You know when it comes every month. Whether you have it down to a specific date or an approximate week of when it will show up, chances are you’re quite familiar with when your period is going to show up each month. Along with the changes happening inside of your uterus, you likely have experienced some of the many PMS and period symptoms that so many women complain about — acne, bloating, cramps, cravings, mood swings, and fatigue just to name a few. Your period may be a regular experience, but it can make for one discouraging and uncomfortable week in every month of your life. While your period is something you can’t avoid experiencing, there are ways you can make it more tolerable. Taking care of your body both physically and mentally during your period will not only make your period symptoms easier to cope with (if not alleviate them all together), but it will help you to keep a better sense of well being and self respect overall. If you’re only good to your body by exercising, eating properly, making time to relax, and resting when you need it on the weeks that you’re not on your period, you’re just going to make the whole experience more stressful on your body than it needs to be. Don’t let the lingering (and completely ludicrous) myths and taboos about menstrual cycles lure you away from being kind to yourself during your period. Your period is a reminder that our bodies are ever changing and that we can (literally) bring new life into this world. You don’t have to love your period, but use these 13 strategies to make the week easier to handle.
Your water intake may not be the first priority on your list when Aunt Flow shows up for the month, but it’s important in keeping you healthy. While having your period doesn’t pose specific hydration risks, staying hydrated during your period can help you avoid feeling light headed or sick. If you’re one of the many women that craves less than healthy treats during this time of the month and indulge in particularly salty items, it is especially important to keep up your water intake. Swap caffeine heavy drinks for herbal teas and water to ensure you are properly hydrated.
Bloating, cramps, acne, and everything else that comes along with your period can have you feel like staying in bed all day. To get your game face on for your work and social life, indulge in a long hot shower or unwind with your favorite book and a bath at the end of your day. Using a relaxing scented body wash or bath bomb can also help get your mind off the discomfort of having your period while helping you to feel fresh and rejuvenated. In addition to making you feel more like a normal human, the heat from the warmer water can help alleviate pain from cramps.
Wallowing in how miserable you feel isn’t going to make the discomfort from your period go away (though if you’re in severe pain, talk to your doctor). Exercise may not seem like the most attractive activity when you’re on your period, but staying active will distract you from the discomfort, keep you in a healthy routine, and will help improve your mood. You don’t have to do an intense workout, and should be aware of how you feel while you’re working out, but even low impact actives like walking and yoga can make the week of your period go by faster.
Having sex should be about pleasure, not time tables. Clearly this isn’t a requirement, though if you’re up for sex, don’t let your period stop you from enjoying it. If you’re worried about a messy situation, try the shower to make the cleanup effortless. It’s important to remember that just because you’re on your period doesn’t mean you have to throw birth control to the wind. If you’re not on a hormonal or implant form of birth control, make sure your partner uses protection.
If you don’t take care of yourself when you don’t feel your best, you’ll be running on fumes and will be more likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed. If you give yourself time to be pampered and feel a little luxurious, your discomfit from your period will be eased, allowing you to relax and feel focused on your everyday tasks. It may seem a little extravagant to go to the spa just to help you feel better when you’re on your period, but why not? If there’s any time you deserve some extra pampering, it’s the week(s) out of the month when you aren’t feeling your best. Whether it’s a facial, massage, manicure or other spa treatment, let yourself relax and be pampered.
If there’s ever a time to dress comfortably at work while still sticking to your workplace dress code, it’s when you’re on your period. Few things are as annoying as suffering through a long day at the office with cramps and feeling bloated than doing it in a stuffy outfit. Unless you’ve got to dress to impress for an important meeting and have to wear something specific, opt for work attire that is flowing and forgiving. A shift dress with a belt and leggings, a maxi skirt and cute top, or a soft top and linen pants can keep you comfortable without looking like you’re period is making you uncomfortable.
The phrase “reusable menstrual products” is a little awkward, but it’s worth your time to at least try out some reusable products. Reusable items pertaining to your period are things like menstrual cups and cloth pads. While there can be a bit of a learning curve with using a cup or washable pad, the benefit of them is two fold. Firstly, you never have to worry about running out to the store to restock your supply of tampons or pads (though this is a little trickier with pads as you’ll want to have enough on hand or do laundry often enough to never run out). The second benefit is that in the long run, reusable products can save you a ton of money because you're not repurchasing items every month. Some menstrual cups and pads can last years with proper use and care. Plus, it helps the environment as reusable products do not produce the same waste as their disposable counterparts.
While tracking your cycle isn’t as common when you’re not actively trying to conceive a child (and even then, many people don’t bother to pay attention to the details), it’s a good idea to know what your typical cycle looks like month to month. Not only can this alert you to a potential pregnancy, but tracking your cycles and knowing what is normal for your body is important information to give your gynecologist. In their post called “When to Call Your Gynecologist”, Everyday Health notes that any problem or missed period or unexplained bleeding between periods are reasons to inform your gynecologist. While these issues can have simple causes, it is important to keep your doctor informed about your body’s habits to avoid overlooking health problems if they arise.
Just because most women experience monthly menstrual periods (and have some sort of discomfort from their period), doesn’t mean that you should be in pain and discomfort that can be alleviated. While it’s ideal to use natural pain relief sources like eating well and exercising to curb cramps and other period problems, if you’re in pain, don’t be afraid to reach for an over the counter (OTC) pain reliever to ease your discomfort when needed. However, if your pain is severe or changes drastically, call your doctor as this can be a sign of an infection or health problem that may need prompt medical attention.
Feeling comfortable and clean during your period can make you feel more relaxed overall. When you are constantly worried or feel uncomfortable about your monthly visit from aunt flow, it can change your whole mood. Don’t shy away from feminine hygiene wipes (or even baby wipes if that’s all you have around, we won’t judge) and other products that will help make you feel more like your non-period self. While most feminine hygiene products are made to be gentle on your skin, you should be mindful to watch for reactions if you have sensitive skin. If you do have a reaction to a product, discontinue use of the product until you’ve cleared it with your doctor first.
Eating a well balanced diet is good for your overall health and should not be excluded just because your period may make you crave savory and sweet foods. Eating a well balanced diet while on your period can help you avoid bloating and cramps while giving your body the proper fuel and nutrition it needs. While it’s perfectly fine to indulge in your favorite treat or have a less-than-healthy take out dinner once (or maybe twice?) while you’re on your period, don’t make period related cravings the centerpiece of your diet. Include plenty of whole grains and dark leafy vegetables in your diet to keep your body energized and full of the nutrients it needs.
Finding yourself more sleepy when it’s that time of the month? You’re not alone. The Huffington Post noted in their info-graphic titled “How Your Period Affects Your Sleep” that most women experience worsening sleep problems up to three days before their period through the first four days of their period. Those restless nights will quickly stack up, leaving you feeling tired from your disrupted sleep pattern. While you may not have time to catch up on sleep during the day, go to bed earlier or set your alarm ahead a bit in the morning to give you time to catch up on those lost hours of sleep.
Your annual OBGYN visit may not be at the top of your “fun things to do” list, but it’s an important appointment to keep. Not only does this time with your doctor allow you to pick her (or his) brain about any questions you may have concerning your birth control methods, reproductive health, and pregnancy, but this exam will help your doctor in understanding how your reproductive system is working while also screening for potentially serious health conditions. As WebMd notes, the Pap Smear that is preformed at an OBGYN exam will test for cervical cancer and other issues related to your reproductive organs. If an exam makes you nervous, talk to your doctor about the steps first so you can be fully comfortable before beginning the exam.