Growing up I hated my period. It was painful, messy and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I dreaded ‘that time of the month’. I knew I’d feel like a basket case and would either have to stay in bed for two days or down half a bottle of Advil which was rough on my stomach and gave me diarrhea.
Not a pretty picture I know, but back then these were the only tools I had. Even after getting on birth control in high school I still had terrible PMS. My doctors that told me there wasn’t anything that could be done. It was my lot in life to have severe PMS and I just had to live with it.
And I did, until my inner wisdom kicked in and I started asking more questions. When the top gynecologists had nothing for me but stronger meds I knew something was off. After years of struggling on and off the pill I decided it was time to give my body a break and take a more holistic and natural approach to my PMS.
What I have learned through bringing my hormones into balance and supporting other women on a similar journey is that there is SO much we can do. You don’t have to be relegated to terrible periods indefinitely, in fact there are many dietary, lifestyle, and energetic changes you can start to incorporate right away that will significantly shift the way you experience your monthly cycle.
In my case coming off the pill was followed up by a PCOS diagnosis. This is very common for women who have been on hormone supplements since their teenage years. During your younger years the body is designed to start preparing for childbearing even if you are years away from wanting a family. When you take synthetic hormones your body gets off balance very quickly. If you decide to come off the pill it can take months or years to regulate your hormones and often times this process is so frustrating women go back on the pill. While taking birth control pills will in most cases prevent unwanted pregnancy, clear your skin or relieve some or all of your PMS symptoms, it doesn’t address the root cause of PMS.
Learning how to balance my hormones has had everything to do with learning how to balance my life. When you experience PMS your body is communicating a very clear message to you – something is off. Just like when you get a headache or feel run down, your body is letting you know it’s time to make a change. I cannot tell you how many times I have ignored my body’s signals over the years. I can be really stubborn. In the case of my hormones, I had to get PCOS to take a breath, pause, and turn my attention inward to do the healing that was required.
Hearing the words you have PCOS was a real wake up call for me. While looking back I’m not 100% convinced I had full blown PCOS, I did have many of the symptoms including a super irregular periods, loads of cysts on my ovaries, and cystic acne. Those symptoms were enough to push me into researching what I could do for my wellbeing besides going back on birth control and taking Metformin for the rest of my life.
One of the first changes I made on my hormone healing journey was dietary. I stopped being vegan, quit eating refined carbs (pasta, bread, etc) and started drinking daily bone broth. This was major. Going back on animal foods was challenging at first but I knew deep down that to change at the cellular level and work with my hormones, food was key.
Once bone broth was part of my life I started to nourish my body according to each phase of my cycle. I learned how to do with with the help of an acupuncturist here in LA. and then last year discovered this life changing book. Get a copy right now and devour it. Woman Code is one of those books every woman needs to read when she’s in high school. I can’t even imagine how different my life would have been had I had access to this information earlier in life. Another huge bonus to learning to live in sync with your cycles is protecting your fertility which Alisa talks about in her book.
The next big step I took was changing my lifestyle. I’ve learned to follow the natural rhythms of my cycle through paying attention and slowing down. Today I know that during ovulation my energy is peaking making it an ideal time to multitask, set up business meetings, and enjoy a fuller schedule. On the flip side, when I am menstruating my body needs rest and it is a much more introspective time. It’s not super complicated, we’re just so out of touch as a society that it can take some time to integrate this into a practice.
Before I started this practice I pretty much always had something major scheduled on the first two days of my period. I’d be launching a new workshop, teaching a seminar, or have 6 back to back clients. I’d be super drained from work and my cramps would be even more intense. My acupuncturist told me that in some rural villages in China it is still common practice for menstruating women to take a few days off to nourish themselves and rest. This was big in Native Americans culture as well. During the moon time as it was often referred to, women would gather together to share stories and pay attention to their dreams. It was widely accepted that bleeding women were highly intuitive and their visions for the community were respected.
Imagine growing up in a culture where women were told to honor their feminine energy, the natural ebbs and flows of their cycles, and were actually respected for their inner wisdom? This is is the kind of world I want to create for future women. I can feel in core how much I want this.
When you learn to live in harmony with your cycle you connect to the deepest parts of yourself. Your periods are no longer sources of shame and embarrassment but sources of incredible power and wisdom. Honoring your body’s need for replenishment and rest during your period is the best way you can take care of yourself and the women in your life. When I get a text from a friend cancelling on me because she is staying home to rest on her cycle, I am overjoyed because I know she is honoring herself and in turn honoring the spirit of all women.
I plan my life around my period and I wouldn’t have have it any other way. Making dietary and lifestyle shifts has taken my PMS symptoms down from a 10 to a 2. For a woman that grew up hating her period this is a really big deal. As a result of living this way for the last few years and with the support of western herbs, my cycle has become very regular, my cysts are gone, my skin cleared, and most importantly I have learned to live with all of my feminine parts instead of pushing them away or medicating them to death.
Today when I get cramps I breathe into them and slow myself down. I enjoy a mineral rich broth, heaps of cooked veggies, moon time tea, and take time to look at what else I can let go of in my life. Giving my body the space and time it needs to rest and repair during my period has done wonders for my energy levels, meditation practice and has helped strengthen my intuition in profound ways.
During the week leading up to my period I start to slow down little by little. I do my best not to schedule too much extra activities and spend more time writing, cleaning up around the house and preparing for my period. Once my period arrives I honor it and give myself plenty of room to move as slowly as I want to. I don’t schedule a bunch of clients or work. I tune into the subtle energies of my body.
I realize that we can’t all not work during the first day or two of our period or completely stop our lives. If you have to work or need to tend to your children see where you can carve out a little extra time to rest. Don’t take on anything that isn’t essential. Ask for extra support around this time from your partner or friends. Use whatever resources you have to make taking time for yourself a priority. The more balanced you are the more balanced your entire life will be. As women it’s our job to set the caliber in our relationships, families, and work settings. This happens through radical self care.
As a side note, I do my best not to travel on my period but please know I am not fanatic about any of these practices. It’s important that you make changes slowly so they can be integrated into your life. Years of living out of sync with your cycle doesn’t need to change in one month and we don’t need you make yourself stressed. Take a breath. Give yourself time to absorb all of this and take baby steps.
The simple acts of changing my diet to reflect my cycle and honoring my body’s need for rest and reflection during my period have completely changed the way I take care of myself, work with my energy and support the women in my life. As much as all of this wisdom is ancient in living within the body of every woman, our culture does not support this at all so it is important to create community around it. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to share this on the blog. By honoring and empowering ourselves we give the women in our lives space to do the same.
Planning your life around your period can be as fun and stress free as you choose to make it. If you feel a little nudge reading this post to make a change in your life start this week. There is no reason to wait.
Lots of love.