Your period app just sent you a notification: It’s. Coming. You double-check your Motrin stash and start steeling yourself to get through an already exhausting workweek — all while cramping and bleeding. But here’s the thing: What if you transformed that PMS dread into menstrual mindfulness?
According to Erica Chidi Cohen, doula, period coach and co-founder of Loom, “PMS” is a loaded term, weighed down with female oppression and the view of the period as some kind of disease state. Cohen suggests adopting the term “luteal” in its place, a minor shift that takes back the power. Being “luteal” means that you’re in the stage post-ovulation but pre-menstruation, when your hormones surge and you might feel a little on edge, anxious, tired, and tender. It’s not a stage we need to fix or ignore — in fact, it’s time to reclaim those days for resting. Sure, it’d be incredible if we could all take off work and clear our calendars during our luteal phase. But until that dream becomes reality, you have to blaze your own path. Here’s where self-care can help you cope.
1. Get into a ritual. Gritting your teeth through another cycle just contributes to more stress — what you actually need to be doing is carving out time for self-care. “Menstruation is an incredible opportunity to get in touch with our bodies and our well-being,” shares Kelsey Haywood Lucas, a beauty and wellness editor who writes about period empowerment. If you’re constantly caught up in your crazy-busy life, what better time to pause and check in with yourself then when you’re on your period? “Creating a routine is essential,” shares Haywood Lucas. “For me, it’s all about pampering: drawing a bath, massaging my stomach with oil, putting on a really comfortable robe, watching a movie with my phone far away so I’m not checking work emails, going to bed early. For others, it might mean cooking a really nutritious meal or whipping up a batch of dark chocolate brownies that’ll totally satisfy a craving (and, hey, offer some antioxidants too).”
2. Eat warming, nourishing foods. Don’t get us wrong: We live for chocolate, but roasted root vegetables, grounding grains, and sautéed greens are like a bear hug for your hormones. Packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they’ll keep your digestion and blood sugar from going haywire and help cut down on bloat too, unlike processed and packaged foods. And note that while raw fruits and veggies are super hydrating, they can actually take more energy for your body to break down… they’re also not as soothing to your system as their cooked counterparts. Instead, try sipping on bone broths and soups, which are extra hydrating, nutrient-rich, and super easy to absorb.
3. Commune with the moon. The moon is strongly associated with feminine energy — women’s cycles correlate to the moon’s wax/wane pattern, occurring approximately every 28 days. Knowing how yours syncs up with the lunar timeline is a powerful way to be aware of your hormonal shifts and channel your femininity. If you haven’t yet started tracking your menstrual cycle, let this be the sign you’ve been waiting for: Not only will tracking give you a glimpse into your period health, it’s also a good way to track your overall physical and emotional well-being too. Then, start to notice your flow: Charting your menstruation alongside the moon cycles makes you more mindful of whether you’re in harmony with the universe, in a broader sense. Note that depending on your cycle length, not everyone will sync up with the traditional concept of ovulating with the full moon and menstruating with the new moon (and there’s no need to “hack” your cycle to get there) but it’s still fascinating, however you align.
4. Build up your minerals. You’re literally losing blood every day of your period, which is why it’s so important to boost your iron stores during your cycle. You’ll want to maximize your magnesium intake, which can seriously help cut down on cramps. Zinc is also crucial for iron formation and is often lacking in our Western diets. To get mineral-rich, snack on seaweed like nori, cook with kombu or kelp; add a sprinkle of flax, sesame and/or pumpkin seeds to oatmeal, salads, and grain bowls; and nosh on nuts, lentils, lean animal protein, and grass-fed red meat to get your fill.
5. Free-bleed during a workout. What if you could sail through your yoga class or gym session without having to worry about slipping tampons or shifting pads? Enter free-bleeding, which is exactly what it sounds like: the act of forgoing a menstrual product altogether. Supporters of the free-bleed movement are working to normalize period blood and empower people across the globe to recognize that periods are a healthy part of being a human woman. “Whether you want to run a marathon with blood running down your leg or just want to be able to wear fewer tampons during your period, there are several great undergarment options that allow women to experiment with free-bleeding while still feeling comfortable and confident,” says Haywood Lucas. She recommends Thinx Hi-Waist Panties ($38), which can hold up to two tampons’ worth of blood — and won’t stain your fave yoga pants.
6. Roll away pain. Your hot water bottle doesn’t stand a chance compared to the newest cramp-fighters hitting the market. “New feminine wellness start-ups aren’t just making organic tampons and pads — they’re also offering products like essential oil roller blends that are helping menstruation take up more space in our lives and making it a more enjoyable experience,” says Haywood Lucas. “Having that little rollerball sitting on your vanity tells you that it’s important to treat yourself extra gently during this time.” Shea Brand’s roller formula packs in the CBD ($55) for potent pain-killing: Cannabinoids can help relax the smooth muscles in the uterus that contract and tense up during period cramps.
7. Bliss out. Your menstrual cycle is highly sensitive to stress (thanks, hormones), which means it’s important to try to minimize the mayhem. Ever notice how your cramps and cravings get worse when your life/work balance is out of whack? “It’s about listening to your body and tapping into what it needs,” says Haywood Lucas. Try some gentle stretching or deep breathing if you’re craving something slow and ritualistic, a high-impact workout or a really good cry if you need a release.
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