Harnessing Aunty Flo

I first came across this concept listening to the I Weigh podcast with Jameela Jamil and the incredibly relatable, funny and all round good egg Aisling Bea. Towards the end of the podcast, Aisling talked about the inspiration behind her new cyclical way of living.

How Does It Work?

This involves Aisling understanding the stage her hormones are at on any given day, which feeds into how she should best use her time.

Networking, for example, should be scheduled for when she’s at her most outward facing and sociable. Content writing can be prioritised when she’s feeling more insular. The idea is that this enhances a woman’s productivity by enabling her to produce different outputs at the time of the month that suits her, thereby taking control of her monthly cycle.

Where “Period Power” Came From

How your cycle affects your mood, your stamina, and performance has been brought into the mainstream by Maisie Hill with her book Period Power. On the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, Maisie put forward the notion of a cycle having four seasons; the winter is for hibernating with fatigue and cups of tea, and the summer is for socialising, cocktails until dawn, and being generally fabulous and all about town.

Maisie’s book also considers the major milestones in a woman’s life, such as coming off birth control and hitting the menopause, and how this can alter a woman’s approach to what she sets out to achieve. Maisie is an acupuncturist, doula and a women’s health practitioner, and it’s therefore easy to see where her comprehensive viewpoint comes from.

Dr Emma Ross, Head of Physiology at the English Institute of Sport, considered this further by viewing the idea in the context of professional athletes. Dr Ross’s point was that every individual’s sensitivity to hormones, and their emotional and physical reactions to such hormones, differs immensely, meaning that tracking your own personal cycle is really the only way to prepare yourself in sport and in life.

FINALLY, I hear you cry.

It’s no secret or surprise to us that we feel differently in ourselves depending on what time of the month it is. The reason it could be game changing to have this so nicely spelled out for us, however, is that it gives us an entirely new way to organise our lives.

As a stepmother, you deal with last minute schedule changes, stressful legal battles, wonderful romantic moments that are sometimes too short lived, little wins with your stepchildren, big wins with your stepchildren, it all going to hell with your stepchildren, drama from The Ex, stumbling across old wedding photos, realising you’re sweating from your ears during a school play… It’s a real mix of scenarios and emotions. Sometimes you might find yourself absolutely sailing through and congratulating yourself for a rather excellent side-step (you were looking gorgeous that day too), or having the capacity to tell your anxiety to get away (GET AWAY!). Other days you might find yourself clinging to a crappy romance novel in the bath, sobbing your eyes out whilst skim-reading to the point where they just have sex already.

Think about what you have coming up, and where your hormones are likely to be at that point.

Once you’ve got an idea of how your cycle plays out, you can make an educated guess about how you’re likely to cope with the situations you know you have coming up.

Anxiety can play a fairly central role in a stepmother’s world at times, and there will be points where the butterflies are flapping feverishly no matter what we do. It could be when your hormones are at their lowest ebb at the beginning of your cycle, or perversely it could be when you’re at your most sociable when your oestrogen is peaking; heightened energy bringing with it heightened everything else. Either way, learn what your cycle means for you, and this could help you decide what to take on in your stepmothering role this month, and what you might say “no thank you” to this time.

Work smarter, not harder! There will be situations which are always hard work, no matter what, but how you deal with them emotionally and physically could well differ week-on-week.

And those situations that blind-sight you?

“My stepdaughter accidentally called me mum the other day, and I ugly cried.”

Your reaction may have been a little more extreme than you would have liked, but maybe you can cut yourself some slack this time around. If you get through this time by sweating it out, go for a run and pick up those much needed endorphins. Alternatively, if you’re in hibernation mode, take yourself off to watch Tom Hardy on CBBC’s Bedtime Stories, and have a much deserved early night.

And of course, the cherry on top is that we are taking back a narrative that women have long been patronised with – “aww sweetheart, you’re angry, are you on your period?”. Actually, the answer might be yes, but rather than invalidating how we’re feeling it just means that we’re dealing with that scenario in a particular way at that particular point in time. So there.

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