Sunday, 4 March 2018

HOW TO: Deal with Periods (incl. Pain, Mood Swings etc.)

Hello lovely people,

Apologies for the lack of posts last week, the snow played havoc with my internet (a fair trade for icicles, snowmen and socially acceptable hermitage, in my opinion).

Today, I would like to talk about *insert dramatic fanfare* PERIODS. Whilst conducting some online research for this post ('cos I'm that kind of gal), I became aware of the immense amount of negativity and disgust surrounding the topic (despite the fact that I used the words 'positive' and 'empowering' in the search box). Articles included some extremely stupid myths and I can only conclude that they were written purely as click-bait.

So, to antidote this wave of fear-mongering and misinformation, I have decided to write a period-related post that is positive and (hopefully) uplifting, including some crucial tips for period pain so stay tuned...

Acceptance

Period-having-humans (which for brevity's sake, I will abbreviate to PHH) are awesome - seriously. Coping with the ups and downs of the menstrual cycle can be challenging but we do cope, tremendously, even if, at times, it can be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. Honouring our mood, whatever state its in and embracing mood fluctuations is the first step to accepting and neutralising the way we feel about our cycle, which will in turn, ease physical discomfort. The way we feel about our bodies will manifest itself physically and I truly believe that changing the attitude we have towards menstruation will bring about positive effects.

Experiencing mood fluctuations isn't a sign of weakness - in fact, it could be interpreted as a necessary release of negativity that has built up over the month that has passed.

Our bodies work tirelessly to keep us healthy. Approximately once a month, our uterus lining breaks down and leaves the body (for us non-pregnant, PHH) and this is known as menstruation or a period. For many of us, our uterus allows us to create a whole entire human inside our bodies. That is pretty incredible, if you ask me. However, I know that this isn't the case for everyone. Irrespective of that fact, the menstrual cycle is a natural, healthy and incredible process that is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Fun fact: The word 'menstruation' actually comes from the Greek menus meaning moon and power (and also men meaning month).

We have cycles, just like the moon, which are on average 29 days long; both are a source of powerful energy (indeed our cycles can and do coincide with the moon, depending on the potency of moon energy in our lives). In order to live harmoniously with our bodies, we need to learn to respect and honour that energy.

Rest

For many PHH, menstruation involves some level of physical discomfort. Personally, I experience pretty severe period pains alongside several other physical symptoms. This means that my daily life is disrupted and I am unable to exert as much energy as usual. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Our modern, fast paced lifestyles can be very demanding and it is often a relief to have an excuse to slow down for a while. Furthermore, resting during our periods can be a great way of listening to our bodies (and minds) whilst also honouring our need to rest and recharge. The power of rest can do wonders for our health (mental and physical). Even a simple activity such as going to bed early can provide much needed down time.

On a side note: placing a hot water bottle (wrapped in a cloth or towel) on the lower abdominal area can provide decent pain-relief. This is due to the fact that blood flow increases in response to heat. A hot bath/shower may also provide relief.

Excercise

Saying that, some light exercise can also be beneficial. I personally find that doing some yoga (a mix of flowing sequences and restorative yin poses), particularly in the days leading up to my period, really helps me to cope with mood swings. Also, once cramps kick in, I find a gentle child's pose can help to stretch my body whilst also providing emotional grounding. Going for a short walk in the fresh air can also provide much needed breathing space.

Releasing negativity

Around the time of menstruation, it is common for negative emotions to bubble to the surface. Punching a pillow, crying, laughing, journalling, scribbling and exercising are all effective ways of releasing negative energy. Soothing emotional distress will also aid in releasing muscle tension and therefore, easing cramps.

Breathing techniques can also help - here's one I find particularly effective:

Lie down on your front (on a bed or the floor) with your hands faced down forming a 'pillow' for your forehead. Begin to notice your breathing, taking deep nasal inhales and exhales. Allow yourself to make your exhales as loud as you want. Bring your attention to your abdomen rising and falling as you breathe, then notice your ribs pressing into the ground, your hips and finally your forehead against your fingers. Repeat this exercise until you feel calmer.


Supplements

I have found that taking certain supplements has really helped my period pains and mood. I take Evening Primrose Oil (for all things period related), Magnesium (for pain) and B Complex (for mood). Also Jan De Vries Mood Essence helps with the high cortisol levels that can occur alongside PMT. Healing crystals can also be helpful - I find that black moonstone works well.

*Disclaimer - I am not a health professional - these are just my own personal recommendations.

@nievesitarica / via instagram.com
I am aware that periods can be extremely distressing for many people, particularly for trans men and non-binary people due to the fact that periods are primarily seen as inherently 'feminine' and relating to womanhood (which can trigger dysphoria). When it comes to periods, I acknowledge that, as a cis-gendered person, I am in a privileged position. This is an interesting article written from a non-binary person's perspective, if you are looking for further reading around this issue. It offers a valuable insight and makes several important points.

Since getting my period back during eating disorder recovery ( I lost it for 2 years), learning to embrace and accept my menstrual cycle has been a challenge. However, by writing this post, I believe  I have taken a step forward in healing my relationship with my period. I'd just like to add here, that it is important not to berate yourself for any food cravings you may experience in relation to your cycle - honour them too.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and that you found the tips useful.

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Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

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