Do you ever dread "that time of the month?". You may feel bloated, crabby, tearful, wildly out of sync with your surroundings or less patient than usual. It's your body making itself known (premenstrual tension), and it's something you can listen to - and use - as away to rejuvenate. So, how can we benefit from our menstrual cycle?
To understand our bodies more thoroughly, we need to step back a little to know why we are so out-of-touch with them, due to social and medical expectations. The bleeding part of our menstrual cycle is referred to as “the curse”, “that time of the month”, “the red tide” and other less, complimentary sayings. It’s seen as a messy inconvenience that marks us out as different from men and needs to be swept away as quickly as possible. Sanitary pads are marketed with blue colouring, tampons are designed to look like sweeties, and there’s nothing that a little paracetamol can’t soothe. Even birth control is designed to “fix” our cycles with hormonal pills, implants and coils designed to mimic pregnancy and reduce or eliminate periods entirely.
This is because both modern society and the (male-dominated) medical profession view women as a subset of men. Therefore hormonal mood swings, pain and bleeding must be seen as an aberrant pattern, instead of the power it really is. It’s worth remembering that before reliable contraception, married women may only have experienced two or three menstrual cycles a year as pregnancy and breastfeeding would have suppressed the rest. When blood did appear, it was often credited with dark and magical powers – Ancient Egyptians and Greeks used it in spells and sympathetic fertility magic while Christian Europe connected it to witchcraft. Menstrual impurity continues to make an appearance in both Islam and Judaic traditions to this day.
Our PMS is both natural and necessary. It’s the reverse of our ovulation window when we feel superhuman and capable of anything and allows us a radical breathing space to withdraw, reflect and slow down. It can also act as an early warning system: cramps and irritability are healthy, but crippling pain and wild mood swings are not. You may need to adjust your diet, stress levels or sleep. It’s also worth pushing the doctors for tests as bad menstrual cycles can indicate an underlying problem such as Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
SO, HOW CAN WE BENEFIT FROM OUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
Track it! Keep a diary to work out your “high” and “low” energy times of the month.
Align with it. Where you can, schedule new courses, projects or a romantic date for the week before you ovulate, when you are ready to take on the world. Likewise, do less and allow space when menstruating.
Use it to practice self-care. We are all guilty of neglecting our own needs in favor of everyone else’s! PMS is the wild-woman coming out to play, forcing you to slow down and cherish yourself. Meditate, sleep, relax and nourish yourself. Meditate, sleep, relax and nourish yourself.
It’s a source of creative energy. PMS allows you to break free of your orderly rituals and routines (such as skipping the gym for an early night in) and it will enable you to look at the world differently. If you write, paint, play, craft or create any sort of work, use this time to explore. If you are book-worm or film buff, try a different genre. Be deliberately messy and give your subconscious free rein. The same applies to more mundane concerns. Use your menstrual days to reflect on your life at home or work and use your intuition to freely look at all options – even the “impractical” ones.