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Ash McDonald is a Therapist, Holistic Business Coach, Hormones + Cyclical Planning Expert and Mama of 3 who is obsessed with showing women how to create more impact + income without feeling pulled away from the things & people who matter most. By combining her counseling background and cycle syncing expertise, Ash helps ambitious women like us, shamelessly embrace our cyclical nature so you can finally understand the why behind your energy, moods and the rhythm of your body…. Which is where the magic happens.
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WHAT IS CYCLE SYNCHING?
PHASE ONE: MENSTRUAL
Our hormones are incredibly low during this time, but what’s up is that we’ve got a 25% increase of connectivity between our right and left brain hemispheres.
So this impacts the kind of work that we do while it also impacts the kind of energy that we have. It’s important to know that during this time we have the capacity to do brainstorming and intuitive strategy and like thinking more clearly, but we don’t necessarily have the energy.
So while we want to create space for brain dumping and stuff like that, we also want to create space for rest. We need to honor the energy dips and lows.
We also need to honor the fact that our nutrition needs are higher because we are in fact losing blood. We need to eat to replenish with high levels of iron and high levels of protein. But also we need to simplify the digestive process because our body internally is working really hard.
So when we were having our period, our body is actually in action, working. And so I like to stick to foods that are digestively simple and nourishing. I’m talking: warming smoothies, and soups and stews and things where my body doesn’t have to work really hard to digest the food, but I’m keeping that protein highest.
Additionally, I keep saying warming stuff because our our body temperature is lower. And so again, to meet our body where it’s at, we eat foods. Are the opposite, right? So we have really low body temperature. We eat warming foods, which allows us to get into alignment internally.
So we can brainstorm better. We can focus a little bit better, but we need to have more spaciousness in our schedule and we need to eat simple warming + nourishing foods.
PHASE TWO: FOLLICULAR
In our Follicular phase, those hormones that were very low in menstrual start to rise. So our energy starts to rise. Additionally, this really cool facet of our brain, commonly referred to as pattern recognition, turns on, which allows us to take on new things.
So if you’ve ever started a new project, And you’re in menstrual or maybe even in luteal and you’re like, oh my gosh, this is so hard. Like you’re taking a course, you’re reading a new book on a new concept, you’re starting a podcast- whatever you’re doing. And it feels so daunting. There is a reason, and there’s actually a better time to start and learn new things. And one of those two phases is our Follicular phase.
The other thing that happens is our metabolism actually shifts during this time, so we need less calories. So for people to be macro counting, for instance, they might be like, oh my gosh, I can’t fit my macros in.
You shouldn’t force it. You actually need less food. We also need more digestive support. So I personally crave things like kombucha and yogurts and things that have like high natural probiotics in it.
One thing I noticed a lot with my clients is they realized, oh my gosh, I’m actually craving the foods that you’re talking about in each phase. Heck. Yes, you are. Your body knows what she needs. We just ignore it.
So more digestively, supportive foods, more cooling foods. Now your body temperature has risen and now you need more cooling foods. Yes, the pattern recognition is huge. More energy is huge. It’s a beautiful time in the Follicular Phase.
PHASE THREE: OVULATION
That middle section, those middle two weeks essentially are very high energy. Those hormones peak out at Ovulation. And again, my Ovulation starts this weekend. This is why we’re going on an overnight date tonight with my husband. Yes. I’m more in the mood. Yes. I’m more into being with him honestly and happy with him and into being in public places.
I’m really communicative. So what happens in our brain during ovulation is that your communication skills, your verbal skills heighten. So recording those videos, recording those podcasts, doing live videos and all those things that are going to require you to communicate. You’re going to do so much better here.
Now. Some people are like, I can’t change my whole schedule. That’s okay. That’s not the point. It’s understanding if you do stutter a little bit or have a hard time coming up with your words in Luteal, don’t hammer down on yourself and develop all these false narratives about being broken or something wrong with you. Instead know it’s just where you’re at and then give yourself permission and grace to be, in this case.
So everybody loves Ovulation. I would say this is when you’re naturally your best self with little to zero effort.
Although I will say I love every phase because I love the fact I have different superpowers in any given week and I get to capitalize on those and that’s a beautiful thing, but yes, Ovulation is easiest in that sense.
Additionally, this is actually one of the most important times to honor our nutrition, because there’s so much estrogen in our body. If our body is not properly detoxifying and getting rid of the old estrogen, it can end up stacking up, which essentially it’s called estrogen dominance. And when that happens, women not only ends up screwing with their hormonal ebbs and flows throughout their whole cycle, but they end up with some pretty severe side effects, including bloat and acne and depression and suicidal ideation, anxiety- some real serious stuff.
In fact, acne is just a sign that you have estrogen dominance. It’s not a sign of anything else. And the actual solution to estrogen dominance is more digestive enzymes and digestive enzymes are naturally found on raw vegetables. My skin has never looked better in my whole life because I eat based on my hormones.
One of the simple things I do during Ovulation is I’ve got this mason jar filled with raw vegetables that I out on my desk so it’s a constant reminder. I basically carry it around with me wherever I go so that I remember, but that’s one of the only changes that I make in this phase.
PHASE FOUR: LUTEAL
Our Luteal phase is what leads us back into our Menstrual phase. Think of it like a circle. We’ve got Menstrual > Follicular > Ovulation > Luteal. Menstrual > Follicular > Ovulation > Luteal.
And so, now our hormones are going to come back down as we circle back to our menstrual phase. So our Luteal phase is our longest phase. As those hormones go down, one other hormone is going up and it’s called progesterone. Because essentially women were made to create. And regardless of if we are trying to have a baby or not, our body is going to act as though we are.
The progesterone is released in order to protect the sanctity of the baby. But eventually it realizes there is no baby and the progesterone will come back down. But the thing with progesterone is that it’s a natural sleep aid and it’s a natural anti-anxiety.
So often what I see most is women who are the go-getting, high-achieving type (they’ve got that 5:00 AM./ 4:00 AM alarm) and get all the stuff done in the morning. All of a sudden they can’t wake up to that alarm anymore. And they’re thinking, what is the matter with me? Is there something wrong with me?
Actually progesterone is almost like taking a sleep aid. So it’d be like taking a sleep aid before bed and then expecting yourself to wake up, not groggy in the six and a half hours that you’re used to. You just simply cannot.
Additionally, with the lowering of estrogen and the rising of progesterone, this is the time that we tend to have our PMS symptoms. It’s the time when we tend to be the moodiest, it’s the time when we tend to be a little bit more irritated, but it is a good time because we have those skills in us to be in the editing phase of business.
So I utilize this time to edit. To do the behind the scenes work. I’m not in front of the scenes. I’m not being super social. I’m honoring the fact that energetically my energy is starting high and going low. So this is the one phase where it’s moving as it goes- trying to get us back to Menstrual.
So that intuitiveness really comes into play here. Some days I feel energetic during Luteal and other days I do not. So it starts static and it moves lower. So the first thing I nix is waking up early when I’m a Luteal and I’m focusing back on those warming foods. Menstrual and Luteal are both warming and Follicular and Ovulation are both cooling foods.
Luteal is also a time when our metabolism is affected again and actually calls for more calories. So I know I’m in luteal when I feel starving and exhausted.
And think about this. This is exactly what it feels like the first trimester of pregnancy. Hormonally our body tries to figure out, is she pregnant? Is she not pregnant? Because we go through the cycle of that first trimester. And yet, we don’t give ourselves the grace.
So you had mentioned it, but I always say: I treat myself as though I am pregnant during menstrual and even towards the end of luteal because I really am in essence. My body is working really hard. And when I am pregnant I have more grace for myself.
I eat when I’m hungry. I sleep when I’m tired. I say no to things that don’t sound good because of that nurturing, internal biological rhythm of: I want to protect this baby. But why don’t we give ourselves that same love during that same phase?