The Every Girl's Menstrual Survival Guide: 9 Tips You Need To Know Right Now
It’s that time of the month again. Aunt Flo is in the house. The Red Lady is visiting (Game Of Thrones, anyone?). Or, as I have commonly come to refer to it (in front of my boyfriend, and everyone else because it’s THAT TRUE), the PERIOD MONSTER is in control.
And when I say, “monster” I’m not just being hyperbolic. Like, I literally turn into a monster for 5 days out of every month (it's something I’m working on with The WomanCode, but haven't yet tamed).
Sometimes I’m an adorable monster, who cries because, OMG, have you ever listened (I mean realllllllly listened) to the words in this song, it’s soooooo sad. And other times I’m a f&^king ferocious monster who really doesn’t appreciate her f*$king carrots chopped that way and YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT BY NOW.
No. I’m not one of those painfully perfect girls who suffers silently through her menstrual cramps, too polite to utter a word about the fact that she’s bleeding from her vagina and it feels like someone is stabbing her, repeatedly, in the lower abdomen. Or just like, reaching up inside of her, grabbing a fistful of her fallopian tubes and other stuff in that area and twisting, twisting, twisting.
K, is that too graphic? I’m sorry. That was my period monster typing.
Back to what I was saying, I have always had bad periods.
I’ve missed classes, missed practices, missed work because of my period. (Though never being able to come out and say, “I can’t come in today, because I have my period” because that wouldn’t be a valid excuse. Because women are expected to suffer through their periods silently). I’ve tried all the things — Tylenol and Aspirin, and Motrin and Midol — all to no avail.
And quite frankly...I’m tired of being owned by my period monster.
While the key to preventing PMS (in my case, getting the monster off my back) is in balancing hormones, I’ve consulted my go-to guru’s for all things wellness to help me compile this menstrual survival guide... Because we all know, sometimes, a girl just needs immediate relief.
Menstrual Survival Guide: 9 Secrets You Need To Know For Surviving Your Period
1. First things, first. Accept the timing of your menstrual cycle.
I talk a lot about self-care in littlefoolbook (the book) and on this blog. But the most important thing to note about self-care is that for me, “self-care” doesn’t mean always drinking green smoothies and going to the gym, or doing yoga, or running every day.
Sometimes, self-care means listening to your body, and sometimes when you have your period, self-care means crawling into bed for the day and binging on Netflix, or taking a long bath, or ordering your favourite take out and giving your body, mind, and soul a rest, while your uterus does some major heavy lifting.
When you accept the timing of your period as a time to take five and devote yourself to some much-deserved self-care practices, your monthly menstruation becomes something to look forward to instead of something to dread.
2. Increase your intake of foods high in magnesium and vitamin B6.
Urban Alchemists, Jess and Erika, suggest eating foods high in magnesium (think: pumpkin seeds and dark leafy greens) and vitamin B6 (think: sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, avocado, spinach, banana and chickpeas).
“While supplementation is a last resort, Magnesium Calm, ‘the anti-stress drink,’ is tremendously helpful in easing cramps during this time.” - Jess Sweeney, Urban Alchemy
Certified Nutritional Practitioner, Brittany Starling agrees, that supplementation is tricky, and steers clear from providing generalized dosing, however, when it comes to coping with your monthly cycle, she speaks highly of Magnesium Glycinate/Bisglycinate, or “The Anti-Stress Mineral.”
“This is my favorite mineral — my desert island mineral if you will,” says Starling. “We all require an abundance of MG as it takes part in over 300 biochemical processes within the body. With such a high rate of utilization, this can cause a depletion of the nutrient status.”
Because Magnesium acts as an anti-spasmodic for menstrual cramping while also providing a state of calm in those heightened moon-time moments, Starling suggests, “if you normally reach for the acetaminophen, try Magnesium [250 - 2x/day] as a replacement and reap the benefits!”
3. Wear Thinx Period Panties.
Okay, I know it sounds weird, but hear me out because these panties actually changed my life. Or at least my life when on my period. In case you haven’t heard of them, Thinx Period Panties are totally period-proof underwear that protect you from (embarrassing) leaks and keep you feeling dry.
True story: One time, on a particularly heavy-flow day in high school and with no extra tampon on hand, I bled right through my panties and then right through my pants. Mortified, I had to finish the end of the school day with a friend’s (god bless her) sweatshirt tied around my waist.
When the final bell rang, I raced to my jeep, which at the time had brand new zebra print seat covers that my little brother (god bless him) had given me for Christmas. Obviously, I didn’t want to run the risk of the inside of my jeep looking like a bad hunting accident or a bold PETA statement, so I ripped a piece of loose leaf out of my binder and sat on that.
When I got home, I pulled into the garage and raced upstairs to (FINALLY) change my tampon.
The next day, I came home from school to notice a note from my mother on the kitchen counter. This would have been nothing out of the ordinary, except for IT WAS WRITTEN ON THE BLOOD-SPLOTCHED PIECE OF LOOSE LEAF I HAD SAT ON THE DAY BEFORE.
I can only speculate how it came to be...My mom, the unwasteful lady that she is must have been looking for a piece of paper to quickly scribble a note on, seen the looseleaf that must have somehow flitted onto the garage floor during my hasty race to the bathroom, and picked it up to use, later. Obviously, she didn’t assume that the brownish-red splotches on the piece of paper were from my vagina...because WHO WOULD ASSUME THAT?...but the moral of this story is that none of this would have happened if Thinx Period Panties had been invented in 2006.
Fortunately, for everyone, they exist now, and in Thinx words (not mine),
“YES, YOU CAN WEAR 'EM ALL DAY,
YES, THEY'RE TOTALLY REUSABLE,
AND YES, IT'S SUPER LIBERATING.
4. Try doing some restorative yoga poses.
Yogi pro and teacher, Jess Sweeney of Urban Alchemy suggest doing some restorative yoga poses. Think: gentle twists, child’s pose, seated or standing forward fold, and an extra long savasana.
And if after reading the above sentence, you felt like I was speaking a different language, then this PopSugar article might be the perfect starting place for you:
And trust, you don’t even have to be a “yogi” to be able to do these poses (though you might consider becoming one, after, when you realize how good you feel.)
5. Take a warm Epsom salt bath.
I’m not sure what the biochemistry behind it is, but whenever my period is particularly brutal, submerging myself in water always, always helps.
I also went to the extra effort to get this notion scientifically backed up by Certified Nutritional Practitioner, Brittany Starling, who encourages women to carve out space for important self-care during that time of the month.
“Epsom salt baths are a great way to relax and unwind when you’re on your period,” she confirms, adding that, “Magnesium sulfate has incredible healing power, and you can also reap additional benefits by adding some of your favorite essential oils.”
SO, I borrowed this Bliss Bomb Detox Bath recipe from Love Bomb Bootcamp’s 30 Days Of Radical Transformation & Unconditional Self Love e-course. Because it’s that amazing. (And I have it on good authority, they won't mind me borrowing it.)
6. The Diva Cup
If I’m being honest here — and I think I am, considering I just told you the tale of the blood-splotched loose leaf — I’m really (really) over tampons.
I hate putting them in, taking them out, I especially hate buying them (because they’re really freaking expensive for something of such necessity), and I hate having to carry them around everywhere I go, while also having to hide them in the sleeve of my shirt, because heaven forbid a boy see that disgusting contraption. (I’m being facetious.)
Plus, we don’t even really know what tampons are actually made of. Like, according to tons of research out there (that I’m not willing to do at the moment, because, come on, I’ve got a book to finish writing), the ingredients that go into pads and tampons aren’t nearly as regulated as they should be.
“Increasingly, politicians, writers, women's health advocates, and doctors alike are raising concerns about feminine hygiene products, which still exist in a regulatory grey area where threats to women's health can thrive.” - from Bustles 2015 article Are Tampons Safe? 7 Reasons We Should Be Concerned About The Ingredients in Feminine Hygiene Products.
So yah, around the time that I was discovering that pesticides and plastics probably aren’t the best things to be putting in or around my super absorbent, magical vagina — Yes, I just called my vagina, “magical”, because face it, it is (yours is, too) — I discovered the Diva Cup, “a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup that is worn internally and sits low in the vaginal canal, collecting rather than absorbing your menstrual flow.”
“Diva Cup” already sounds better than “tampon”, so naturally, that was all the convincing I needed to make the transition.
Admittedly, the Diva Cup is not as easy to insert as a tampon is, but it feels better when it’s in there. For one thing, it’s not all cottony and doesn’t have that gross cottony feeling when you put it in or take it out. When it is in, you literally don’t feel it all. It’s made from the highest quality healthcare grade silicone and doesn’t contain any of those things you don’t want in or around your vagina, like BPA, pthalates, plastics, etc.
And while I still sort of freak out every time I go through one of those airport body scanners when I’m wearing my diva cup (which is all the time, since my period seems to be synced up with my travel schedule), at least I don’t have to worry about changing my tampon in-flight because the diva cup provides 12-hour leak-free protection.
Oh, and here’s my favourite part about it: you only have to buy it once-ish.
(The website suggests replacing your Diva Cup once a year, but I’m on year two with mine and I swear it’s not gross.)
7. Get botanical with helpful herbals.
What does that even mean? Alchemists, Jess & Erika, suggest calming down when you’re feeling crampy with a warm cup of stinging nettle leaf or chamomile tea.
Holistic Nutritionist, Brittany Starling, also suggests implementing some helpful herbals into your diet through teas or herbal blends.
At your local whole foods grocery or health store, Brittany suggests seeking out botanical medicines and blends that include any of the following:
- Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex)
- Red Raspberry Leaf
- Cramp Bark
- Dandelion Leaf
- Passion Flower
- Nettle Leaf
8. Roll-on Saje Moon Cycle
I’ve recently become obsessed with all Saje products. The ever-growing Natural Wellness company has created an incredible line of products devoted to “the healing power of 100% natural, plant-derived alternatives to pharmaceutical medicine.”
So needless to say, when I found out about their Moon Cycle Remedy, I was all like GIMME.
Because I’m lazy, I’m just going to go ahead and Copy + Paste The Moon Cycle Remedy’s Key Features and Benefits, straight from the website.
“Premenstrual hormone activity can result in a number of aggravating symptoms including tension, irritability, mood swings, bloating, and cramping. Moon Cycle Roll-on includes essential oils of balancing lavender, healing roman chamomile and soothing geranium in a calming blend that gently eases PMS symptoms while soothing the nerves and uplifting the emotions. Comes in a convenient roll-on for easy application.”
9. Kick it old school, with a good ol’ fashioned hot water bottle.
Tried and true, this is a menstrual remedy I can always rely on. It doesn’t need much explaining.
While I often try to hack the science behind this remedy (because I don’t feel like getting up to find and then fill my hot water bottle) by forcing my boyfriend to put his hot head right on my lower abdomen, thereby applying a nice, warm pressure, exactly where my cramps hurt...this bliss only lasts so long. Because, apparently my boyfriend has better things to do than to be my human hot water bottle.
In which case, my period monster will demand he fetch the hot water bottle, fill it up, and deliver it to me. (Gawd, period monster is such a nightmare.)
Anyway, the point is... The hot water bottle method works.
I’m curious, what are some of your favourite remedies and rituals for that time of the month? How do you deal with PMS? Leave a comment below to let me know :)
Got questions? I’ve got answers. Feel free to comment below with whatever’s on your mind. (honestly, it doesn’t even need to be related to this article.)
For more Alchemy Insights you can go here.
Or, to chat with a Certified Nutritional Practitioner directly, you can get in touch with Brittany, here.