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How to Break Free From ADHD Burnout By Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle

Updated: Apr 5, 2023


Understand your menstrual cycle and break free from ADHD burnout. Banner for article about the menstrual cycle and it's phases


We live in a society that places your value in your productivity. But what room does that leave for rest, contemplation, or even the mundane day-to-day tasks that tend to be added to the heaping pile on women's plates?


Moon phases surrounding a uterus. Exemplifying the monthly cycle of women and it's connection to the universe.

Our society was built on the cycle of men, rather than the cycle of women.

Men's hormones cycle over a 24 hour period. Granting energy and creativity for productivity nearly every day. Women's cycle flows a little slower, over the span of (roughly) 28 days. In those 28 days our hormones rise and they drop and our creativity, focus, and energy are along for the ride.

Forcing productivity out of sync with your cycle is going to lead to burn out. You were not built on a 24 hour cycle, no amount of strong-will is going to change that.



 

What are the phases of the menstrual cycle?

So, we know we are on a 28 day cycle. But what does that actually mean for your day to day life?

Women have four phases in their menstrual cycle. Follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual.

Most of us are never taught about these phases.

If your sex-ed experience was anything like mine. You got to sit in a dark classroom with your entire class, while an uncomfortable 30-something year old gym/health teacher told you that your body was gross.

Not exactly the academic rigor one would hope for considering we were supposed to be learning about the bodies we will inhabit for the rest of our lives.

But thankfully its never too late to learn and start honoring the cycle of your body.

I tend to start with the follicular phase, as it's all about new beginnings. But that is the beauty of the cycle. Its literally a circle. You start where ever you feel most comfortable.


The four phases of the menstrual cycle. Follicular - energetic and creative. Ovulatory -  energy and creativity peaks. Luteal - energy decreases. Menstrual - low energy, contemplative.

The Follicular Phase

Roughly 6 days long.

In this phase your hypothalamus releases FSH (this is a hormone that controls the menstrual cycle and stimulates egg growth). Your estrogen and progesterone levels rise.


With the rise in hormones, your energy, creativity, and motivation also begins to rise.


This is the perfect phase to start projects, do work that requires a lot of focus, and unleash your overall creativity.

At the start of your follicular phase ask yourself "what do I want to make happen this month" and hit the ground running.


The Ovulatory Phase

Roughly 6 days long.

Your estrogen and testosterone levels peek in this phase.

You will also be at your energetic and creative peak for the cycle.

You may feel more social and confident. This is a good time to start sharing what you are working on, engage in networking events, anything super social fits great in this phase.

Ask yourself "How can I connect to others, how can these connections benefit my goal"


The Luteal Phase

This phase lasts roughly 11 days. It is the longest phase in the cycle.

Many people dislike this phase because they view it as the phase of little energy. But like the seasons, there is a time for everything, and every phase is necessary.

In this phase your progesterone rapidly decreases, resulting in a decrease in outward energy.

Like winter, this season of your cycle is all about turning inwards. Your brain appreciates finishing projects in this phase. It is also a great time for mundane, repetitive activities.

You need the creative phase and you also need the administrative, finish up the project phase.

Ask yourself what you want to wrap up in this cycle?


The Menstrual Phase

Not to be confused with the menstrual cycle that this phase happens to be a part of. This is the phase in which we bleed.

This phase typically lasts 3-5 days.

Your estrogen levels will be rising slightly, while your progesterone levels are dipping.

You may feel low on energy but its not necessarily fatigue, its more contemplative.

In the book Wild Power the author tells you to use this phase to make big decisions or "bleed on it".

It is a good time to review data and analyze.

What is working and what is not working?

I used this phase to decide it was time to pursue my graduate degree, and frankly I've never felt so sure about anything in my life.


And then you start again.


 

What does this mean for neurodivergent menstruators?

Many women have reported that there are days during the month that they feel like their ADHD medication just isn't working as well as it normally does.

And that makes sense. Your hormones impact your ADHD symptoms as as they ebb and flow, your symptoms will follow.


An image of a roller-coaster in a person's brain. Showing the emotional roller-coaster we can experience as people who have ADHD and menstruate

As your estrogen climbs during the follicular phase your ability to focus and be more productive will also climb.

You may notice your ADHD symptoms worsening the week before your menstrual phase. Or maybe you chalk it up to PMS. While the increase in progesterone and decreasing dopamine will throw your executive functioning threw the ringer. Irritability, and forgetfulness may increase. Your emotions become more dysregulated.

Its all connected to your cycle.

What can you do to get a better grasp on your cycle and your symptoms?


 


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