The average American woman experiences around 450 periods in her lifetime, which equals to approximately 10 years of her life spent on her period! However daunting that seems, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of that time to recharge your system and give your body the pampered rest it’s craving.
Know What Lifestyle Changes Improve Your Period Experience
Did you know that you have the power to influence your period experience? What you eat and drink and how you exercise can all make your period feel better or worse! So do yourself a favor, and follow these tips to make Aunt Flo’s next visit not quite so miserable:
Stay hydrated to help the inflammation – use fruit-infused water and herbal tea for some variety.
Minimize coffee and processed sugar/sweets during your period to mitigate cramping.
Prioritize proteins high in B vitamins, such as eggs, salmon, and shrimp, as well as water-rich foods high in vitamin C and potassium, such as watermelon, grapes, pineapple, cucumbers, and berries.
Stretching goes a long way to help reduce cramping and swelling, and of course, it helps increase sleep quality.
Treat Yourself to a Healthy Dose of Cacao
Your period starting means it’s time for your monthly dose of dark chocolate, of course! This treat alone is almost enough reason to look forward to your period. As you’ve probably heard (or read) at this point, dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which helps relax the muscles and halts the body’s signals to produce cramps. Take magnesium in the days leading up to and during your period (see an article here on magnesium benefits for menstruation).
Dark chocolate also contains high amounts of potassium and iron, and the cacao plant it’s made from contains high levels of minerals and antioxidants. Potassium helps to reduce bloating and cramps, and consuming dietary iron restores iron levels lost during bleeding (low iron is the reason for feeling lethargic during menstruation).
For hormonal balance and health benefits, eat the darkest chocolate you can enjoy! The less sugar and extra ingredients, the better. If you want some type of taste besides just the dark, the best add-ins are mint, raspberry, cherry, ginger, or orange, as those are the most soothing for inflammation and stomach bloating.
Pencil in a Massage
When was the last time you found yourself dreaming of a great back rub? Well, now's your excuse to get one, whether that's from your local spa or your husband. During your period is when your inner world needs all the help it can get for its amazing but draining process of nature, and massage is the answer.
Massage can reduce uterine spasms by relaxing the uterus and the surrounding muscles and nerves. Your circulation and metabolism are at their slowest during this time, and massage helps boost your sluggish lymphatics to detox and drain during uterine shedding. Reflexology is a form of foot massage using acupressure to stimulate endorphins and circulation and has been shown to help enormously with period pain and lethargy. Cupping might also help soothe any inflammation if you're interested in trying something different!
Turn Your Home into a Spa
Even if you don’t regularly devote time to self-care during the rest of the month, menstruation is your excuse to create a legit spa experience for yourself. Get a special mani-pedi or a facial if your budget allows, or DIY at home. Soak in a hot bath by candlelight and listen to relaxing music or ambient nature sounds. Or plug in your EO diffuser for aromatherapy, put on a fun movie, nibble on some chocolate, and do a face mask, while a heating pad keeps cramps at bay. Heating pads are wonderful to apply to your lower back and stomach during this time of the month as heat helps muscles relax, improves blood flow, and relieves tension.
Embrace a Leisure Mentality
If your normal mode is go-go-go, do-do-do, then consider your period your monthly reminder to hit the brakes. This is your time to restore your energy and recharge your batteries, so allow yourself to sink into rest mode and think relaxing, happy thoughts. You could even practice affirmations or visualization (think about anything positive and imagine yourself there in that mental image). Affirmations can help relieve anxiety and in general just make you feel more at ease; telling yourself something relaxing and reassuring directly impacts the brain’s messages to the nerves, helping your nervous system and your muscles relax.
There is absolutely no shame in including some type of simple leisurely activity every day like painting your nails while you watch a tv show, taking a social media detox, or even enjoying a dark chocolate tasting on a weeknight with your friends. Self-care is important, even if you still have things left on your to-do list. The Italians have a saying (at least according to the movie Eat, Pray, Love), “la dolce far niente,” which means “the sweetness of doing nothing” or “the sweetness of leisure.”
They compare this mentality to America’s hustle and bustle, fast-paced approach to life. Even if it’s hard to follow during the rest of the month, your period is a good place to begin practicing and appreciating this restful pace.
Menstruation is a natural part of our feminine physiology, and it’s good to educate yourself about what’s happening in your body and learn how to naturally assist the process to experience optimal results. For more nutrition guides and period wellness, see 28.co.
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