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There is always that one week every month that I rarely look forward to. I’ll be feeling happy and energized one minute, then all of a sudden my mood will take a nose dive. I’ll become that version of myself that feels unmotivated, uninspired, indecisive, and self-conscious. Add in the headaches and cramps and all I’ll want to do is hide away from the world for a few days…
Strangely enough, that’s not always the case. Sometimes I’ll go through an entire cycle and still feel fairly ‘normal’. Taking a closer look at my lifestyle habits, I realized that simple habits were making all the difference – from eating healthier, to reducing stress by doing yoga, and even embracing my enhanced ‘introspective abilities’. Turns out, just like how our period syncs with the moon (well, at least how it used to), we too can sync with our bodies by taking better care of it, and in the process, relieve many symptoms of PMS. Here are five ways to be good to your body and mind during your period…
1. Light exercise
There’s no denying all the physical and mood-boosting benefits of exercise, but it’s best to take it easy during this time of the month. Try to avoid strenuous activities like cross fit, boot camps, spinning, running, or anything else that can put stress on the ligaments surrounding your uterus. Instead, opt for some gentler exercises like yoga, stretching, and walking. These types of exercises can actually help to improve menstrual flow, and in turn, reduce pain. If you’re looking for some guidance or inspiration, there are loads of gentle yoga routines to check out over on Youtube. Here’s just one of my favorites…
2. Limit certain foods & drinks
Eating the right foods during our period can do wonders – from decreasing bloating, to improving our mood and energy levels. But eating the wrong types of food and drinks can make PMS symptoms, and leave you feeling more bloated, lethargic, and irritable. Here are five to try to limit, or avoid all together if you can:
- Dairy: Milk, cheese, and other dairy products can increase prostaglandins (i.e. the hormones that make your uterus contract during your period) and make cramping worse.
- Salt: High-sodium foods – fast food and canned/processed food especially – can increase water retention, and in turn, increase bloating and discomfort.
- Caffeinated drinks: Caffeine increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which can make you feel even more anxious and irritable. Instead, drink a cup of tea (which usually has less caffeine), or go completely caffeine-free.
- Sugar: Sugar is inflammatory and has a tendency to increase cramping. If you’re craving something sweet, try eating natural sugars (like fruits) instead.
- High carb meals & white grains: High carb foods and white grains have a similar effect to sugar, and can make you feel more irritable and uncomfortable. Instead, eat more veggies, fruit, and whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, etc) to help lessen PMS symptoms.
3. Increase your magnesium levels
Now that you know what foods to avoid, here are some that you should: foods high in magnesium. Magnesium plays a crucial role in our body’s processes, including nerve function, muscle contraction, and energy production, so it’s no wonder why we’d want to keep the levels high during our periods. By helping our muscles relax, it can alleviate menstrual cramps. Plus, it helps to prevent migraines and headaches, and reduces fluid retention and bloating. The best way to boost magnesium is by eating foods like spinach, avocados, figs, almonds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, and dark chocolate. You can also take a magnesium supplement to make sure you’re getting the right amount. (Of course, if you’re on any medications or have a medical condition, always consult with your doctor first!)
4. Keep a journal
When menstruation starts, we tend to feel more tired and withdrawn, as well as more introspective than usual. This all makes for the perfect time to wind down and do some personal reflection and goal setting. Start by taking some time out for yourself to reflect on your lifestyle habits (diet, exercise, stress, sleep, etc) and recent accomplishments (whether they be health, family, social, spiritual, or career-related). Then visualize where you want to see yourself next month and come up with a few improvements/adjustments to make to your routine in order to meet your new goals. Jot all this down in your journal, or better yet, plan out the next 30 days or so in your schedule, breaking everything down into manageable baby steps. Once the estrogen levels kick back in, you’ll be fully prepped to tackle your to-do list, until next month’s reflection time rolls around!
5. Try out a menstrual cup
A menstrual cup is a clever little invention that can simplify your period and reduce a lot of the stress and maintenance involved. Not only that, the cup is kind to your body and the environment.
New to how it works? Basically, it’s a reusable, bell-shaped silicone cup that sits low in the vagina and collects the blood. While that may sound unexciting at first, its design actually offers many advantages over pads and tampons, here’s why:
- Cups are eco-friendly. Menstrual cups are reusable, so you can use your cup over and over again (for several years with proper care). Instead of tossing out pounds worth of packaging and used products each year, you simply recycle a single cardboard box. That means less waste to clog up our landfills and more trees saved.
- Cups are non-toxic. The lining of your vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of your body. And yet, cotton blend tampons and pads still contain harmful chemicals like bleach and its highly toxic by-product – dioxin (the EPA states there is no safe level for dioxin exposure). Menstrual cups on the other hand, contain zero chemicals. DivaCup’s, for example, are made of 100 percent healthcare grade silicone, and are free of bleach, dyes, BPA, plastic, latex, artificial fragrances, or other chemicals.
- They keep us balanced. Because the cup collects instead of absorbs menstrual flow, it won’t dry out or disrupt the vaginal environment or pH.
- Less leaks & less juggling = less stress. Menstrual cups create a seal in your vagina, so they provide amazing protection against leaks. Plus, they hold more than pads or tampons, so you can go longer without emptying them. (The DivaCup, for example, holds 1 oz over the course of 12 hours, while the average monthly flow is only between 1-2 oz). The DivaCup can also handle any stage of your period – from light to heavy – and any activity – from sports to sleep – so you won’t need to stuff your bag (or suitcase) with an assortment of maxis, overnights, and liners.
Interested in making the switch? Start by doing some research to find the best cup for your body (based on things like diameter, length, capacity, firmness, stems, etc), read the user guide before trying the cup (here’s DivaCup’s for example), and consult with your healthcare provider if you have any questions with regards to your vaginal or gynecological health.
While a menstrual cup is a great option, it’s of course ultimately up to you to decide what you feel most comfortable using, and what works best with your lifestyle. If you prefer pads and/or tampons, but still want to go chemical-free and reduce waste, there are many brands that offer organic, chemical-free, biodegradable versions, like Organyc and Cora!
I hope these tips inspire you to become a little more aware of your body during your period, and to treat it well so that you can feel your best! For more period tips from other bloggers, be sure to check out the DivaCup Social Hub here!
SHOP THE POST
What are some ways you care for you body (and maybe the planet too!) during your period?