As I am writing this blog post, the COVID-19 pandemic is peaking amongst us. Establishments like restaurants, shopping centers & even public parks are forced to shut down or face a hefty fine if they don’t comply with the CDC’s social guidelines. It is definitely an uncertain time in our world & thus, there’s a lot of fear, confusion & anxiety around what the future holds. We have never before faced anything like this in our time, and it may not be the last either.
With most of us now having more time on our hands and/or are working from home, social media usage has increased significantly. I’m a fan of it myself as it can truly be a great outlet for connection, creativity & entertainment. However, I’ve recently seen many posts & memes joking about how if ‘everything else in society is ‘cancelled’, our monthly period should be as well’. As funny & relatable as it may seem, it honestly saddens my heart to hear people joke about their menstrual cycles in this way. Don’t get me wrong, if you experience a lot of pain & symptoms associated with your period, I can definitely understand how you might want to ‘cancel’ it until further notice just like everything else... And of course, I get that it’s ‘just a joke’, but I believe that it’s the small actions & word choices like these that continue to distill the negativity associated with the menstrual cycle.
Most of us have grown up being told that our periods are ‘dirty’, or should be kept ‘private’. We’re led to believe that having a period is a ‘curse’ or a ‘burden’ bestowed upon our female-born bodies. On top of it, we’re programmed to believe that period pain & PMS are unavoidable ‘side effects’ of menstruation, or else ‘all in our head’. We are not commonly taught, shown, or even given permission to fully love & embrace all that our cycles can offer us – we live in fear of them, we see them as an inconvenience rather than a gift, when they can actually be a huge blessing & powerful tool to help us achieve our dreams, aspirations & optimal health.
These seemingly harmless thoughts/words/actions surrounding the menstrual cycle are only perpetuating society’s negative associations of them & the female body. Over time, it has led to there being a lot of confusion, misinformation & disassociation with the natural biological process of a womxn’s cycle. When in actuality, the menstrual cycle is an incredibly beautiful & empowering gift of life that only female bodies have access to. Within the menstrual cycle lies a wealth of power, wisdom & innate intelligence. Those who have seen & witnessed it for themselves, understand just how empowering the menstrual cycle experience can be…
Getting into the mindset of fully loving & embracing your cycle first starts with how you think, how you talk, & how you treat your experience. Can you imagine how freeing it would feel to get to a point where you actually look forward to getting your period instead of dreading its imminent arrival? What if you had the opportunity to know exactly when your period would arrive each month, so that there were never any surprises? If you were able to form such a harmonic relationship like this with your cycle, just imagine all of the freedom & opportunities that would naturally present themselves. This, my friend, is entirely possible & absolutely within your reach.
In order to get there, you first have to choose. You have to choose to see your menstrual cycle for all the beauty & wisdom it is, despite how it treats you once per month. You have to make the active choice to listen, respect & surrender to what your cycle is telling you. If your experience consists of a ton of pain, PMS & other cyclic symptoms, your body is literally crying for your attention. You have to choose to be there for it, through thick & through thin. Being present with the positive & the negative aspects of your cycle is the first step to hearing & honoring what it needs. Once you learn to listen & how to provide, your cycle becomes a tool to harness & utilize to obtain your optimal health, creativity & abundance so that you can design the life of your dreams.
The Menstrual Cycle - Your Internal Report Card
The menstrual cycle is way more complex than just the experience of having a period. The entire menstrual cycle consists of a month-long process beginning with the first day of your period, to the day before your next period. It can be broken up into 4 distinct phases, each consisting of different metabolic processes such as specific hormonal fluctuations, the buildup of the nutrient-rich endometrial (uterine) lining & of course, the most important event of them all, ovulation. Click here to read more about the menstrual cycle phases.
The period is often thought of as the ‘highlight event’ of the menstrual cycle… However, the period is actually the least significant part… Did you know that your period would literally not exist if it weren’t for ovulation? Ovulation is the process of releasing a matured egg from the ovary down the fallopian tubes to be fertilized. It is the entire reason the menstrual cycle exists.
At the end of each month, your uterus sheds the blood & nutrient-rich endometrial lining that it built up before ovulation, which results in your monthly period. The quality & outcome of your period, and how painful or painless it is, greatly depends upon the choices you made throughout the month, which all had an influence on your hormones & ovulatory health.
The menstrual cycle is malleable; in a sense, it is a reflection of your previous month, as well as the status of your overall health. The quality of your diet, sleep patterns, stress levels & exercise routine, all have an influence on your hormones, which play a huge role in your ovulatory outcome. Have you ever noticed how after a very stressful month (and a few binge-eating crap food episodes), your period experience was a little worse than normal, or perhaps it arrived earlier or later than you were expecting? We’ve all been there, we’re only human & sometimes life can get to the best of us! However, this just shows us first-hand how impactful our dietary & lifestyle choices can be on our cycles!
Your period gives you the opportunity once per month to pause, check in with yourself & reflect on your progress. It is your internal report card, showing you precisely where you need to make adjustments in order to experience a healthier, symptom-free cycle.
The truth is, Periods are not meant to be painful. PMS symptoms are not normal. A healthy period may be slightly uncomfortable, but never should it ever be unbearable. Your body talks to you in symptoms because it cannot speak to you with words. Your symptoms are your guide; they are your body’s language. The first step to understanding your body’s language is to start paying attention, and then honoring what it is asking from you.
How to Experience a Symptom-Free Cycle
As I mentioned above, the first step to experiencing a healthier cycle is to listen & pay attention to your symptoms & internal cues. The best part about the menstrual cycle is that it is malleable. For many, just making small, specific shifts in diet & lifestyle, can lead to profound results in just a few, quick months.
Here’s how it works:
Ashe Milkovic, NTP is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Womxn's Health Specialist & Hormone Expert focusing in the field of womxn's reproductive health.