Summer – you’ve got lot of energy, you’re feeling super sociable and you’re generally just loving life.

Remember how I said before that if we can learn to better prepare for our period we can make it more enjoyable? This is the time to prepare. Granted, you probably won’t bleed for a couple of weeks yet, but making the most of this peak in energy can really pay off when you’re feeling like you want to take it easy.

Suddenly you’re feeling like superwoman, you’re working harder, being way more productive and are generally a “get shit done” kinda girl during this phase. Use than energy to get things done now that you might not have the headspace for later. Batch cooking, getting big projects completed or being sociable are all good ideas here.

Think back to when you were last on your period. What was one thing you really struggled to do while you were bleeding? How can you make the most of the energy you have now to better support you during your next period. What can you get done now that will allow you to take a break later?

What is the premenstrual phase?

The premenstrual, or luteal phase, is the time between ovulation and menstruation. Once you’ve ovulated, your oestrogen levels start to decline and progesterone starts to dominate this part of your cycle. The role of progesterone is to prepare the womb for a possible pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining – much in the same way that animals spend the Autumn preparing their nests for hibernation. Yes, you can bet that this phase of the cycle is like your inner Autumn.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume you’ve probably heard of, and maybe even experienced, PMS. In fact, it was my self-confessed, semi-psychotic PMS symptoms that really prompted me to get to grips with learning about the menstrual cycle.

Anxiety, moodiness and anger can all come out during the premenstrual phase, and while it’s easy to write these things off as PMS, they can actually serve a greater purpose in the grand scheme of your life.

Some of the annoyances and worries you experience during the premenstrual phase might be unwarranted, it’s true. But some of them might have been bothering you for some time, you just didn’t notice as much when you were feeling on top of the world during ovulation. It’s worth taking note of these things and coming back to them once you start your period. When you’re bleeding, it’s much easier to be reflective of whether or not these things are really bothering you, and to find solutions for how you can change them.

Tracking your cycle

As I already mentioned, tracking your cycle is the gateway into fully understanding how you are feeling through each phase of the cycle. It doesn’t have to be difficult – in fact it’s really simple, yet it’s a great tool for getting to know yourself and your body better.
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