cycle tracking

Warning! I am about to get real with you. If that’s not your thing, please stop reading. We are women. We have bodies. Our bodies do amazing, and sometimes not so amazing, things. We should talk about it. Why? Because our younger selves needed to know these things. We felt alone, gross, and misunderstood. If we don’t talk, the younger generations who are counting on us won’t know they CAN talk and will feel those same ways we did.

In 2017, a few months after I got married, I went off the pill because I wanted to be a mom. I casually started tracking my period with an app just so I’d know if I was late. A few months went by with no pink line. I downloaded more period tracking apps and got to obsessing over my body, the things I was feeling, the consistency of my cervical mucus, trying to figure out just how to tell where my cervix was (there are no great angles for this), and the absence or presence of my period. To augment my tracking apps, I also started tracking my basal temperature (temperature upon waking up before you do anything else), and peeing on ovulation tracking sticks – both were supposed to indicate when I dropped an egg that could be fertilized. Yes, this was too much. It was stressful, disappointing, and, at times, heartbreaking. But, 18 months after going off the pill, I was pregnant. Maybe I took too many notes while paying such close attention to my body, but I learned so much. Specifically, I learned how my body changes during the month, physically and mentally.

I expected it, since I’d lived with anxiety and depression my whole life, but was still deeply disappointed when I was hit with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety after the birth of my daughter. I worried about everything. Even things I knew were silly – like being certain Eloise would lose her feet because her socks were too tight. And I was unable to easily cope with things outside my routines nor was I able to ask for help – even when I was suffering with mastitis. The only thing I was able to do was care for (and cuddle with) my daughter, and feel immense guilt about everything else I wasn’t able to get done or attend to. I was also unable to bring up my mental health with my doctor before giving birth, but I didn’t have to afterwards because Obgyns have new mothers fill out a mental health survey. A survey I am sure I failed wonderfully. I guess I can feel lucky because I was able to seek out help, had support, and I never once doubted how much I loved my daughter and wanted to be around her.

Since I’d been paying so much attention to my body prior to getting pregnant, I started to recognize I felt certain ways at certain times of the month. I decided to track it. I used two apps – Apple Health and Ovia Fertility – and I used a paper wellness planner.

Ovia

Ovia has better options for tracking physical and mental symptoms.

Apple Health

I have an iPhone, so Apple Health is easy and is available on my watch. However, it only has “mood changes” as an option for mental health tracking.

While tracking, I was able to confirm my suspicions. I found during my fertile week (or, approximately two weeks before my period) I could barely sleep. Specifically, I had a hard time falling asleep and I was super tired during the day. Laying in bed, wide awake, I would wonder if I should just get up until I finally fell asleep. Or, I would try to stay up until I felt tired enough to fall asleep faster.

I also discovered my anxiety is nearly intolerable the week leading up to my period. Sometimes, I couldn’t even tell what I was anxious about. My lack of coping ability led (and leads) to bouts of crying, easy frustration at my husband, and anger at nothing in particular. This is only scratching the surface on my emotion and mental state, but it shows how powerful paying close attention to your body can be!

Tracking my cycle isn’t always perfectly predictive (because no month is ever the same), but it does help me prepare and know what to expect. Because of tracking, I am able to increase my medicine dose at certain times of the month to help cope a bit better. It also means I have a better understanding of what’s going on and I know at least part of what is happening to me is driven by hormones and doesn’t mean I am broken – a thought I had for many, many years.

Ovia:

Above is an example of a day approximately a week-and-a-half before my period when my anxiety was at a high. The reason I use Ovia is because it has a decent amount of options for tracking between mood and symptoms. It also has a space for notes, which is helpful if something comes up and I am away from paper. Also, often if I don’t note it right away I end up forgetting and not writing it at all.

If you’re experiencing something – anything – similar, I urge you to start tracking. Using any one of the multitude of apps out there or even just a notebook and a pen. It’s helpful to pay attention to our bodies when they feel good and even closer attention when they don’t. We don’t need to just accept we don’t always feel well when there might be something we can do about it. And when we come up with solutions – let’s share!

Curious about what my planner looked like while tracking my moods? This is a Happy Planner (affiliate link) wellness planner:

I now use a Passion Planner Daily to journal and track my moods. I tape Cognitive Behavioral Therapy thought logs into it so I can practice changing my thought patterns. It’s important to remember to note the positive things, too! The behaviors that help make you feel better so you can reproduce them when needed.

Don’t ever forget about yourself! When we don’t care for ourselves, how can we possibly be expected to care for others?

Peace & Cookies!!

Megan B

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