Period Love: Cycle Awareness and Self-Care

So, you’re “on the rag,” “Aunt Flo’s in town,” or it’s time for “The Red Badge of Courage.” Whatever you call it, you know what I’m talking about: your period. Those 4-5 dreaded days that come around every 28.

Maybe your time of the month is just like those tampon commercials: a little puff of butterflies while you dance in white pants with your girlfriends. If so, consider yourself #blessed.

That has never been my experience.

I relate more to a Carrie-esque bloodbath combined with a splitting headache and cramping that puts me in the fetal position. There’s also some crying and anxiety. You know, just for fun. Oh, and don’t forget the week before spent in a hormonal rage when I say things I regret!

Can anyone relate?

I always felt like I was at the mercy of those wild hormonal shifts- never able to control them and also, always surprised by them. Every freaking month. Raging anger, serious exhaustion, pounding headache, then BAM, my period starts. Oh, riiiight! That again!

If only there were a way to know when that was going to happen?! I know, right? Some of you are rolling your eyes because you’ve been doing this for years. I wish I’d discovered it ages ago: Period Tracking.

I came across Claire Baker on Instagram, whom I now refer to as my “period guru,” and was immediately drawn to her language and rituals around her cycle. She teaches not only period tracking but also cycle awareness and how we can use this information to know and care for ourselves better. Rather than being surprised by our hormonal shifts and bleeding every month, we can actually embrace the natural cycle. Knowledge really is power!

Keep Track

Just start by keeping track of the days. Did you know you can use the health app on the iPhone for this? There are also other apps like Clue where you can track not only your period but other symptoms and emotions throughout the month.

Journaling helps too. I went through a particularly dark season several months ago and wanted to know if what I was experiencing was hormonal. I started writing down the day of my cycle along with a few quick observations about my emotional and physical state with each day {day 1 is the first day of your period, by the way}. After about 6 months of this, I definitely saw trends.

Embrace the seasons

When we look at our hormonal shifts as seasonal, it all starts to make sense. Every season has its own purpose and beauty. Winter, when you’re on your period, is like hibernation. We enter into a period of rest and retreat. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, we need this time to take care of ourselves and nurture our bodies- giving ourselves extra sleep, comfort, and even extra food! When I think about it in this way, I almost start to look forward to it.

Spring is the season just after our period but right before ovulation. We emerge from our cocoon and may experience a shift in energy. We feel ready to socialize again, embracing the world.

Summer is ovulation. This is when we feel at the top of our game. Do you ever have those days where you just feel amazing? Nothing’s changed, but you are confident, energetic, and happy, maybe for no reason at all. Those ovulation hormones give us sex drive and energy and all the confidence to take on the world. This doesn’t last forever though and having awareness around this is key so we don’t burn out.

Autumn is the luteal phase- just after ovulation but before your period starts. This is PMS. Your energy wanes or sometimes comes in bursts- almost like nesting before the bleeding begins. You may find yourself irritable and exhausted.

Instead of judging myself for these very normal seasonal shifts, tracking and awareness have helped me to embrace them. It’s also helpful when it comes to self-care. I can recognize now when I’m in my autumn season that I’m going to need a little more space and time to myself. If I find I’m nearing the edge of my sanity, I allow myself the freedom to retreat to the tub with a podcast or a glass of wine.

I realize this isn’t always possible. We have kids at our feet, mile-long to-do lists, and real jobs to show up for. I know we can’t just call in sick or head for the bed every time we’re cramping. And the purpose of cycle tracking is not to optimize or perfect ourselves. But we can show ourselves a little extra tenderness and compassion. We can prepare mentally and physically for our bleed every month, maybe even coordinate our social calendars with our cycle, and treat our bodies with the grace and respect we need.

Get Yourself the Goods

Treat yourself like the queen that you are. Quit wearing the old panties in the back of the drawer and buy yourself some new period panties. They’re cute and protect from leakage. Maybe try out a cup too if you haven’t already!

Don’t force yourself into uncomfortable waistbands when you’re bloated or bleeding. Order a few comfortable, free-flowing dresses and elastic waist joggers in dark colors. I basically have a period uniform now that is comfy and makes me feel good.

Buy yourself a new heating pad. That one you have from the early 2000s is on its last leg. Get you one of these babies and cramp in style.

Educate Your Family

For so long I thought a period was a lousy excuse- that I needed to push through whatever pain or emotional low I was experiencing to keep up with the rest of the world. Now, I realize menstrual cycles are the lived experience of around half of the world- why should we hide them? Why are they shameful and taboo? We can either work with our bodies or against them. I want to teach my kids {both boys and girls!} about respecting and understanding periods. I want my daughter to know she can actually give herself a break when she has her period. She can rest if she’s cramping, and take time to care for her emotional health. It can actually be a time to look forward to instead of a time to dread.

I want my boys to understand how periods work so they can be the kind of friend that offers their jacket to a girl friend who’s had a leak at school. So they will never make fun of a woman for bleeding or consider a period a weakness.

Talk to your kids about your period. Let them know if you’re cramping and need to lie in bed for a while. Tell them why you need some alone time. Advocate for yourself and teach them to do the same.

Embrace every season, even the bloody one, and take care of yourself out there, mommas.

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Bethany, the daughter of an army chaplain and a special education teacher, grew up moving every 2-3 years. She considers herself an introvert who had to learn how to make friends quickly! She met her Houstonian husband, Paul, in college and they married in 2004. They first settled just north of Houston, where she earned her master's degree at Sam Houston State in School Psychology. After working in public education for a couple of years, she decided to stay home full time with their children, Charlie {2008}, Norah {2010}, and Will {2013}. The family moved to Katy in 2012, where they’ve been ever since. She loves decorating and even had her own small business for a while. She also loves to read, binge-watch old TV shows, talk politics and enneagram, and will not turn down a cup of strong coffee or a good conversation with a friend.


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