How I used the predictable hormonal shifts throughout my cycle to reach my long term goal of getting into physical therapy school.
Copyright. Creative Heat Photography. 2021.
And so it begins: my journey to become a women’s health physiotherapist! I just received my acceptance email yesterday! Happy Christmas to me! :) <insert happy dance here>
If you’ve followed me for a while you’ve most likely heard me talk about the four seasons of a woman’s cycle. Just like the earth traverses four seasons throughout a calendar year, you too, follow a similar rhythm within, every month during your reproductive years. You are beautifully and wonderfully made. Here’s a brief recap:
the menstrual phase represents inner winter, estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest concentrations; a time for reflection and rest;
the follicular phase represents inner spring, estrogen begins to rise; follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) rises to stimulate follicle growth in the ovary to prep for ovulation; luteinizing hormone (LH) surges just at the end of this phase to trigger ovulation; a time for creativity, new beginnings, and action;
the ovulatory phase represents inner summer, estrogen peaks just before ovulation and drops slightly; progesterone is still low; a time for expression, articulation, and collaboration with others;
the luteal phase represents inner fall, estrogen rises again and then falls, progesterone rises, peaks and then drops right before bleeding begins again; a time for finishing projects, organizing, and nesting.
The first thing I did was look at the end part of my goal: getting into physical therapy school. I then developed a plan working backward from that goal; I organized each requirement for admission into action steps, and then into smaller, monthly goals. Once I had the goals I wanted to accomplish for that particular month, I wrote them out on blank computer paper with due dates according to the phases of my cycle where they would fit best. Finally, I hung them up on my vision board wall. (Yes, I have an entire wall in my dining room dedicated to my goals! That way I can see them everyday as I walk by. Its a great way to get these goals into my subconscious mind! Your conscious mind is the goal setter; your subconscious mind is the goal getter!)
According to Frontiers in Neuroscience, in women, as estrogen increases, so does mental performance; specifically working memory function! On October 8, 2021, I took my GRE exam during my inner spring (follicular phase) as estrogen was rising, when my brain was more primed to handle complex processing tasks, problem solving and strategizing. The GRE, or graduate record examination, is a four hour long, standardized test, and consists of two verbal, two quantitative, and two essay sections; it is pretty strenuous and definitely requires mental sharpness and effective strategy. I passed my exam with a pretty competitive score thanks to my preparation and by honoring the female biology.
Inner spring is all about new beginnings, creativity, and action. Think about the bigger picture of springtime on the earth: a time where flowers begin to bloom, the birds start to sing a bit louder and more frequently, and the days grow longer; everything is waking up out of the deep slumber of winter. This newness is mirrored in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Estrogen starts to rise, and the follicles in the ovary are stimulated to start growing and preparing for ovulation.
Next, from July-October 2021, I wrote and revised my application essay during the ovulatory phase of each month. Also known as inner summer, the ovulatory phase is all about communication and expression! This is a great time to articulate ideas, network, have important discussions, present professional presentations/projects, etc. The energy is super magnetic during this time. Biologically, you are attempting to attract a mate to reproduce because you are fertile! Side note: back when I was a waitress and bartender, my tip average was always much higher during ovulation!
Furthermore, the essay prompt asked me to go beyond my initial interaction with physical therapy to discuss the deeper reasons of why I want to be a PT. I had to paint a picture for my readers about why I chose PT as a career and why I would make an excellent therapist. This essay prompt was all about me; so what better time to write about me than during inner summer, a time when I felt unstoppable, witty and expressive?
Applying to physical therapy school is no easy feat; especially when you have been out of the college game for (eek!) ten years! I graduated from Longwood University in 2012 with my bachelor of science in biology. In order to apply, prerequisite coursework had to be younger than ten years. Consequently, most of my prerequisites were older than ten years, so I had to retake six courses at a local community college to suffice this requirement! That’s two sections of anatomy and physiology, psychology, statistics, general chemistry I and general physics I. This, by far, was the most long winded part of my goal of getting into PT school. I started retaking classes in the spring semester of 2020 and am finishing up my last two classes in spring semester 2022. I chose to spread them out since I work for myself full time.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I scheduled lots of time for rest. I didn’t waste time and stare at my essay on days when it wasn’t optimal to write and express; I didn’t take my big test during my period when I am more lethargic and withdrawn; and I didn’t try to cram everything into a few short months. I took my sweet time, got in the flow, and celebrated every success! It really does take rest to progress. Wouldn’t you agree? My journey to PT school was slow and steady and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Small steps, consistently, over time lead to massive results for your health and life! Keep going! You got this!
I would also like to thank the Most High, my mentors, friends and family who have lovingly supported me throughout the entire process! You know who you are! Thank you! <3
Sundstrom Poromaa I and Gingnell M. Menstrual cycle influence on cognitive function and emotion processing---from a reproductive perspective. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2014; 8:380. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2014.00380/full.