sunrise and moonrise

Circadian & infradian rhythms

September 20, 2022

We’ve all heard of the circadian rhythm. It’s our inner clock that is directly connected to the daily sunlight cycle. It influences physical, mental, and biological change processes that we go through. I.e. when we get tired, how well we sleep, when we get naturally hungry, how active and energized we feel, etc.

Now, we know that our modern day life is entirely adjusted and optimized to this circadian rhythm: the 9-5 work schedule, the socially acceptable dinner and bed times, the daily expectations of people’s productivity, even the world’s financial and political systems. It all relies on the fact that we are the same every day, that we can assume constant growth, and that this is the only “normal” way of functioning.

How many of us have heard of the infradian rhythm, though? It’s a similarly prevalent inner clock that is connected primarily to bigger cycles, such as the lunar and seasonal cycles. This rhythm, just as the circadian, also influences our natural change processes in the body: energy levels, metabolism, the immune system, mood, and mental acuity.

Not all of us have this second clock in us. But if you are a person with female physiology, you do. This means, the menstrual cycle is the best example of an infradian rhythm. You have to not only listen to and adhere to the inner guidance system of your circadian rhythm, but also to that of your infradian rhythm (or your menstrual cycle), if you want to live a well-balanced life. Understanding how this second clock changes your productivity levels over a longer timeframe than just day to day is crucial to unlocking your hormone powers. Because any disruption to your infradian rhythm can have pretty undesirable effects on your menstrual cycle, sleep patterns, ability to fight infection, and fertility.

Sync your life not just to the daily standards around us, but also - and maybe even firstly - to your menstrual cycle!

As a founder with a cycle, this is not always easy. Here are some lessons I’ve learned & tips I can share:

  • 1

    Dealing with social media algorithms: Knowing that the algorithms reward daily consistency can be hard to accept when you're trying to deliver authentic (!) content and grow organically. The keywords here are batch creation & scheduling. Use the follicular phase to batch create videos and anything that requires you to show your face. For static designs, the luteal phase is ideal because that's when you're more introverted and creative.

  • 2

    Thriving in this hustle culture: Again, trying to fit a cyclical (/infradian) rhythm into a linear (/circadian) daily-grind hustle culture is a big ask - regardless of whether you are in the startup space or a “regular” office job. Education is key here. Learn about your hormones and how they could affect you. Learn about the phases of your cycle and how to leverage each of their strengths. And most importantly, learn about your own phases and observations about your unique cycle. Tracking your energy, mood, activity, and physical menstrual health signals will reveal your unique patterns.

  • 3

    Accepting the darker times: It all starts with us. We cannot expect others to respect our cyclical lifestyle, if we don't accept it ourselves, first. This means, once we have an idea about our cycle patterns, we have to learn to accept our "less productive" darker times. The luteal phase is a biological part of us that invites us to rest more and to look inwards. My claim: Rest is the number 1 thing we have to normalize! Especially if we suffer from PMS or PMDD or extreme hormone sensitivities…

  • 4

    Healthy boundary setting: There are many lucrative opportunities, exciting projects, and awesome parties. Know your priorities, listen to your intuition, and also factor in your menstrual cycle. Your cycle phases are great indicators of when you are physically more capable and enthusiastic about things that require your energy. And when you are not. Don't wanna explain yourself with “I can't because I'm on my period.”? No problem! Always remember: “No.” is a whole sentence.

  • 5

    Reframing your story: Also remember this: every “No” to one thing is a “Yes” to something else. For every time you say “No” to an engagement during your darker phases (for example, the end of your luteal phase and the beginning of your menstruation), you're also saying “Yes” to healthier and more balanced pre-menstrual and follicular phases with less cramping and other nasty period side effects.

  • 6

    Planning & setting realistic goals: This is closely related to boundary setting. Knowing what cycle phase you're in and understanding the strengths & weaknesses of each phase, are two great tools to help you make more realistic plans & commitments. When you're asked to commit to deadlines and workload for a given week or month, you can be much more authentic and realistic

What are your thoughts about cycle syncing in your career and how do you manage it all?