Let me start this post by saying: YOUR PERIOD IS NATURAL. Please do not feel ashamed or embarrassed by something as normal as menstruation. I think most women go through a period (pun intended) in their lives where they feel humiliated by their monthly visitor. Perhaps it comes when they bleed through their pants in Language Arts or when they accidentally drop their used tampon into the, erm, unflushed toilet and have to fish it out, but dealing with your body’s natural changes is all part of the job.
Growing up, I was very unfamiliar with the things I was experiencing. I was dealing with pain, mood swings, and acne all by the age of ten. It was difficult. There weren’t many adults I could speak to and googling wasn’t really a thing. In the past thirteen years, I have developed a few tried and true techniques to make each month run a little bit smoother.
1. Use a period tracker.
Definitely a game changer. Download an app from the app store to log your cycles. I use Eve but there are so many to choose from. Not only can it usually predict when you'll start, but there is a daily log you can use to document how you feel, what you're craving, activity level and so on. Another thing I love about Eve is the whole community of supportive women. It is a place full of insight and advice; very handy if you don't often have the period convo irl.
2. You don't have to use tampons.
Frankly, there are way more items out there than the traditional tampon and pad. There are period cups, panties or pants, reusable pads and even sea sponges! Explore your options and decide what works best for you. If you do decide to use tampons, know that different brands fit in various ways. For example, Tampax tampons open like a rectangle when full. Whereas Playtex tampons open more like an umbrella. Perhaps one works better for your body than another. Whatever method you choose, do your research and understand fully what chemicals or toxins you may be exposing to your precious flower.
3. Winter is coming.
Whatever you use during your period keep a few of these items with you at all times. You may never know exactly when you'll start, so have a stash in your car, locker, at your desk, and even in your purse. Obviously, pads and tampons are much more portable, affordable, and easy to stash away than other menstrual items like the diva cup and period panties, but figure out what works for you. In your emergency kit think about adding items like a painkiller, a snack, and maybe even a few dollars (then you can buy even more snacks #winning)
4. Use heat for pain.
Heat therapy is something I did not discover until my twenties. I suffered in agony for TEN years, sorry lil Anne. I always get pain in my shins and knees in addition to abdominal cramps and lower back pain. So that's fun. Luckily, a heat pack/pad works on each of these places. If you're having all the pains, try a hot bath. You'll be amazed how much better you feel. My boyfriend (what a gem he is) filled one of his old socks with lentils and created a DIY heating pack. I pop it in the microwave for about 90 seconds and viola.
|Ironically the sock shape works really well for laying across my abdomen or back. We have since replaced the lentils with garbanzo beans, but I imagine any dried good will do.|
5. Go for a walk.
Just like with a small child, going outside can serve as a great distraction, especially when you aren't feeling your best. Soak up some rays and take a few big gulps of fresh air. Plus you'll likely find the endorphins released during your exercise will make you feel a whole lot better.
6. Get a massage.
Depending on a variety of factors, particularly my stress level, diet, and recent activity level certain cycles can be waaaaay worse than others. During one memorable and scarring episode, I was in such pain that normal functions were simply out of the question. In an effort to easy my pain, my boyfriend furiously googled ways to help with period pain. He came across the “give your lady a massage” tidbit of wisdom and our lives were forever changed. When nothing else—not heat, not exercise, not meds—helped my discomfort, a little gentle rubbing worked wonders. My lower back, knees, legs, arms, shoulders felt so much better when he was done. Perhaps it’s the human contact or the general pressure that helps, but a massage can do what nothing else can. Ask your partner to help, book an appointment, or even do a self massage.
7. Pop some pills
In moderation, taking a couple of painkillers can greatly reduce your suffering. I have intense cramps in the first couple of days. By looking at my period tracker and reading the signs of my body, I can determine when I'll likely have cramps of hell. UPDATE: You may find that deep, slow breathing helps your pain tolerance. Try some calming breaths, it might help more than you know!
A note about medicine: Learn what is in your painkiller and how it affects your body. There are painkillers that are specifically marketed to women for menstrual cramps but a close peek at the label reveals that these brands generally contain the same painkiller (either ibuprofen or acetaminophen) as non-menstrual meds. Sometimes these "menstrual specific" pills contain pamabrom, a diuretic (makes you pee), which is most likely to help with bloating. Other versions even contain a sedative! Read your labels thoroughly before purchasing!
8. It's not you. It's
me your period.
All the things happen during your cycle. When you're on your period you might be constipated or experiencing the opposite, a sort of "Thar She Blows" situation. You may be giddy and full of energy or dead tired. And don't even get me started on the rest of the month. Your hormones take you on a roller coaster EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. That can be tough. Learn to recognize how you feel at each given time in your cycle and this will help you cope with hormone whiplash. Eve, the period tracker mentioned above, has a little gif for each day describing what your hormones are doing and how that is likely affecting you.
9. Treat yo'self.
During your period, your body is literally shedding your ENTIRE uterus lining--and if that weren't enough--you also grow an ENTIRE new one. So if you want to eat a brownie. THEN EAT A BROWNIE. If you're tired, sleep. If you just want to sit in a warm bath, with a
glass bottle of wine, and watch Broad City, then do it. Relax and nurture your body during this time. Something else to mention here and hide yo' kids for this... a bit of self pleasure (yes that kind) can help with pain and improve your mood.
10. Listen to your body.
Learn to read the signs of your body. Do you get an upset stomach and a headache every time you're about to start your period? Are you feeling particularly argumentative? Are you sitting in Le Peep crying about the french toast you ordered because you've just realized you hate french toast and wish you would have ordered pancakes instead? Oh...that's just me? (yes this did happen, mostly I was ashamed that I allowed myself to be hoodwinked into ordering something I hate by the fancy words like brioche on the menu) The point is, over time you will learn to read the signs of your body and what they mean.
11. Respect yourself and DEMAND others do the same.
Possibly my biggest pet peeve is when someone *cough usually a cis-gender male cough* guffaws and says, "You must be on your period." Firstly, guffaw elsewhere Kevin. And secondly, I can politely tell you your idea sucks without being on my period. Oh ho! What a thought. I can have opinions that differ from yours, I can be passionate about a topic, I can even EXPRESS MY THOUGHTS all without being on my period. You can be whatever you want ladies, even on your period or off. Anytime really.
12. Normalize Menstruation
As mentioned above, your period is completely natural. Do what feels right for your body at that time. Please do not be ashamed or embarrassed by this. Have a chat with the important people in your life and open the lines of communication. By nixing the taboo on menstrual cycles, women will discover freedoms they may have otherwise been denied.
· Do you know a male who refuses to buy tampons? Help him see that tampons are no different than shampoo, razors, or any other self care routine item.
· Does your boyfriend know how to help you when you’re having cramps? Explain to him that a cup of tea and a foot rub may be just the thing to help you relax.
· Do you have other strong females in your life you can turn to for advice and tips? Create a supportive, non judgmental community with these ladies.
What tips do you have for a positive period?
Lots of Love,