I didn’t get this year off to the most heroic or kick-ass starts. Not that I haven’t been productive, I totally have. But I didn’t embrace my feminine seasons, and it sort of knocked me on my ass early last week. Ironically, I sort of dedicated 2021 as the year I connected with my feminine energy. Let my cycle work with me and for me, instead of fighting against it.
In December I took a short break from some of my projects to get on a schedule that would reflect my cycle. I figured I’d be in “hunker down” mode during my first phase, where I could focus on the solo act of writing. Other phases would present opportune times to create and promote new content, or edit content, or network and connect with others.
But that’s not how life works, amiright? I struggled to find the energy to create 4-5 workouts in one week, then film them all. Even at the “height” of my feminine cycle, or so said all the apps and programs I was paying attention to. On the days I designated for editing, I got behind because I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t find the motivation to sit for hours doing the tedious task.
I wasn’t embracing my feminine energy, power, and the cycle that creates these perfectly beautiful seasons within my life. Until the seasons collided.
Masterpiece Days Versus Masterpiece Cycles
As the first couple of weeks passed in 2021, I was already feeling the overwhelm sink in. Weekly kids’ fitness classes for the library (just like my Wildlife Wednesday classes, but online and with families)– fun, but a little stressful. Opened the year with a virtual talk at a community center. And launched the new ZooFit site (it’s so pretty, isn’t it?). I also unofficially started my third year as an Optimize Coach. The pressure for me was mounting, and I didn’t handle it as well as I would have hoped.
In the Optimize Coach program, they set standards– pretty high standards– for their coaches. Movement and nutrition focus for every day. Optimal sleep practices. Creating Masterpiece days. In a casual conversation with the hubby, I mentioned and then had a dawning realization that I had never had a Masterpiece Day. How could I never have experienced a Masterpiece Day?
I do set improbable standards for myself. I want to do it all. Write a book (actually, during a creative procrastination session, I found I have 20! books I want to write…twenty!). Change the world with ZooFit. You know, normal everyday stuff.
So, yeah, with my standards, I’ve never experienced a Masterpiece Day. And this realization sent me spiraling into a deep dark hole for 3 days. But what I discovered in those 3 days was revolutionary for me.
All Four Seasons
Okay, so quick lesson on cycles. Cycles are the rhythms, or seasons if you will, that a body/person goes through on a regular basis. We mostly hear about women’s menstrual cycles. But men have cycles, too. Yup! The masculine cycle is nothing like a woman’s cycle. It’s about 24-hours long, compared to a woman’s 28-ish day cycle that mirrors the lunar monthly cycle. But men have their power-hour, their nesting time, the time where they are most social, and when they have the most energy. All in one day.
Women go through similar ebbs and flows, but not all together in one day. We go through those energies, focus, and moods during a monthly cycle.
The different phases of our cycle are akin to the seasons of the year. Menstruating is like winter, where we hunker down and rest/restore ourselves. Spring and summer are our follicular and ovulation phases, where we tend to be more outgoing, social, and well, alive. Then in our fall phase, the luteal phase of our cycle, our body starts preparing for winter. We may feel a little less active or social during this time.
I realized something during my 2-day Pity Party. I was experiencing a winter season during the actual winter season. Yes, I go through 3-4 winter cycles, but this cycle had a triggering event which led me into a deeper depression than I would usually experience. Realizing I have never had a Masterpiece Day.
I also realized this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this “Winter within Winter within Winter” event. The decision to leave the zoo in 2015 to pursue ZooFit was finalized during one such circumstance. Last year, I experienced a depression at the end of February that nearly ended ZooFit. Because of a triggering event that likely occurred during my double-winter season.
So, women experience all the seasons within a month. No wonder I couldn’t accomplish a Masterpiece Day, I couldn’t figure out my feminine seasons. Of course Day 3 of my personal cycle would not be the same as Day 20, or Day 14! Why was I even remotely expecting that?
I needed to figure out my Masterpiece Cycle. What days am I most productive throughout the month? Which days should I honor my rhythms and seasons and take it easy? How does my month oscillate, and how can I get in the groove with the ebbs and flows through it all?
Learning About Feminine Seasons
I’ve been reading several books on women’s cycles. Fix Your Period by Nicole Jardim and In the Flo by Alissa Vitti were the first two that opened my eyes to how our bodies don’t adhere to the daily grind schedule of men. Since then, I’ve been fascinated and well, obsessed with using my seasons throughout the month to promote the most optimal best version of myself. These two books, among dozens of others, share how eating to sync with the feminine seasons, move to sync with the rhythms, and even coordinate our work with our cycles can promote a healthier balance in life. Honoring these feminine seasons can also reduce menstrual issues dramatically as well. I mean, as in PMS completely disappearing, feeling only mild discomfort instead of debilitating cramps, and getting on a regular schedule.
For my birthday, I signed up for a year subscription to the In the Flo community. I haven’t delved too deep into the social aspects, but I have tried some of the recipes recommended during the different phases. They’re a little basic for ZooFit, but the recipes do focus on foods which are ideal for your body and what it needs during the different seasons– healthy fats during menstrual, fermented foods (kimchi, tempeh) during follicular, etc. I admit, I’m really looking forward to making my ZooFit spin on some of these and sharing them as we continue this journey (more on that in a moment– I’m jumping the gun here).
Reinventing My Own Wheel…
What I really wanted to do to sync with these feminine rhythms and seasons is track my mood and rate my energy and creative fundamentals throughout the month. There are a lot of apps that help you track your period, and those are great. I use My Flo to figure out where I am in my cycle, but it doesn’t do much to show me any hidden trends or ebbs and flows in my cycle. To be frank and blunt, I don’t really give a shit when I’m ovulating (except maybe to just avoid sex to double make sure we don’t screw up in that capacity). What I want to know is how to make the most of my energy throughout my cycle. When am I most motivated or focused on work? How do I perceive stress throughout the month? Is there a correlation between my energy and my cravings?
I haven’t found an app or program that tracks and maps out your moods throughout your cycle, so I ended up creating my own. I’m pretty stoked and excited to discover what my seasons tell me, and how I can use this data to literally destroy walls I’ve put up for myself trying to be perfect in a masculine cycle-centered world. (for the record, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a masculine cycle and feminine cycle, but expecting women to conform to the masculine cycle is pretty asinine)
As I find more of what’s working, and able to interpret the data, I’ll share more with you all, and possibly a graph you can download yourself to help track your own feminine seasons.
Feminine Energy Cycle
I am tracking 6 aspects of my life with this project. Motivation, focus (there is a slight difference between the two– motivation to me is the desire to work, whereas focus is how I work), perceived stress, response-ability (I’ve marked it down as patience, but response-ability is so much more than “patience”), cravings, and finally energy.
I have 3 graphs with ranges from 1-10 going up to 30 days. The graph starts on Day 1 of my cycle. Again, I’m not tracking my actual cycle for fertility sake (oh god, no I can’t even say fertility without shuddering), I’m using this to find the trends within my cycle to discover my feminine seasons. So I can honor them fully and really put my energy to best use at the right times. Embrace those rhythms and create that Masterpiece Cycle.
At first I tried marking all my components on one graph. After a few days I saw that was not going to work, so I split them up into three groups– Focus and Motivation (they go hand in hand), Stress and Response-ability (I am hypothesizing that when perceived stress goes up, my patience and ability to respond at my best likely will go down), and Cravings and Energy (same as stress and response-ability, I think when my energy is up, my cravings will be curbed and vice versa).
Ebb and Flow of Focus and Motivation
It’s hard to find distinct patterns after only one month, but I am noticing already a couple of interesting points. First and foremost, with a very slight exception of 2 or 3 days throughout the month, motivation and focus go pretty much hand in hand. I’m a little surprised only by how surprised I am by that. Of course motivation and focus go hand in hand. While there may be days I am highly motivated but can’t focus, I highly doubt there are any days that I have tons of willpower but no motivation to do anything with it. I may need to differentiate these two a bit further. Focus can be on work projects, whereas motivation could be centered on self-improvement projects, like Miracle Morning, self-care, energy and movement, etc…
There is a bit of a dip both months in the beginning of my cycle. Considering the beginning of this cycle I experienced my Winter Within Winter Pity Party, I don’t know if that is completely reliable data.
Tuning into the Rhythms of Stress and Ability to Respond
So far, these two are completely supporting my theory that the more stressed out I am feeling, the less response-able I am. Here’s what I’m truly hoping to gain from tracking this- simply by tracking it, I’ll get better. I’ll be able to recognize the feelings of stress sooner, and I’ll be able to respond by honoring and embracing it as a part of the cycle, the seasonality of the perceived stress. Research shows that if you want to get better at something, start tracking it. Which is exactly what I’m doing.
Feminine Seasons Complete with Cravings
While there is definitely a correlation between high cravings and low energy, and high energy reducing the intensity of cravings, there are times this gets a little wacky. I have had a weird week, and I’ve noted it with a highlighter to indicate my Pity Party. But this is where I’m really going to have to don my scientist lab coat and do some experimenting. Play with my nutrition a bit, my eating habits, and my energy– specifically sleeping and exercising.
So, there you have my big self-care project of 2021. Embracing my feminine seasons, learning more about me, and discovering my Masterpiece Cycle to show up as my best self moment to moment– no matter what day it is!