period pain

Self Care for Your Menstrual Cycle

It can’t always be summer!

So many of us live packed lives with our foot on the accelerator at all times. We want or think we have to do all the things and be all the things for all the people.

We need to remember life is made up of cycles and seasons for reason!

There is no better way to demonstrate this than the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is indeed a cycle with 4 distinct phases, that very much can be connected to the phases of the seasons. When you begin to pay attention and recognize this in your own life and then live in balance with this you start to accept and even embrace what each phase offers and you may even begin to enjoy and appreciate your cycle.

Our bodies tells us what they desire each season of the year. In the summer we all have more energy. We want to be outside. The abundance of sunlight affords us extra day time and we take advantage by being more extroverted and active. In the winter our bodies slow down as does the amount of daylight. We crave inner depth, warmth and slow.

When we are in the bleeding part of our menstrual cycle, we are in the proverbial winter and yet many of us continue to act as though it’s summer.

Your body is asking you to slow down. Your hormones are at their lowest (like daylight) of the cycle. You may get mad, “bitchy” during this phase. Of course! One of the reasons might be because you aren’t allowing yourself the slow down. You are judging yourself, your feelings and resisting what your body is asking. You aren’t alone many of us do this!

The winter of your period is all about reflection. The left and right sides of your brain chemistry are speaking to each other maximally at this time, something that only occurs in menstruating adults. This chemistry invites us to see the bigger picture. To take stock of our life and evaluate. Have you ever had that thought or complaint that comes often or even repetitively during your moon cycle? You think that you are being grumpy, “your on your period”, it’s not really that big of a deal. Yet each and every month the thought returns? It is because deep down you want a change and your cycle is reminding you of that. It is “getting real” with you.

So what if you tapped in and honored your bodies rhythms?

Yes I know that you have a life to live, a to do list to cross off and that you don’t live in a society that has red tents. I too live in the modern real world!

what CAN you do to make this time slower?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Go into rest and reflection mode: Each moon cycle is meant to act like clean slate. The hormonal dance is at it’s end and a reset occurs. Get yourself a journal and each and every moon reflect on areas of your life: family, work, business, friendships. Use the natural change that occurs within your brain chemistry during this part of your cycle and marry critical thinking and reflection. Think of your period as a monthly chance to connect with important aspects of your life; what is working and what needs to shift. Get real with your self! Spend 15 minutes, pour a cuppa tea and let the realness of your period connect on a page.

  2. Stop being one long to do list: Let the laundry go, the dishes pile up a bit or the emails go unanswered for just a full day. Do the bare minimum! Take a nice bath, go to bed early and let it all go. It will still be there tomorrow. It doesn’t affect your worth! It shows you that you care about yourself and will listen to your body!

  3. Create your own moon basket of goodies: A special candle, bath balm, yummy smelling essential oils, a hot rice pack, a good book and then use them!

  4. Create a ritual: Ritual is a way that we can honor this time. It doesn’t have to be a big and elaborate thing just something. Buy a special tea that you love and take time to drink it. Choose a special outfit that you wear and can feel good in (ditch the tight jeans). Buy yourself a journal or take a nightly bath with epsom salts. Commit to something that you will do each and every bleed.

  5. Prep: Make a pot of soup full of micronutrients and freeze it ahead of time, rather than junking out as so many of us do during this time. Do any lingering projects or things that you can do in advance so that you feel more at ease slowing down.

  6. Reframe by looking forward to a bit of a slow down: I hear all the time that people are bummed that this time of the month slows them down whether they want to or not. Try for a cycle or two to simply entertain the possibility that you may look forward to a bit of a slow down.

  7. Become a visionary: Chart your cycles so that you know when they are coming and create space to allow yourself to slow down. That means that if you are asked to attend an event or make a commitment you say NO. The no is not based on your love or desire to be there or help but rather on a love and desire for yourself and an acceptance to let yourself be in winter. We all think that if we say no we are missing a chance to x,y or z, we will disappoint someone or that we are selfish. Every other women bleeds and just gets on with it so why are you special right? The thing is we are all special and we all have this right. Choose to take it!

Over to you! What do you do or plan on doing to slow down and take care of yourself during your period? Comment below.


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The Power of Menstrual Health: It's a Revolution Ladies

Ladies, the statistics say it all, women’s gynecological health issues are appalling!

  • 176 million world wide have endometriosis.

  • 1 in 10 women have PCOS.

  • 70% of all women with have at least one fibroid by the age of 60.

  • 60% of us over 60 will have a hysterectomy (starting as early as 25-35 these days). As many 75% of these are unnecessary.

  • 30% of all women aged 15-40 are on a hormonal birth control (over half is due to non-contraceptive needs a.k.a to put a band aid on a hormonal imbalance)

(Disclaimer even if you aren’t included in those stats the information in this article is for you! Specifically to keep you out of them!)

This stats tell a grim picture about the status of women’s gynecological health world wide. That’s the bad news.

So what’s the good news!

The younger generation is on it! There is a menstrual health revolution going on and I am so happy to be a part of amazing teens, young women and even those of us entering into our crone time working towards better health for women. Better health for women means more empowered health, women not only knowing more about their bodies but also talking about it!

I want to share just a FEW of the teens and women who are up to amazing work in this menstrual health revolution!

Bryony Farmer: Bryony is a TEENAGE girl from the United Kingdom.  Her path on the menstrual health revolution started when she contracted Lyme disease. Lyme left her bed ridden, which made changing pads/tampons incredibly hard. She discovered the menstrual cup which lead her to get deeply in touch with her own body and inspired her to share and educate other teens. She founded the company and website Precious Stars, along with a YouTube channel to help educate young girls about their periods in an empowering and accessible way from a peer.

Nadya Okamoto:  Nadya runs the organization Period. The Menstrual Movement. She started this organization after her family unexpectedly found themselves homeless in her teen years.  She saw a first hand account of how the lack of access to feminine hygiene products affected homeless women in countless ways. She crusades to make access to menstrual health information and products a right and not a privilege.

Alissa Vitti:  Alissa Vitti is a POWERHOUSE.  She has taken her own diagnosis of PCOS in her early 20’s and challenged the there was nothing that could be done other than birth control pills or a hysterectomy.  She spent years of research and personal trials, deeply connecting to the healing power of food and the endocrine system.  She helps MILLIONS of women each year do the “impossible” and heal from PCOS and other menstrual health issues.

Megan White Mururia:  Founder of the ZanaAfrica Foundation an organization that helps Kenyans girls stay in school by providing them with free sanitary pads (prior to this organization the girls were missing up to 6 weeks of school per year and dropping out at high rates all due to lack of menstrual health care products).  She is not only providing access to products she is showing the girls that they are worth it and that this cycle doesn’t have to hinder there life, she is opening the conversation.

These women are calling B.S on the notion that there is nothing that we can do about the abysmal women’s health statistics and disease.  Not only are many of them doing their own research they are also being fearless about changing the narrative!  They are talking out loud what cross culturally we have kept secretive for so long.  The more we talk the more we can bring focus change occurs. 

So…HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Back in the day when I was a kid NO ONE in my friend group, town, just NO ONE was talking about periods! As an adult I chalked this up to being raised in a small town in middle America. However, I have come to research and experience first hand that well over 50% of the adult female population STILL don’t want to talk to ANYONE about their periods or menstrual health issues (even health care providers). They state that they don’t feel heard, they don’t trust and they don’t believe there is anything that can be done other than a pill or surgery.

One of the reasons that so many of us as women don’t know about our own cycles traces all the way back to actually getting our cycles. 

In my years as a midwife and menstrual health educator I have heard countless stories of surprise, embarrassment, shame, confusion and ignoring of the start of the young girls period. When a girl started menstruating there was little communication and life moved on.  These are just a few short versions of stories I have heard OVER and OVER again.

“It just wasn’t talked about”

“I had no idea what was happening to me.  I felt scared and alone.”

“I was given a pad (slid under the door) and told it would happen every month and that was it”

 “I hid it for a full year; I was so embarrassed” 

“My mom told me that my life was basically over and that I better get used to feeling horrible every month”

Let’s take a good look what the ramifications of that introduction into menstruation might be to the over all menstrual health life cycle. 

From the very beginning we are disconnected from the cycle!  We never see it as a curious thing that occurs, let alone as something we could and should have knowledge about.  We experience it as a few days of “bleeding” that is annoying and that we grin and bare, along with all of the annoying and sometimes painful things that come with it.  We aren’t given the understanding on how this cycle occurs all throughout the month and affects ALL THE THINGS!  We aren’t given the knowledge that what we do, eat, how we exercise and so many more things directly impact our cycle.  It is rare that someone says our cycle doesn’t have to hurt, to come with pain and that we don’t need to wish it away.  In fact, has anyone ever told you that your cycle is actually your bodies way of communicating with you on what is going on internally and is even an indicator on how your overall health is?  Thinking about it like this makes it seem POWERFUL.   

Now imagine a world where….

Can you imagine if when (or even before) you got your period someone was open and honest with you?  What if your introduction into this time of your life was honored?  What if you were given information about how important menstrual health is for your entire life?  Heck what if you were just given some information about it in a way that promoted the normalcy of the event rather than talking about it secretively?

The truth is that we have so much more “control” over our bodies than we ever realize.  Really the control or power that I am talking about is coming from being able to understand our own bodies and then have supportive tools to respond.  To no longer be reactive to them and push away any pain we have by taking pills (that end up putting a band aid on the root cause and making it worse in the long run) or pushing away uncomfortable emotions and chalk it up to “PMS”, rather than digging into what PMS emotions are telling us month after month.

THAT’S WHY WE NEED A MENSTRUAL HEALTH REVOLUTION

And you need you to be an empowered participant!

Many of the women highlighted in this article and that take part in this work came to this calling through their own experience of disease.   The thing about the revolution is that we are asking all girls and women to show up and be empowered by reframing their thoughts, curiosity and knowledge about their cycles.  We want girls starting their cycles and women who are at every stage to know about their bodies so that we change those stats!

For me knowing about our bodies is as necessary as breathing and eating (in fact so much of our hormones are actually regulated by our diet).  If you feel disconnected, uninformed about your body or want greater connection than make sure to check out Empowered Menstrual Health; becoming an empowered participant in the revolution by just knowing more about the intricacies of your own body (whether or not it is suffering from dis-ease).

 

We have been lied to and manipulated

Taking your period from burden to blessing.

There is a myth in our culture.  It comes across in various messages but it boils down to this, your menstrual cycle is a major burden!  It is filled with pain, discomfort, emotional messiness, and unpredictability. 

Advertisements reinforce the myth.  Tampon commercials call it "mother nature's curse".  Feminine hygiene products are created and advertised to allow us to continue our active life styles; never let a period slow you down and you can even wear white clothes.  What do you think the advertisers said, as they sat around their circular table throwing out ideas?  "Well Jim, I think that women everywhere just want to play tennis and wear white clothes while on their period, so let's go with that angle".  As my 80's self would have said "Gag me with a spoon"!    

Our modern day myth around the feminine burden is just that, modern day.  For THOUSANDS of years women found connection with each other, their bodies and to the inherent cyclical nature of life and wisdom through menstruation.  Women would gather together to bleed.  They would honor the slow down, as would their entire culture.  It was celebrated and honored and in some cultures it still is today.  They saw it for what it was and is, wisdom that flows through their own bodies.  Connection to our own internal rhythms and power.

Most women today scoff at the idea of embracing their cycle; let alone actually enjoying it or seeing the wisdom and power that our ancestors found within. We are taught or not taught to keep it quite, hidden and just deal.  How many stories have I heard of young girls (who are now women) hiding their period when it started, feeling ashamed, feeling lost and confused, not knowing what to do or who to talk to.  Think of the life long impact of that!  When young girls are learning about puberty in a classroom it's biologically based and deadened of the actual power and connection that is possible to be found within the cycle.  

So what is normal. 

It is normal for your body to speak to you in all sorts of different ways.  It is telling you something and it wants you to connect and listen!  It is not trying to hurt you, annoy you, burden you or act like a toddler throwing a tempertantrum.  If you are experiencing intense cramping...there is a reason!  And no throwing a birth control pill in your mouth every day will not "solve" that reason, it will mask it for awhile and may cause other things to start to talk to you.  No judgement, I was put on the pill at an early age because of my intense period discomfort and it worked for awhile, and it unleashed a whole other set of undiscussed symptoms, that can't or aren't quantified by a scientific method.  Emotions/feelings are not scientific, but when I got off the pill and talked to other women how different and alive I felt after getting off, I was met with SO MANY of the same and similar response.     

It is normal to feel more tired, and it would be fine to want to sit more, to not work out those days.  It would be normal to want to go into a cave and not be all for everyone for a day or so.  It's not summer all the time right?  We can't always go, go, go.  It would be normal to get moody and if you get down right Cruella de Vil then your body is telling you something. 

If your body is yelling at you there are reasons; life imbalance, hormonal imbalance, emotional releases, diet shifts that need to be looked at.  Really tuning in and listening to your body, honoring what it is asking by doing it and letting go of the guilt, excuses, shame or whatever story comes up that prevents you from taking action on the listening.  Tuning in and making some changes will shift your relationship with your period from burden to blessing.

It is a lie that our cycles have to be a burden, it is a lie that our cycles have to cause us pain, it is a lie that the suckiness of it all is normal!  It is simply a disconnection and it takes space, time and awareness to get reacquainted.  For so may generations now the disconnection has gotten deeper and deeper and it's time for us to not only stand up and say "#metoo this isn't normal how we are treated, but it isn't normal how we treat ourselves!  

It's time to heal and reconnect.

 

 

Check out my womb work sessions to start connecting to yourself now.