Your time of the month can be a brutal period – pun not intended – physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it doesn’t have to be.
Remember, although it’s an inconvenience, your period is one of the biggest measures of your health and an incredible ability that only the female body is capable of. You don’t have to look forward to your period or have completely pain-free cycles to appreciate the valuable, crucial function periods provide for our reproductive systems as women, but it can help to have a few tricks to fall back on if you’re barely able to get out of bed. Here are 11 things you can do to feel better on your period.
Being dehydrated is a bad place to be at any time, but especially so on your period. We know that adequate water consumption (or the recommended eight glasses a day) helps flush out toxins and keep things moving, but dehydration on your period can lead to increased feelings of fatigue and muscle pain. Hydrating on your period can ease cramping and keep bloating at bay while also ensuring you’re urinating frequently and avoiding possible urinary tract infections. Drink up, ladies.
2. Avoid the Bad Stuff
If you’re experiencing premenstrual syndrome symptoms, as so many of us do, it’s tempting to head straight for the junk food aisle to stock up on all the delicious, sugar-filled goodies we might normally avoid. A little indulgence is fine here and there, but try not to rely solely on junk food on your period. Chances are you’ll probably end up feeling worse, as processed foods and sugary snacks can lead to more bloating and sugar crashes. Also, consider avoiding caffeine and alcohol for the same reasons.
3. Eat Up
Because your body is losing nutrients, it’s necessary to sustain your energy with vitamin and nutrient-rich foods. Anti-inflammatory foods, such as olive oil, salmon, green tea, sweet potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, ginger, and turmeric, can help ease the inflammation produced by your hormones and make you feel a heck of a lot better than junk food.
Hydrating on your period can ease cramping and keep bloating at bay.
4. Get Busy
Sex while on your period is a controversial topic for some, and if it’s completely off the table for you, no worries. Some of us may not be able to even stomach the idea, let alone the thought of someone else touching us while we’re grumpy and moody. However, if you’re feeling up to it (and make sure your husband is too, obviously) there are benefits to be had. For one, your libido and hormones are fluctuating, meaning you might be more in the mood than you thought. Secondly, an orgasm releases endorphins and contracts your uterine lining, providing much-needed distraction and relief from cramps. If no parties are opposed, make sure you have towels and wipes on hand and get to it.
5. Strike a Pose
When it comes to exercising on your period, keep it light. There’s plenty of time for high-intensity stuff once you’re feeling back to yourself. Yoga or pilates are the perfect options – they consist of minimal activity but with big results. Not only can you stretch your cramps away and release some endorphins, but you can also focus on deep breathing and take inventory of yourself mentally. These exercises can get your blood flow and oxygen circulating, and also make you feel accomplished when you’re likely not feeling your best or most productive.
6. Take It Easy
Speaking of feeling productive, your cycle can be the monthly gift of giving yourself permission to take time off. Even though you might not feel you’re doing anything, your body is doing a lot. Scroll through your Netflix queue, pick up a book, or take a long luxurious bubble bath and leave the dishes in the sink and the laundry in the basket. It’s cliché to say, but you deserve it.
7. Heat Things Up
Whether it’s a warm bath, a hot towel, or a heating pad, heat therapy is a quick and easy fix to ease cramps and relax your lower back or pelvic area, where you’re probably feeling the majority of the pain.
Acupuncture can decrease period pain and improve hormonal balance.
8. Get Stuck
Acupuncture is a cornerstone of ancient (and effective) traditional Chinese medicine and can provide immediate relief from pain. You just have to know which points to hit, and seeing an expert acupuncturist can help. A study in Australia found that women who received acupuncture treatments one and three times a week while menstruating reported significantly decreased period pain and increased quality of life. You can also practice self-acupressure and massage on a specific pressure point – between your thumb and pointer finger – to relieve pain from cramps. Press the area firmly for a few seconds to feel relief.
9. Try Supplements
With your body losing blood and other vitamins and minerals for days on end, it’s important to replenish those losses, and supplements can help provide relief while giving your body a boost. Supplements like iron and vitamins E and D can replenish deficiencies, and omega 3 fatty acids can counteract the effect of prostaglandins, which lead to inflammation. Magnesium and calcium can help reduce cramping, as will raspberry leaf tea.
10. Take a Mental Health Day
If a bubble bath or a rom-com just isn’t cutting it, consider taking a day just for yourself. Send your boss your apologies or leave the kids with dad, and take a long walk through your local botanical gardens or engage in some retail therapy. Get your girlfriends together for lunch or splurge at a bookstore before or after a mani-pedi. While we don’t need to be indulgent all the time, your period is as good a reason as any other to (Tom Haverford voice) treat yo’self.
11. Do Some Research
Every woman is different when it comes to her period. Some of us are short and sweet, others are long and excruciating. If your period pain is unmanageable or even unbearable, consider looking into possible hormone imbalances or vitamin deficiencies. Our cycles can be annoying, sure, but they shouldn’t put us completely out of commission for a week. Period issues are pretty common, believe it or not, but researching possible reasons why can lead to much more relief for us in the long run.
As your fifth vital sign, your period is an indication of not only your reproductive health, but your health overall. We don’t have to love or enjoy being on our period, but acknowledging the role that it plays in our lives can give us some respect for this unique process our body experiences each month.
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