Difficult periods are exhausting, and when you find yourself curled up in a ball for the hundredth month in a row, you may wonder – what can I do ahead of my period to stop this vicious cycle? Some factors, such as fibroids, endometriosis, and ovarian cysts, may need assistance from a doctor or practitioner (i.e., an acupuncturist) to find relief. However, many of us suffer through difficult periods because we never learned how to support our body through our menstrual cycle. Fortunately, there are many strategies we can use to help our bodies feel better.
I begin practicing the habits I describe below during my luteal phase, which begins after ovulation (when my egg is released). Hormonally, the luteal phase is accompanied by a drop in estrogen and a rise in progesterone hormones. These hormone shifts explain why we may feel less energized during our luteal phase, as estrogen is an energizing hormone, while progesterone is calming. The luteal phase begins 10-16 days before bleeding begins, depending on the length of your cycle. Below, I share my favorite ways to prepare for my period before it arrives.
Track Your Period
All the tips below involve understanding when your period is estimated to begin, hence they are more helpful when you understand the phases of your menstrual cycle and when your bleeding is predicted to begin each month.
Fortunately, there are period tracking apps that can do the work for you, all you have to do is tell the app when you have your period each month. My favorite app is Clue, which has great graphic design, is easy to use, and is free.
With the rise of progesterone in the luteal phase, we begin to experience the stereotypical period cravings. Our craving for dark chocolate is deserved, as it offers us magnesium, which is a mood stabilizer. While most dark chocolate only offers us a serving of magnesium, Chica Chocolate also includes a Chinese herbal formula that balances hormones and eases your period.
Does Chica sound like a wellness gimmick? It isn’t. Chica’s positive effects come from the real herbs we blend into each truffle. Licorice, white peony root, and mint balance hormones by nourishing the liver, the organ responsible for disposing of excess hormones in our system. Ginger, bupleurum root, and angelica root increase circulation, helping the uterine lining shed easily. When this bleeding is smooth, your abdominal muscles don’t have to kick in to help, and you don’t have to experience painful contractions (i.e., cramps).
Support Your Gut (Poop!)
Hormones are real physical chemicals, which means they need to catch a ride in our poop in order to be dispelled from our body. Periods can become difficult when we begin bleeding with excess estrogen caught in our bodies. The best way to prevent excess estrogen is to make sure you are pooping regularly (ideally every day) leading up to your period.
Pay attention to your body to see what habits support regular pooping, as everybody is different. Foods that help me poop are warm, softer foods, such as stews and curries; Chica Chocolate, celery juice, yogurt, lentils, oatmeal, and beans. I also take probiotics as regularly as I can.
Prepare Your Supplies
Placing my menstrual cup and period underwear in my bag a few days before my bleeding is estimated to begin helps my period feel less daunting. If I’m working a shift on the day I think my period will begin, I even wear my period underwear so I don’t have to feel paranoid of bleeding down my legs.
Collecting your supplies for bleeding, whether it be tampons, pads, menstrual cups, or period underwear, can help you feel less nervous for your period to arrive.
Bonus – If you are curious about using a menstrual cup, Christy Dawn is giving away cups for free.
Respect Your Body’s Signal to Rest
Most days, I choose to enjoy more caffeine in the afternoon, rather than lie down for a nap. However, before my period, I recognize that my body needs true rest in order to prepare for my period to begin. When you feel tired during your luteal phase, taking a nap or going to bed early will help your body feel prepared for the extra work bleeding requires.
This week, I sold a concert ticket when I realized that attending the show would force me to only enjoy 4-5 hours of sleep the night before my period was forecast to begin. My period did begin in my sleep that night, and my decision to prioritize my body, allowed my 8-hour cafe shift the next morning to feel significantly better with my period along for the ride.