February 27, 2024

Harnessing Your Menstrual Cycle for Peak Professional Performance and Wellbeing



How, as women, can we pursue our professional ambitions and also have amazing personal lives?  That’s the question I’m always asking.

This question is fueled by my own quest to understand sustainable wellbeing after my burnout experience.

But it’s also fueled by the experience of seeing too many women struggling and languishing in life.

In my quest for the answer to this question, I’ve learnt that when we put our bodies first, sustainable performance and wellbeing often follow.

But I never expected that quest to take me to look at my menstrual cycle……or that of my team members!

Last year, my team and I embarked on an experiment.

We started tracking our menstrual cycles*  to embrace a more nuanced understanding of our wellbeing and performance.

I know that might sound strange. It’s certainly not your usual workplace initiative!

For the most part, we’re only taught about menstruation when it comes to sanitary products and how our cycles impact conception.

For so many years, I saw my cycle as an inconvenience and would try to avoid or ignore it as much as possible.

But what I’ve come to learn over recent years is the power of understanding your menstrual cycle as a source of power.

Thanks to the work of brilliant people like Kate Northrup, who has shown me the power of using your cycle in life and work.

Because if we try to approach our work without recognising the impact of our cycle we’re not setting ourselves up for success.  

In fact, if we approach our work without considering the impact of our cycles, we might be setting ourselves up for a rough ride.

Men and women operate on different cycles – men on a 24-hour basis and women on a monthly one.  

If we try to approach our work like men (and our working life is designed more with men’s systems in mind), then we could actually be damaging our wellbeing and undermining our performance as a result.

With knowledge of our cycle, we can harness so much more potential in our work and life. It’s time to shatter taboos, challenge conventional norms, and redefine what success truly means in the context of women’s health and business. 

So join me as I explore the five lessons learned from this experiment with my team of incorporating menstrual cycle tracking into our business ethos.

Lesson 1: Radical Self-awareness

Tracking our menstrual cycles has helped us to:

  • anticipate energy levels, mood changes, and cognitive fluctuations throughout the month, which gives us vital information for both self-compassion but also high performance.
  • increase our interoceptive awareness – the subtle and often unconscious signals from inside our bodies.  This has increased our mind-body connection both individually and collectively as a team.  This connection has supported our health and wellbeing on so many levels.

Lesson 2: Enhanced Communication and Team Dynamics:

Tracking our menstrual cycles has helped us to:

  • have more open discussions about our wellbeing – sharing our experiences and potentially reducing workplace tension and misunderstandings.
  • increase our awareness of each other’s cycles, which has led to more understanding and empathy.

Lesson 3 : Informed Decision-Making:

Tracking our menstrual cycles has helped us to:

  • have more awareness of how our cycle impacts our energy and effectiveness.  These insights have helped inform our decision-making on scheduling activities.  
  • know when to plan important meetings or presentations at points in our cycle when we’re going to be most effective. So we can align our peak performance with our periods. This 4 R’s approach by LyfePsycle is a great summary of this:
    • Rest – During the menstrual phase, take time to rest, recharge, and look after yourself in ways that allow you to restore your energy for the phases to come.
    • Reset – As you start to get some of your energy back during the follicular phase, think about how best to use it. Reflect on your upcoming priorities and how you can utilise your energy in the most productive way.
    • Radiate – The ovulatory phase is here to motivate you to thrive! You now have an abundance of energy to put into something new or a challenging project. Take this time to reach goals, hit deadlines, and build relationships.
    • Release – The luteal phase can be the longest phase of the entire menstrual cycle, so it is important to track your energy levels as they can be unpredictable. We encourage you to wrap up projects, delegate tasks, and communicate your needs to ensure there is time to rest as your cycle prepares to start again.
  • It’s important to say that we don’t always have full control over when we can schedule important meetings but awareness of our cycle has helped us be more mindful of this and how to manage ourselves better.

Lesson 4: Productivity Optimisation:

Tracking our menstrual cycles has helped us to:

  • align tasks and responsibilities with different phases of our menstrual cycles so we can optimise productivity and focus on tasks that align with our energy levels.
  • appreciate that each phase of our cycles brings opportunities and challenges that have a real impact on our attention, focus and ultimately our productivity

Lesson 5:  Self Sourcing Our Wellbeing

Tracking our menstrual cycles has helped us to:

  • tap into our own personal wellbeing needs so that we can tailor the strategies we need to our individual cycles and rhythms
  • shut out the noise of the outside world about what we should be doing and when (a 5am morning routine might be great during our ovulatory phase but probably won’t be during our menstrual phase), instead to listen to our bodies to self-source our wellbeing for sustained performance and success.

Let’s be honest, though, this approach won’t be so easy to implement in all teams.  We’re lucky that we’re a small and mostly female team who are still cycling and open to learning and developing in this way.

So it’s essential to approach these discussions with sensitivity, respecting individual choices and preferences regarding the sharing of personal information in the workplace.

But here’s some tips on how you could start 

  • Simply begin by tracking.
    • Track the changes in your mood, energy and physical symptoms you experience day-to-day and see how these align with your menstrual phase. Do you notice changes in your energy, mental clarity, communication skills and creativity during certain times of the month?
  • Then explore planning:
    • Are there opportunities to start planning your calendar and activities around your cycle?  It might take a few cycles to build up a clear picture, but even small changes to match your cycle can make a big difference over time.
  • Lean into sharing:
    • Once you’ve started to do this for yourself, perhaps you could share your findings with trusted colleagues to start the discussion on how this could help.  Moving it from an individual approach to a more collaborative one.

I recognise that not everyone has a cycle they can track – maybe you’re on birth control,, have amenorrhea, pregnant or have entered menopause.  If, for whatever reason, you don’t have a cycle, you can instead follow the moon cycles to get yourself into a rhythm of cycle-syncing.  Because the moon’s cycle aligns with the female cycle, and we’re also affected by the moon.

As Kate Northrup shares in her work:

  • The New Moon aligns with the menstruation stage in our cycle and is like the winter in seasons – a great time for rest and reflection.
  • The Waxing Moon aligns with the follicular stage in our cycle and is like the spring in seasons – a great time for planning and initiating.
  • The Full Moon aligns with the ovulation stage in our cycle and is like the summer in seasons – a great time for connecting and being visible.
  • The Waning Moon aligns with the luteal phase in our cycle and is like the autumn in seasons – a great time for completing tasks and focusing on the next cycle.

By tapping into our cycle’s superpowers, we can be much more intentional about taking advantage of the gifts that each phase brings to uplevel our performance and wellbeing.

So this experiment, although unusual, has become a key part of our team management. Beyond the initial curiosity, what unfolded was a realisation that embracing and accommodating the natural ebb and flow of our energy levels can foster a workplace culture rooted in empathy, support, collaboration and high performance.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of culture I want to be part of.

Let me know your thoughts.

Do you track your cycle?  Do you incorporate those insights into your work?

If not, I hope I’ve inspired you to consider doing it.


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