How Your Menstrual Cycle Affect Your Christmas Mood
Family holidays can be tough, especially this year, with Covid-related anxiety and arrangements. Add to that the hormonal changes in your menstrual cycle, and that’s one hell of a Christmas dinner — be it face to face or via Zoom.
Not every one of us with wombs and menstrual cycles is going to be bleeding through the holidays, but all of us will experience our cycles in some way or another. Learn more about the different phases of your cycle, and how to take it into consideration this holiday season. We’ll guide you with a self-care action plan to ease yourself into the Christmas spirit— despite what your womb is throwing at you this season.
Menstrual phase: Day 1–5
The first day of menstrual bleeding is considered the first day of your cycle. Menstruation is the shedding of thickened uterus lining from the body. Your period can last anywhere from 3 to 8 days, but 5 days is the average. During your menstrual phase, you release a combination of tissue, mucus, and blood from the uterus, because pregnancy hasn’t taken place. Your period starts when estrogen and progesterone levels drop because the egg that matured in the previous cycle hasn’t been fertilized. During your menstrual phase, you might have symptoms of cramping, headaches, bloating, mood swings, fatigue... The menstrual phase is also referred to as the “winter” season of your cycle.
If you’re in this phase during Christmas… First of all, yay, it’s the last bleed of the year! It’s a good idea to take some time for yourself and be kind to your body. If you’ll be menstruating on Christmas Day, try preparing as much as possible now, to make the day as energy-efficient as possible. You might feel uncomfortable, socially drained, and tired because your body is doing a lot to shed the old. The key here is to prepare as much as you can before the big bleed. Remember to delegate, ask for help, and prioritize rest. Best not to leave everything to the last minute. Christmas is the season of giving, but the menstrual phase is the time to give to yourself. It might feel irritating to be asked to do a lot for others when you’re feeling the need to do the opposite. If you can spare a moment in between the Christmas hassle, reflect on the previous year and the one to come. The menstrual phase is the time for turning inwards.
Follicular phase: Day 5–13
Around the time that your period ends, you’ll enter the next phase of your cycle. Your body is starting to prepare for ovulation by maturing an egg in your follicles. Your estrogen levels are rising again, to thicken the uterus lining back up. During this phase, you’ll come out of your menstrual and pre-menstrual hibernation and start feeling your energy levels rise again. The rising levels of estrogen will leave you feeling and looking good — and more interested in others. This phase is also known as the “spring” season of your cycle.
If you’re in this phase during Christmas… Not too bad of a coincidence for the holidays! While you might be inclined to be alone, you are at the height of your productivity. This is the time for planning, organizing, and performing physical tasks. Try doing tasks that you can accomplish independently, it’s the best time for focus, concentration, and taking on challenges. Perhaps, try building the megalomaniac Hogwarts gingerbread house you’ve always dreamed about. Moreover, your rising hormone levels often make you hornier. If you’re feeling a pull towards possible smooches under the mistletoe, it might just be your hormones — not the nargles! And if you’re feeling yourself, let’s wish for a new vibrator in a stocking or under the tree!
Ovulation phase: Day 14–20
As your estrogen levels peak, the process of ovulation begins. The egg you’ve been maturing up is released from one of the ovaries, and it begins its voyage down the fallopian tubes. If there is sperm in the fallopian tube, the egg can be fertilized. The egg, whether fertilized or not, continues its journey to the destination — the uterus. If the egg is fertilized, it will attempt to implant in the thickened uterine wall. This phase is described as the “summer” season of your menstrual cycle.
If you’re in this phase during Christmas… Damn, you lucked out! This is the phase where you’ll be in your element hosting and giving to others. Even your hormones are in the Christmas spirit! If you’re in your ovulation phase during the holidays, you’ll be buzzing with energy. This is the time for nurturing relationships and being of service to your friends, family, and community. Your communication skills will be heightened and you’ll be most expressive in this phase of the cycle. Basically, you’ll be the social Christmas butterfly that we all seek to be. Moreover, pleasure is heightened at this phase of your cycle — and so will your fertility! Do with that information what you will, but it could definitely be a naughtier Christmas for you this year.
Luteal phase: Day 21–28
After ovulation, if fertilization or implantation of the egg doesn’t occur, the uterus prepares to shed its lining again. This leads to decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone. If you don’t get pregnant, you may have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. These include bloating, headaches, sore breasts, changes in libido, cravings, trouble sleeping, and severe mood changes. This phase of the cycle is also known as the “autumn” of your menstrual cycle.
If you’re in this phase during Christmas… Be kind to yourself and discerning of what you commit to. Feeling sad, angry, frustrated, depressed, or exhausted are common in this phase. Remember to take your emotions and energy levels into consideration when preparing for the holidays. Do as much as possible in advance and communicate your boundaries to others, as well. While your energy levels and emotions are not on your side, at least it’s the last PMS of the year — you’ll get through it! Be easy on yourself and enjoy the downtime that the holidays can offer you.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it’s interesting and important to learn about your cycle. Understanding how menstruation works, in general, will help you track your own symptoms and understand your menstruation better. By tracking your own symptoms, you’ll be able to get valuable information about your individual flow and understand your body in all phases of your cycle. Even though this framework is relatively accurate, remember that everyone’s cycles are different. Get to know your symptoms and the timeline of your cycle by tracking your energy levels, mood, and bodily fluids. Use this framework as a guideline to learn more about your body. If you’re not quite sure which phase you’re in, check out my story about vaginal discharge, to get a better understanding of your cycle and the physical symptoms you can track.
While everyone will have slightly different experiences with the different phases of your cycle, the main message of this article is to remove the shame and self-blame from the Christmas equation. If you’re not in the most social mood, try sticking to chores where you can keep to yourself to save your batteries. If you can open up about your cycle, that can help with explaining your mood and energy levels. I recommend opening up the dialogue about menstruation with your friends and family, whether your cycle is working for you or against you. And if you can’t communicate your needs to others, at least, you’ll understand yourself a little better this holiday season.
Merry Menstruation, lovelies!