According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not only the absence of disease or illness”. Health is complex and challenging to define, but it is clear that this definition is rather idealistic. This is because health is not static and therefore, we will never acquire it completely – at least not according to this particular definition.

After all, why would our health be static if our bodies are constantly changing? From sleeping, eating food or even the heart pumping as we breathe – everything is in movement. Our bodies are constantly working to achieve and restore our internal homeostasis and this is never-ending work. The body does not stop working when it has completed one of its functions, so health is therefore always a work in progress.

If we focus more specifically on the feminine processes, we observe that our hormones are also in continuous movement. We refer to mensuration as a cycle and it is important to acknowledge that we are not linear, but cyclical by nature.

But what does this actually mean? Well, our hormones change throughout the month and then repeat that same pattern the following month. Here lies the importance of listening to our bodies and our feelings. How our cycle unfolds reveals much more about our health than the reflection we see of our bodies in the mirror.

Yet, despite the clues and hints our bodies provide to us, particularly when we are on our period, there are many women who have a somewhat complicated relationship with menstruation. Simply thinking about that time of the month gives them pains. It is so often the case that women have to take a pill because they cannot bear the pain. We hardly ever consider that our period is a message to say that something is perhaps not right in your body. Your period is “screaming” at you to pay attention, to listen to your body – so perhaps it is time to start listening.

The first step to understanding is to learn about the way our menstrual hormones work and this will give as an insight to how and why we sometimes behave and feel the way we do.

Broadly speaking, our period can be divided into two phases the luteal phase and the follicular phase. These phases are separated by an event: ovulation – which is when the ovum leaves the ovary towards the womb. Thinking of the moon is helpful in this regard, and it is no surprise that in many cultures and traditions, menstruation and the moon have been tied together. In fact, the English word “menstruation” comes from the Latin mensis which means ‘month’ and relates to the Greek word mene which means ‘moon’.

The luteal phase is a growth phase like the crescent moon. Then ovulation occurs, as if it were a full moon. The ovum starts a descendent path, similar to when the moon wanes. And finally, if there is no pregnancy, menstruation occurs. Our behavior is somehow led by our hormones and it tends to follow a similar pattern.

In the first stage after the period, we are very active and full of energy, we are growing. We continue and are able to finish tasks and create projects, we are bold like a full moon. But there comes a time after ovulation, when we need to slow down. When the period approaches, we look for privacy and little social interaction. And the moment menstruation starts, it is very likely that we take a day off for ourselves, and perhaps don’t even show up, just like the moon when it disappears.

These changes are completely normal and if we learn to listen to them, they can open doors for us to knowledges and insights we didn’t know we had. Part of the reason why we don’t listen is because we are usually too busy, trying to maintain a linear feeling of productivity. We don’t take the time to observe and reflect on what is happening within us.

Our forced slowing down during COVID-19 could also be used to start a sociological discussion critiquing the way in which women have been introduced into modern day jobs and the fact that women are expected to work in the exact same conditions and terms as men, despite profound biological changes every month (not to mention what happens during pregnancy and after giving birth).

But don’t get me wrong, these insights and feelings don’t mean that you will magically stop getting pain or having highly aggravated premenstrual symptoms. There are factors such as stress or diet that may be affecting your cycle, among others, and if this happens, you should seek professional help. Rather, we should all take the first step in establishing a healthy relationship with our hormones by being in tune with our cycles and observing the responses of our bodies. If you begin exploring this and understanding hormones, you can actively begin to start taking further steps towards improving your health.


And don’t forget to look up to the sky and be reminded that just like the moon, we are cyclical.


You can find Zulaija’s professional (@desulpanutri) and artistic (@sin.ser.poetisa) work on Instagram.