Is it just us or does the world suddenly feel increasingly busy? After almost two years living at a slower pace, it’s as though our productivity and motivation is being called upon at an unexpected rate. Diaries are filling up, work events are back on and belated celebrations are in full swing, so why do some days feel like more of a hard slog than others?
While we could blame the pandemic or re-entry fatigue, our lack of get-up-and-go could also be our hormones. Ah yes, they seem to bear the brunt of most misgivings, emotional outbursts and irrational tantrums but researchers of a nationwide study have discovered that productivity takes a 33 per cent hit while women are on their periods, equating to nine days a year that are lost through presenteeism (the act of showing up for work without being productive).
One expert unsurprised by the findings is naturopath Louise Westra. “I've noticed that many of my clients are struggling with a lack of motivation and productivity at different points in their cycle,” she says. “Although a lot of them haven’t necessarily realised the connection between the two. Many are so tired and depleted that they need internal support to balance their hormones whilst also working with ways to introduce cycle syncing.”
No, Westra doesn't mean syncing your periods with your best girlfriends, SATC-style, but a process that includes scheduling particular tasks and plans around different phases of your period to get the most from your mood. Originally coined and trademarked by functional nutritionist Alisa Vitti, it's proven to be effective for those frustrated by their monthly limitations – something that Westra believes can result in feeling put-upon, resentful and overwhelmed. “The actual period can be very draining for many women and that affects their productivity,” explains women's health specialist, Marilyn Glenville. “Some are losing a lot of blood and with that they lose iron which affects their energy and ability to get projects and tasks done. By getting to know our cycle and the different phases we can use the time to our advantage and make the most of that phase when we are experiencing it.”
The thought of hacking our period may sound too good to be true (as well as a little manipulative!), but experts believe it could be an effective way to maintain productivity levels throughout the month. So, how do we get started? Westra outlines the four stages to cycle sync your way throughout the month:
Menstruation (around day 1-7)
This phase is characterised by levels of all hormones being low. As mentioned above this is when our energy levels, ability to focus, and productivity levels are at their lowest point. As a result, it’s a great idea to cut back on work tasks and avoid the pressure of inflexible deadlines. Schedule rest and prioritise sleep. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to work at a slower pace without self-flagellation.
Follicular phase (around day 8-14)
Energy levels are often higher during this phase thanks to rising levels of oestrogen. It’s a good time to learn new things, get creative work completed and to start new projects as you may well be feeling more proactive. Your mind is up for more complex and difficult tasks so it’s a great idea to schedule in heavier pieces of work and those clients who are more intense to work with especially when heading toward ovulation.
Ovulation phase (around day 15-21)
Both oestrogen and testosterone rise to reach their respective peaks while progesterone dips and then starts to rise slowly at the end. Testosterone is responsible for a more outward focused energy, while the peak in oestrogen continues the feeling of being energetic and proactive. For many women they feel more extroverted now making this is the ideal time to schedule important meetings, more difficult conversations or team activities.
Luteal phase (around day 22-28)
Both oestrogen and progesterone rise during this phase before dropping significantly. As progesterone has a calming effect, your mind can start to feel slow compared to previous weeks. Some women notice a significant drop in productivity heading towards menstruation and PMS is rife. This is the time of the month when our inner knowing rises and the things we have dismissed in relationships surface. You may feel like retreating into yourself and being more emotionally responsive therefore this is the time of the month to prioritise taking care of yourself and concentrating on simpler tasks like admin.
By re-framing the inconvenience of our monthly period, cycle syncing can be a game-changing way to reclaim your life and productivity. “By planning your life and work around the cycle, it means that we can use those parts of the month where we are the most motivation and productive as well as be kinder to ourselves,” Glenville says. And who doesn't need more of that?
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