By Emily Waterfield-Buttner, INHC @golden.wellness
Our luteal phases are a pivotal part of our cycle. I find the luteal phase to be the most interesting phase for women because it requires us to begin to slow down and focus inward, which is usually very much the opposite of what is expected from us in societal norms. The luteal phase is the time of our cycle when we essentially are winding down and wrapping things up - it's the ending of our cycle before we start new again when we arrive at Day 1 of our period.
The luteal phase begins after we have ovulated and usually is a set 11-14 days in length (this will vary from woman to woman). In this phase, the hormone progesterone is dominant, which if in balance, leads us to feel warm, cozy, chilled out, and at ease. How we nourish ourselves and build our daily routines can help to build and maintain healthy progesterone levels. Healthy progesterone levels allow us to feel good and grounded leading right up to our periods, and helps us reap the benefits this phase has to offer.
This phase calls for a gradual "slowing down" process as we move closer to our periods. When we first finish our ovulatory phases, we may still be feeling the buzz and high energy of ovulation. We will feel a definite, yet subtle shift, to more inward energy as we move deeper into our luteal phases. This may feel physically like slightly less energy, a desire to be home more, less need to socialize and be out and about, and wanting to move slower.
We may also notice more attention to detail and a want to complete more tasks and to dos. This phase can feel very similar to the "nesting" phase we experience in late pregnancy. Using this to our advantage makes it a wonderful phase to complete any outstanding tasks you may have been putting off all month, finish paying off the bills, or complete house chores like the laundry or weeding. The idea is to get to a place where things are finished enough so you can truly rest for the first few days of your period.
Progesterone acts on our metabolism, raising it slightly. Physiologically, this means that we need to consume an extra 300 calories per day (or more, depending on your activity level). This is going to help us keep blood sugar levels balanced, and help stave off PMS symptoms. During this phase, our body does well with warming foods, as well as root veggies, animal protein, and dark leafy greens.
Lastly, this is a phase where we can feel our emotions more deeply than during any other phase. We often get pegged for being overly "emotional" or "moody" in this phase, which can happen if we don't express our feelings or maintain balanced blood sugar, yes! But it is vital in this phase for us to sit with our emotions and what surfaces at this time. Typically, anything that we have picked up and are carrying throughout our cycle wants to be released during this phase. I recommend spending time journaling, talking with a friend, or simply letting that emotion out (crying, punching a pillow) to release and let go.
While the luteal phase may be the ending of another cycle, it can be a great time to begin to care for yourself and tend to your needs, allowing yourself the necessary slow down time we all require.