For centuries women have been associated with mood swings and instability. It is really common for both women and men to see this unpredictability as an issue. However, often enough, the discomfort we feel towards our periods comes from a misinterpretation of it. Women go through four different phases during their cycle, which are indeed characterized by different moods and skills. Understanding what these phases entail can help women feel more synchronized with themselves and men to better “decode” sisters, girlfriends, and friends’ moods and actions.

#1 The Menstrual Phase

The menstrual phase (approximately day 1-5) is commonly thought to be the end of the cycle, but in reality it is the beginning of it. During this phase – which is also known as the reflective phase – energy levels are low, there is an increased need for sleep and lack of concentration.

How Women Feel: lack of energy due to low estrogen levels, increased need for sleep, cramps. Possible feeling of disconnection, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a temporary feeling.

Enhanced Skills: inner reflection, new ideas, intuitive creativity, renewal.

Optimum Time To: slow down, nurture the body, reconnect to what is important to us and spend time for self-care. The menstrual phase is the perfect moment for a fresh start and for looking at things with a new perspective. It is the right time to look at goals set for yourself in the past and assess whether they are still serving your purpose or you need to let some of those go. Be self-loving.

To Avoid: unwillingly getting in social situations, worrying too much about external responsibilities. Trying to fix others and ourselves. Don’t expect to be dynamic and energetic and prefer gentle physical activity over very intense one. Be careful not to feel victimized by other people’s criticism or feel overwhelmed by external demands.

#2 The Follicular Phase

The follicular phase – also known as the dynamic phase – comes after the menstrual one and anticipates ovulation (approximately day 6-13). Once menstruation ends, it feels like emerging from an hibernation-like state.

How Women Feel: energetic, outgoing, motivated and productive. As estrogen increases, energy rises. Likely to feel a strong need or desire to make changes and take action. 

Enhanced Skills: mental creativity, willingness and ability to learn, clarity, concentration, independence, physical stamina, optimism and sociability.

Optimum Time To: build self-confidence, catch up on the things that could not be achieved during the menstrual phase. It is a good moment to set goals and plan incremental steps towards it. This also seems to be the right time to start new lifestyle regimes, make changes in life and work and dive into new projects.

To Avoid: getting frustrated if it feels like people around us are not keeping up with our energy and focus.

#3 Ovulatory Phase

The ovulatory phase is the third one and is also known as the expressive phase (approximately day 14-21). After the dynamic phase, which has been all about our energy, there comes the time to be gentler and more accepting. This phase brings grounded-ness and a rest from the driving power of the ego.

How Women Feel: loving and giving, patient and nurturing. Generally less action-orientated, less assertive, less determined to complete projects and fulfil personal needs. The sudden hormone changes come with intensified emotions.

Enhanced Skills: flexibility, ability to compromise, playfulness. More openness to understand where other people’s input comes from and therefore less sensitivity to criticism.

Optimum Time For: communication, empathy, productivity, team work, supporting others, emotional creativity and creating relationships. Thanks to the enhanced patience to persuade, it is the optimal time to negotiate and network.

To Avoid: because the high progesterone levels can cause bloating, lowered libido and possible sluggishness, it is advised to cut down on caffeine, reduce sugar intake and stay hydrated.

#4 Luteal Phase

The luteal phase, also known as the creative phase is characterized by inspired creativity and out-of-the-box thinking (approximately day 21-28).

How Women Feel: decrease in stamina and energy, emotional and mental turbulence, and at the same time passion.

Enhanced Skills: creativity, problem identification and problem solving, assertiveness

Optimum Time For: using intolerance to fuel the clearing out of mental, emotional and physical mess. Powerful phase for change, growth and healing. Good time to cleanse yourself and prepare yourself for the new cycle.

To Avoid: not the best time to try and solve things and situations confronting people. It is wiser in this phase to think about them on our own. Not a good time to start projects and regimes. It may also be wise to avoid taking major decisions during this phase.

It is clear that these are purely indicative guidelines and are not meant to be determinant: it would be naïve to think we can synchronize our whole life to our cycle. However, understanding the different phases may help feel less confused and more aligned with our inner selves. At the end of the day, we are not robots and we are not constant: our skills flow, our moods and desire change and it is interesting to try and discover different sides of ourselves by means of knowledge and curiosity.

Resources: Gray, M. (2009). The Optimized Woman: Using Your Menstrual Cycle to Achieve Success and Fulfilment. Josh Hunt Publishing.

Written By: Maria Carmen, a 22 years old Italian girl based in the Netherlands. Researcher on menstrual health and social enterprises in the menstrual hygiene space. Passionate about sustainable living and menstrual education.