I love being a woman, for all its wonder & glory in body and in mind. However, if there is one thing I wish I was more in control of it would be my hormones, monthly menstrual cycle & resulting period.
I developed early, sporting my first bra and period at the age of 10. I was lucky that my Mum had had the foresight to introduce me to the ‘magic’ of the monthly ‘visitor’ through a book I recall her reading to me, before the reality of cramps, sickness, headaches became the familiar friends of my ‘time of the month’.
Now, there are many names for the ensuing cycle climax, many jokes and I have been witness to many a call out of “Oooo must be her time of the month”, from men, not to myself (I think I throw off an extreme don’t mess with me vibe) but in crowded rooms, to young women. As women we sympathise with the issue and it’s ok for us to make the joke, everyone else … Go play.
From the age of 10 I have experienced one week in the month which involves stomach pains, general body aches (I’d liken to having the flu), sickness, headaches, inability to sleep well and everybody’s favourite P.M.S / T – stress or tension both equal the same shitty outcome right?
Rethinking the menstrual cycle
But what I have been extremely remiss in, is actually taking any time or effort to understand my hormones, plan for them, comfort them (above the spike, over my normal high levels, of chocolate consumption) or tame them. Which when I look back on the 30+ years I’ve been going through this, is, well incredibly dumb.
So why haven’t I? Well I guess I simply ‘accepted’ the position that this was what happened, this was part of the course, natural, expected and as a woman a law of our existence. As an example, when I’d heard of the likes of period tracking apps I dismissed them, to me they were a way of tracking fertility and I didn’t want children, so they’d be no use to me.
I think this acceptance of the Status Quo’s in our lives, is possibly one of our biggest fallacies. I’ll write on that one day, but for now will show the proof of how opening my mind, becoming curious vs closed, has changed the way I think & feel about my period.
First a funny; because if nothing else, a laugh is always good. I was in the kitchen the other day & I literally did a 360 head spin (reminiscent of ‘The Exorcist’ (Google it)) and let go an absolute torrent of rage at my husband (at what, I can’t even remember but I suspect completely innocuous) and for the 1st time EVER, stopped and realised I was about to get my period and my rage was neither incited or directed by/at my Husband, I was P-M-S-ing. I apologised immediately, referencing my PMS and my Husband said ‘Ah, I was a Dick this morning … we must be synching’.
Why did we get PMS?
So what changed my view? Well, I was listening to a great interview with Aisling Bea on the podcast ‘i-weigh’ (go download it – it’s fab). And she discussed a book called ‘Period Power’ by Maisie Hill, a full title worth noting:
“Period Power: Harness Your Hormones and Get Your Cycle Working For You” and one reference changed my whole way of thinking; The reason we get so-called ‘PMS’ when you go back to the route of what is happening in our body, was to send a signal that ‘Now is the time’, we’re fertile, let’s get it on and fulfil our destiny to procreate before it’s too late. YES – PMS was a signal to go out and have sex.
Now, I don’t know about you, but my sex drive 100% peaks just before my period – so that makes total sense to me. Also, knowing how clever & attuned our bodies are, it also makes complete sense that it would give us a direct signal that ‘now’ is a good time to try and get pregnant right?
So why today do we feel so different? Why has the signal to get it on become a direct rage inducing monster? Well, put simply, because modern life is different. We invented stress and it’s multiple triggers. Our lives are no longer ones of simple living, eating and breeding, but multifaceted ones of 1001 ways our brains are occupied, both necessarily e.g. Jobs (9-5 my arse), family, friends, children …. To unnecessary e.g. Constant phone pings, Netflix binges and the badge of honour of being ‘busy’ these days.
So today our heightened state of arousal and alertness (to find that mate) serves to heighten the awareness of all the things, all the ‘to-do’s, the long lists that are never-ending, that are already overfamiliarly getting us stressed.
Re-educating myself about the menstrual cycle
So what did I do about it:
1. Immediately put the book on my reading list!
2. Downloaded a free period tracking app.
Very small, very simple, non-expensive steps to educate myself.
The difference? I feel in control just by the sheer reminder of where I am in my menstrual cycle. Taking on small bits of advice each week on how to manage it. Knowing how to stop myself from the uniformed outburst. To be able to plan how & where I’ll spend my time & factor in downtime when I know I’ll need it. This isn’t always possible but I can’t recommend it highly. Having the knowledge that I’m going to be extra testy at this time = Power in itself.
○ Simply knowing my sleep is going to be more disturbed the week before I come on. I can then plan to read before bed, drink a herbal tea that helps me sleep … Little things that I know will aid vs disrupt my sleep further (late screen time, alcohol).
○ I also think about who I’ll be in contact with, can I change any social plans? Or get more exercise time in, that I know for sure makes a difference to the physical symptoms.
What can you do about it? Change the way you think about your period.
1. Stop accepting the status quo if that doesn’t serve you, in this instance or ANY.
2. Do your homework. Look into why you feel certain ways, understand possible suggestions. There are 1,000,001 articles on the internet that can help you do this for free. Or download a menstrual cycle tracking app. It puts all the info on what’s happening hormonally, what to eat, what physical activity is good etc, all in the one place.
3. Try some suggestions out, see if any work.
In life, we like to overcomplicate things or it’s easy to say they are out of our control. Here is one small instance where neither of those excuses hold up. So if you want to make a change – YOU absolutely can.