I have shared before about the decision to stop using hormonal birth control so I could find out whether that was the cause of my endless fatigue, low mood and loss of sexual desire (it was). Making that change, and then reading Period Power by Maisie Hill, has had a huge impact on my quality of life!
Without the artificial hormones I ride the rollercoaster of my menstrual cycle – which has some downs but also has some amazing ups (the ups I was missing out on before!). I have been able to pay close attention to my body and my moods, and now so many things have clicked into place allowing me to understand myself so much better and feel more confident than I have in a long time! An essential part of that process has been to keep a daily record of my moods, energy, physical and emotional needs.
Why track your menstrual cycle?
I’m not just talking about tracking when your period is, I’m talking about the whole ride around!
Your menstrual cycle is an important function of your body and a good barometer for your overall health, so there are good medical reasons to do this to just keep an eye on things, but especially if you do have any existing health conditions. Another common reason for tracking is if you are planning to get pregnant, I’m definitely not but I know plenty of other people are interested in that!
However, I do think that all people who have a menstrual cycle should keep a log of it. To me its invaluable information that helps explain why I feel and think the way I do at different times.
Why am I so tired? Why can’t I sleep? Why am I sleeping so much? Why am I suddenly filled with anxious thoughts for no reason? Why am I so endlessly hungry today? Why can’t I focus on anything? Why do I feel like shit today, am I ill or is it just my period? Why do I want to rip the head off anyone who asks me a question?
The answer is always in my cycle tracker!
I find a lot of comfort in knowing that its just my hormones. It’s totally normal and natural, and its also only temporary.
How to track your menstrual cycle?
There are a lot of ways you can do this depending on what works for you.
- Pen and paper! Keep a simple dairy (doesn’t work for me, I would never remember!)
- Create your own digital notes – you could do this with a notes app like Obsidian, Evernote, Notion etc or just a basic memo note on you phone.
- Use an app – there are a lot of them out there, some are better than others with privacy and what they do with your data.
- Make your own spreadsheet for tracking, if that’s your thing!
- My approach of using Google Forms + Sheets
This is just how I do it. You can do whatever you want.
Why use Google Forms?
I used to use Clue but I didn’t find that the UI really encouraged me to track things in enough detail, I also found its constantly sending notification about buying Premium annoying! It was also a pain to get my data out of there to be able to play with it myself. Then I came across the idea of using Google Forms instead.
These are my pros for using Google Forms
- I can make a completely custom set of prompts/data fields and update it whenever I want.
- I can make controlled data entry fields for better tracking and analysis.
- Google Forms is online so I can access it from anywhere, and I can save a shortcut to it on my phone home screen.
- It can save results into a Google Sheet document automatically and then I can do wonderful things with it in there to analyse the data. That lives in my Drive so I can again access it from anywhere.
- I can really easily download my data any time into a CSV or a spreadsheet format that I can easily interpret.
How to set up a Google Form
Anyone with a Google account can do this. In your https://drive.google.com/drive/my-drive you can click on the New button and select to add a Form.
It’s then nice and easy to do, I’m sure you can figure it out (I believe in you). The beauty of Google Forms is you can pick from different data entry types depending on the type of data you want to collect.
Link the Google Form to a Google Sheet
Under Responses it is as simple as clicking on “Link to Sheets” and either plugging into an existing one or just creating a new one.
What to track?
I have 21 questions on my form, admittedly I don’t fill all of them out everyday because some feel more relevant some days and less so on others.
- The date – I have this as its own field as sometimes I don’t fill this in under the next morning!
- If I had my period how much bleeding? (spotting, light, medium or heavy)
- Was I bloated? (yes/no)
- Was I gassy? (yes/no)
- Rating my energy levels (1-5)
- Rating my focus (1-5)
- Rating my motivation (1-5)
- rating my productivity (1-5)
- Tracking what exercise I did that day (current multi-choice options are dance, skipping rope, strength, one walk or two walks)
- What was my overall mood this day? (multi-choice options anxious/depressed, emotional/sensitive, happy/positive, sad/empty or stressed)
- Rating sleep quality (1-5)
- Rating my sex drive (1-5)
- If I had sex (yes or no)
- What my cervical mucus was like (aka whats in my pants)? This is actually very interesting to pay attention to! (My options are egg white, creamy/crumbly, dry, sticky or watery)
- How was my skin? (spotty, dry and/or oily)
- What was a I craving? (sweet, salty and/or carby)
- Any pain? (multiple choice might be mild or bad cramps, headache, toothache, backache, having a funny tummy or just generally feeling rough)
I then have a section very much inspired by Period Power where I track my physical and emotional needs which has provided a lot of insight into what things interest me, what feels easier or more difficult and how I react to things at different times.
- I pick one word to describe my mood that day. This has been really interesting to just be able to scan down and get a sense of where I was at. In my form I have a list of words that serve as prompts, I got these suggestions from the Period Power book.
- At peace
- Full (can feel good or too much)
- What were my physical needs? Again this has been interesting as I am motivated and inspired for different things at different times in my cycle. These are my options:
- Company & Conversation
- Space & Quiet
- Intimacy & Sex
- Arts & Culture
- Time for Writing/Learning
- I have a free text notes box just to note anything in particular that went on that day, and what was I doing for context.
- A box for reflecting on my thoughts/feelings that day. I have some prompt suggestions for this too:
- In this phase am I feeling at home or at sea?
- What is easy, or hard, today?
- What would make me feel better?
- How am I talking to myself?
- How am I with other people?
- How could I ask for support?
- Deepest desire or fear today?
- What can I be proud of myself for today?
- What am I grateful for?
- What did I get stuck on?
- What am I good at right now?
Set up reminder notifications to fill it in every day!
My workaround to give myself a notification reminder through my phone using Google Calendar (I have a Pixel 7, so Google do know everything about my life). Every evening at 9pm it tells me to complete my cycle tracking log!
I also saved the URL for the Form to my phone’s home page so I can open it up easily, just like it was an app!
Using Google Sheets to analyse your data
Once you start collecting your lovely data you can play around with it in Sheets. I like colours so I set up some conditions on my different columns so I can get an idea at a glance for things like my energy, focus levels and if I was on my period.
I did set up formulas on another tab to help me predict future cycles but mine are a bit irregular, they tend to be anywhere between 28-34 days. I plan at some point to learn more about using Google Sheets so perhaps I can do some fancier things with it!
Now I am in the habit of keeping track I’m obsessed with my spreadsheet. There have been many times I’ve felt off or anxious out the blue, or having problems focusing at work, or can’t sleep for no reason, and I consulted my sheet to find that I felt the exact same way the same time in my cycle last month!
Do you track your cycle? Let me know in the comments.