The science, art and wonder of charting the menstrual cycle

In a busy life with endless to-do lists, charting the menstrual cycle may seem like just another thing 'to do', and who's got that time for that? However if you are struggling in any particular area of your life - be it your physical or emotional health, your work/life balance, your health goals or even your love life - then charting the menstrual cycle could be just the thing you need to do.

Why? Well, first of all we are all cyclical beings, with or without a menstrual cycle. We have a body clock which indicates when we should sleep and when we should wake - that explains those afternoon slumps - and the menstrual cycle is another internal driver of not only our energy levels but our emotional needs, our ability to focus, and the reason why sometimes we can nail it with healthy eating and exercise (and other times we can't resist the cake and duvet). This is not New Age or hippie 'nonsense', but basic biological understanding that we are not linear creatures designed to be performing regularly and consistently.

Although there has been a lot written about how to chart the cycle and what each phase of the cycle means, (you can read about that in my blog Cyclical Success), there is never just one right or wrong way of experiencing the cycle. It is a very individual experience, and one that is likely to change with each menstruator as our lives change. This is why charting is so important - it gives us insight into our own bodies, day in, day out, month in, month out. This information is more valuable than any book (or blog) can tell you. And the great thing is that it doesn't need to be complicated, it can be as simply and quick as you like. You can be arty or technological, spend an hour a day, five minutes a day - the choice really is yours.

How to get started

I have always preferred the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, but nowadays you can use a range of apps. You might find this article helpful when deciding which app to use. With the apps you can chose whether you want to get into the detail like charting your mucus (using for fertility management) or simply just keeping a record of your mood changes, emotional needs and food cravings, and if you prefer to go old school like me, you can record whatever you want. I tend to focus on my emotions, food cravings, and energy levels, but you can record anything from how sociable you have been feeling to when you do and do not want sex. You could even record in just one word if you like, how you felt that day. Whether you use your daily diary or buy a special notebook or go all 21st century with an app, soon you will have gathered detailed data on yourself in a way like never before. 

If your interest has been piqued and you want to know more, I run an online course called Know Your Flow: Wellbeing from Within, where we explore the good, bad and sometimes ugly bits of the menstrual cycle; you can find out more here. If you're ready for some one-to-one menstrual coaching, you can find out more about my ad hoc sessions and 'four seasons' package here