A woman’s menstrual cycle has a huge influence on her emotions and mood. However, most girls have no idea how to chart their menstrual cycles. It might seem tedious and challenging, but the results show that when girls learn how to chart their cycles, they also have more control in their life. So, what makes charting so empowering?

Starting in the 1980s, women’s health consultant, Leslie Carol Botha, taught teenage girls the basics about menstrual cycle charting. But this wasn’t your typical classroom.

Botha taught at-risk girls between the ages of 13 and 17, living in restorative homes. Most of them had experienced sexual assault, fled home, abused drugs and alcohol, and sometimes landed in jail.

In short, these young women were learning menstrual cycle charting at a very tumultuous time in their lives. And perhaps the idea of charting seems unnecessary at such a critical time. But the opposite is actually true.

These girls treated their charting as an art project, using colors and stickers to document their cycle, as well as their mood and emotional shifts. According to Botha, “The data I walked away with was mind boggling.”

At the beginning of the cycle, all the girls used bright, upbeat colors. But without fail, all girls would then track a dark period, something Botha refers to as the “rabbit hole.” This would occur during the luteal phase, leading up to menstruation.

During this part of the cycle, girls experienced “increased anger, disruptive and self-destructive behaviors, suicidal ideation, and drug and alcohol cravings.”

What’s more, 90 percent of the girls who had been imprisoned, realized that it happened during the time in their cycle when they were in this “rabbit hole.”

Being able to identify this pattern, and connect their feelings and behaviors with their own menstrual cycle gave these at-risk girls greater control and awareness in their lives.

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