Being part of an all-female writing team, I started to wonder: How does the menstrual cycle affect women’s productivity and creativity? Writing is such a creative process and relies heavily on the ability to concentrate, a certain level of mental clarity, physical comfort and the capacity to work under pressure, all of which can be affected by female hormones. We take a look at which points in the menstrual cycle are optimum for producing your best creative work, as well as the times that could hinder it.
Periods, Productivity & Creativity
Periods. It’s not a topic we always talk about openly, but here we are. Even when trying to source stock images for this article, I struggled. When searching for ‘menstrual cycle’, I was met with various bicycle pictures. And when I entered ‘periods’, below a photo of what looked like flying tampons was a plethora of people in period costume. People, it’s time to talk about it. What does menstruating have to do with productivity and creativity? It turns out, your monthly flow and creative flow have a deep connection and “your period could have everything to do with your productivity” according to one women’s life coach.
The Creative Period and The Not-so-creative Period
“The rise and fall of female sex hormones - oestrogen and progesterone - can affect mood, motivation, focus, energy levels, memory retention, cognition, confidence and how the body responds to stress”, life coach Claire Baker explains. This is why ‘cycle-syncing’ has become such a buzzword. If we pay close attention to what is happening in our monthly cycle, we can respond in a way which ensures optimum creativity for our projects, be they novels, blogs, or presentations.
Although there isn’t a lot of scientific research to back up which part of our monthly cycle could be more creative, many female artists have turned to it for inspiration. In 2016, Lara Mossler,decided to make a sculpture every day over the course of her cycle. She claims that, undoubtedly there were points in the cycle when she felt more inwardly-focused and creative, and some when she was unable to focus, such as ovulation when she felt “aroused and very powerful”. Lara cited her menstruation days as difficult days to create due to pain. However, according to OBGYN Dr Katia Gaither, these are the days when we have the most access to creative energy. At this time of the month, we are ready to try new things, and are better at brainstorming and masterminding! So if you’re planning on cycle-syncing, the first 10-14 days are key for creating and dreaming big.
The Science Bit
What is actually going on in women’s bodies throughout the cycle? And why would this affect how we function in our jobs as writers? There are four phases in the monthly cycle - the follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstruation phases. When does each phase occur, what does it mean for our hormones and subsequently, for our working life?
Follicular Phase: This occurs from the first day of menstruation and lasts for approximately 10-14 days. Hormones are at a low ebb, and the body is starting to increase oestrogen. This is the best phase for creativity.
Ovulatory Phase: Starting from day 15-17 (approx.) Oestrogen peaks just before ovulation, the pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) and the ovary releases the egg. It’s a key time for communication and collaboration, so make those critical conversations happen - your verbal skills are at their peak.
Luteal Phase: Beginning after ovulation, usually around day 18. Progesterone and some oestrogen are produced, thickening the lining of the womb to be ready should an egg implant. This is execution time. Get things done, bring projects to a close - your best phase for becoming task-orientated.
Menstruation Phase: The length of this phase will differ but is typically 1-5 days. When the egg isn’t fertilised, the lining of the uterus sheds and is released as blood, mucus and tissue. This is the perfect time to reflect, use your intuitive reasoning and start to think about your next move.
Spanner in the Works: We’re All Different
We see this a lot in science - the generalisation of a sample to a population, and it can be misleading. As I mentioned, there isn’t a tremendous amount of evidence to back up any links between the menstrual cycle and creativity, but I know when I read other women’s accounts, they resonate. I would encourage you to try cycle-syncing for yourself (perhaps even use an app such as MyFlo) and see if you can maximise the benefits of adapting to your own body’s rhythm.
Aside from creativity, women tend to be ‘more verbally fluent’ than men. This is vital when you have less face-to-face contact with colleagues in a digitised world, and something that we can not only capitalise on but use to support one another, resolve our differences and co-create.
Ready to test your cycle-synching and get those creative juices flowing? Find out more about the Semester Programme at Digital Nomad Writing Club.