Using your Female* Hormones to Biohack your Mental Health – Part 1

By: Ashley Carter Youngblood March 6, 2024 no comments

Using your Female* Hormones to Biohack your Mental Health – Part 1

This article was written for Southwest’s Michigan “Moxie Magazine” (formerly Women’s Lifestyle Magazine).

*Author’s Note: I reference “femaleness” and gender in this article series. There is a diverse interpretation of how to understand what a “female body” is. If you feel “female,” rock it! Regardless of sex assigned at birth, gender, gender expression, or anything similar, we all have the sex hormones of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone and inputs from other related glands (e.g. Thyroid). Admittedly, this article will be most helpful to those whose bodies are menstruating. However, even for bodies who have not, cannot, or are done menstruating, you can still learn about how the different phases affect a female body to help support other loved ones or help you better understand the behavior of others. Even if you are not, cannot, or are done menstruating, some women find it empowering to use other cycles, like phases of the moon, to unleash their inner fierce cyclical female goddess. Do what works for you!

The Foundation

As a woman*, what do you believe about your body and hormones? When you first learned about your own biology, what was said to you? Was it a monthly “curse” or something to be celebrated? What kinds of jokes do even you make about your changes in mood as it relates to your female body?

For so long we have been taught that we are simply to bear the supposedly heavy burden of hormonal change (e.g. mood swings, cramps, hot flashes), whether a monthly menstrual cycle or the transition to life post-menopause. But, what if I told you that there is a way to actually use your hormones to ENHANSE your mental health, physical strength, relationships, productivity and general wellness? All it takes is some knowledge about your beautiful inherently-cyclical female body.

First Steps

Let us first start by acknowledging that, while there is nothing “wrong” with the female hormonal profile, the constant change can feel like hard work! But, could that actually be because we do not truly understand the cyclical nature of our biology? So often we try and fit into the expectations of the latest “wellness trends” (e.g. 4am runs, breakfast smoothies) that simply are not supportive of our cyclical bodies’ needs for every day of the month.

News flash: you do not have anyone else’s body. So, while we will sprinkle in a bit of education here, the key is to listen to your body. Do what feels supportive but also do not get bogged down in what you “should” be doing as it is the nature of your body to change and have different needs at different times. There is nothing wrong with this. And, in fact, it may be your superpower as a woman!

The Four Phases

The “menstrual cycle” is poorly named. It is not as if one menstruates for several days and then you are identical for all the other days of the month. There are actually four phases of your female cycle! They are as follows:

  1. Menstruation – This one is easiest to conceptualize because, well, there is blood. You are in your menstrual phase when you are bleeding. This typically lasts between five and seven days for most women.
  2. Follicular Phase – This is the period (no pun intended!) of time after you stop bleeding and prior to Ovulation.
  3. Ovulatory Phase – This is the phase of the several days of the month during which you can get pregnant.
  4. Luteal Phase – After your body realizes it is not pregnant, the body knows it does not need its current levels of hormones to sustain a non-existent fetus, so your hormone levels drop, preparing for the release of the uterine lining during the next phase.

What’s in a Name?

This four-phased female hormonal cycle has a name. As Alisa Vitti describes in great detail in her book, WomanCode, it is known as our “Infradian Rhythm.” Memorize that! That will be on the final exam… of life! Do not worry if you have never heard of this term before. This was not taught in sex education classes and many doctors are not even familiar with the term.

All bodies abide first and foremost by the Circadian Rhythm (how one’s body adjusts to the rising and setting of the sun so that we know when to wake and go to bed). This universal Circadian Rhythm is the cycle that affects biological men. But, us ladies are unique as we are affected by both rhythms.

Did you really hear that? I am reminding you that being cyclical is not a problem. Instead, it is how our bodies are inherently designed to function! You are not merely a smaller version of a man, who may have certain lifestyle possibilities that we cannot imagine in our wildest dreams. We should not hold our bodies to this same standard of one cycle! The female body is uniquely cyclical on multiple levels and it is time we embrace that to be our best selves!

The Next Phase

Have I piqued your interest yet? I certainly hope so! I also know the implications of this realization can be overwhelming. This can change your entire worldview, self-care schedule, and self-talk. Start by paying attention. Track trends. Do more research on the “Infradian Rhythm.”

This education about your uniqueness is only part (or Phase) one. While the intricacies of your hormonal profile cannot be explored completely in anything less exhaustive than an entire book, over the next several articles, we will explore in more detail what this awareness means for our bodies and minds and how to specifically design your life to work better when they are more in sync with what your body naturally needs during certain phases.

A Final Practical Note

Hormones are simply chemical messengers in the body. And, unfortunately, hormone dysfunction, whether related to sex hormones or organs like the thyroid, is very common. So, while knowing more about your natural cycle patterns and being in sync with your body’s needs and changes can help, if you suspect your hormones are out of balance, it is important for you to work with your healthcare professional.

You can read Part 2 of this 4-part series here.

~Ashley Carter Youngblood, LMSW, LMFT, CIMHP, CNRC, ADS, NNP

Ashley Carter Youngblood is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional, Certified Nutrition Recovery Coach, Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist, and a Nutrition Network who has been in the field since 2007. She offers counseling at her woman-owned and -operated business, Inner Peace Counseling, PLC, for those in Kalamazoo, Portage, Mattawan, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Michigan. She is passionate about her work with clients, whether it’s providing traditional individual counseling, life coaching, acupuncture, or Amino Acid Therapy for mental health symptoms. Her specialties include holistic healing, counseling for women, anxiety, nutritional interventions for mental health, and support for Highly Sensitive People/Empaths.

I welcome you to contact me or leave any questions or feedback you have about this post. Please keep in mind that the above information is the opinion of an individual, should not be considered medical advice/treatment, and is for entertainment/educational purposes only. I write these blogs as an expression of my passion for wellness and with the hope to be able to help as many people as possible. So, for more information about how to safely navigate this website and to what terms you are agreeing upon use, visit my Disclaimer page. And, as always, if you are experiencing an emergency, contact 911 or present yourself to your nearest emergency room.

Thanks for reading.

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