Periods. (Sorry, fellas.) Does anyone really enjoy them? I don’t think so. Even those super-grounded, patchouli-scented “Earth Mother” types who like to talk about cycles & the moon probably (secretly) become screaming PMS hellbeasts!
I know that I become a complete, walking girl cliche. I have been known to stand on line holding a tub of ice-cream, three fashion magazines, pimple cream & a box of “sanitary products”. I get REALLY REALLY MOODY & impatient with everyone. I feel the need to eat massive amounts of chocolate. I watch terrible romantic comedies (yes!!!) & sometimes (okay, often) get teary-eyed! OH, GIRL! I go all out!
With these things in mind, I thought the time was right to write about a selection of things to make “that time of the month” go a little more smoothly. How can we make it more relaxing & pleasant, & less stressful? I have some ideas!
1. Wear cute underwear!
I know it’s tempting to wear your rattiest knickers this week, but resist! RESIST! Sure, you need something comfortable, but wearing dreary underpants makes a sucky week even suckier.
Thankfully, I just discovered Harebrained Period Panties, & they crack me up! Featuring grisly cartoonish depictions of “Aunt Flo”, an evil beaver, “Raggedy Fran” & a gory unicorn, they’re a super-soft full-brief style which will have you in comfortable (if a little grumpy!) style!
It’s always nice to wear underpants that depict your emotional state, don’t you think?
2. Learn which foods to embrace… & which to avoid!
The bad news is that the foods you’re probably craving — sugar, salt, coffee & alcohol — will only aggravate your symptoms & make them worse. Mega-sad-face!
Here’s why to avoid those things. Eating sugar will make your blood sugar spike & crash, which will make you even MORE irritable. Salt will cause greater water retention, so if you’re already feeling bloated, a big bowl of french fries will make you swell up! Finally, caffeine elevates production of estrogen, which in turn causes even crazier PMS symptoms. It will also increase breast tenderness pretty considerably!
The good news is that there are plenty of great things you can eat which will actually make you feel BETTER! Check out these tips.
Eat more frequently! When you eat more regularly, it keeps your metabolism zipping along, which in turn gives you more energy & makes you feel good. This is true all of the time, not just during period week, so try having five little meals as opposed to three huge ones, & see if it makes you feel better!
Get your fill of Vitamin B6 & Vitamin C! Vitamin B6 is like a little miracle: it helps relieve premenstrual cravings, exhaustion, nutty mood swings, water retention & bloating. What a beaut! There’s a lot of Vitamin B6 in turkey, fish & chicken, nuts, bananas, potatoes & eggs. Vitamin C will help reduce symptoms too — you can get it from all citrus fruits, cranberry juice & brussels sprouts!
If you crave chocolate, eat RAW chocolate! Raw cacao is one of the #1 sources of magnesium, which is something we tend to crave. The problem with eating regular chocolate is that it has been so processed & messed around with that by the time it gets to us, it contains only a teeny-tiny amount of magnesium. Raw chocolate, on the other hand, is the real deal! You’ll get a mega-hit of magnesium, plus it’s rich & dark enough to be really satisfying. Nice one!
Drink plenty of water! Even though it sounds counterintuitive, since you’re probably retaining water like crazy, keeping yourself hydrated will actually make you feel a lot better. In fact, some of the reason you’re holding onto all that water might just be because you’re dehydrated! Guzzle some H2O & feel the difference!
If you get migraines, change what you eat! If I eat a standard American diet (this is known, somewhat ironically, as SAD), I get crippling migraines that render me 100% incapacitated on the second day of my period. However, if I make an effort to cut down on white bread, refined sugar & dairy, & choose to replace those foods with more vegetables, fruit, nuts, chicken or fish, I don’t get them AT ALL! It’s an immense relief to not be relegated to my bedroom, wanting to cry from pain & trying not to throw up on myself. I definitely recommend trying this if it’s something you have suffered from too!
3. Prevent spots & break-outs!
In the week leading up to & during your period, take extra special care of your skin. Aside from the usual things, like remembering to take your make-up off at night, here are some other things to try!
Eat foods rich in Vitamin A & D! They’re great for the skin & will help you avoid getting spots. Some excellent sources of Vitamin A & D include baby carrots (so good with hummus!); spinach (use it as a base for your salads); watermelon (juice it for the ultimate refreshing drink!); spices like red pepper, paprika, cayenne & chili powder; dried apricots (a fantastic portable snack); salmon & tuna; eggs & mushrooms!
Squeeze some fresh lemon into your water. It’s wonderful for your skin!
Keep some tea tree oil on hand. It’s an incredible natural antiseptic & antibacterial, so if you feel any blemishes coming up, dab a little tea tree oil on! It works about as well as 5% benzoyl peroxide, except it’s less harsh!
4. Shake that booty!
As tempting as it may be to spend four days curled up in a ball, watching re-runs of terrible old reality shows, you’ll feel so much better if you get up & move your body! I promise!
You don’t have to run a marathon or ride a horse along the beach like women in Carefree commercials… Even some easy, simple stretching will help marvellously.
My newest obsession is boxing. It’s immensely satisfying & definitely a good way to vent your frustrations (& let’s face it, this tends to be the most frustrating week of the month!). I even use pink boxing gloves! There are few things better than taping up your hands & punching away all your angst. You should definitely give it a shot!
Yoga is immensely popular too, & with good reason! There are many different types of yoga, from slow & easy to fast & brutal, so try a few variations & see which you like best. (I started out doing Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, & it’s my favourite type!) My favourite part of the class, though, is where you lie down at the end & have a sleep under a blanket. It feels so amazing after giving your body an amazing stretch!
5. Utilise the power of essential oils!
They can make you feel so much better, no drugs required! You can add a few drops to a bath, put a couple of droplets into an oil burner, or you can mix essential oils with a carrier oil (like jojoba), & massage it into your temples!
When it comes to picking oils, bergamot & clary sage can help keep your moods more even, though if you just feel crabby in general, you can use some geranium. If you’re more bummed out than tetchy, try rose essential oil. Lavender can help relax you, while peppermint can relieve headaches (or upset stomachs). Grapefruit & lemon are great for bloating, too.
Additionally, Lush Cosmetics does an incredible shower gel (& perfume) called Flying Fox, which is loaded with anti-PMS essential oils! It’s pretty incredible, & smells phenomenal. Check it out!
6. Don’t do anything painful!
You probably already learned this one, perhaps on account of the somewhat painful results of trial & error… but in the week leading up to & during your period, you’re much more physically sensitive than usual! Even run-of-the-mill activities like tweezing your eyebrows can feel like torture!
I’d advise you to stay away from waxing, getting a tattoo or piercing, or even having your Calgel manicure scraped off! Leave your 6 inch heels in the closet, boo! Bust ’em out when you’re feeling better!
7. Be smart about your sanitary items!
Go for all-natural, undyed, unscented cotton products as much as possible. Plenty of pads & tampons are LOADED with chemicals, & pads especially are often made of crazy, evil plastic which doesn’t breathe & can rub you raw! Yow! & honestly, who needs scented sanitary products? You’re not fooling anyone! All these things add up to equal a sad vagina, which none of us want!
Even if you use 100% cotton tampons, you’re still at risk for TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). If you can stop using tampons completely, you might just find that your period is shorter — sometimes, two days shorter! Tampons are also known to make cramps worse, so if you suffer from hellish ones, consider ditching ’em.
8. Grab a hot water bottle… or a small animal!
Hot water bottles, heating pads & microwavable wheat bags can all be lifesavers around now. Put them on your belly, or lay ’em across your lower back to help relieve muscle tension. If you can’t find any of these things, pets will do the trick too! It’s not too difficult to coerce Dolly into lying on top of me, or to get Hank to rest his huge head on my stomach! It helps so much, & makes me feel so much better! (Sort of related: Hahahah!)
9. Get dressed up, for at least one day!
Sometimes the very best thing to do when you’re feeling gross is to go in the other direction. If you’ve had it with lolling around in your tracksuit, if you’ve got cabin fever & you’re just O-V-E-R I-T, then it’s time to do something drastic!
Hop in the shower & wash away your grumpiness, then put on your favourite dress & go & DO something! See an art exhibition you’ve been dying to look at, or even go to the supermarket. It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as you get all dolled up for the occasion. It will help remind you how gorrrrgeous you are, & that the MegaGrumps (TM) are only temporary!
10. Allow yourself to wallow a bit!
This is the opposite to #9, but sometimes a girl likes to do different things on different days!
Look, let’s face it, this week is the perfect excuse to buy yourself a new pair of sweats & spend some time lying down! It’s totally normal to be much more tired than usual, so if you feel like you need to get some extra sleep, don’t deny yourself! Put some fresh sheets on your bed, grab a book, & crawl between the covers. Get some rest, & you’ll feel so much better!
It’ll all be over soon… !
By the way, this piece on how to make your period lighter might be helpful for some of you!