Periods Suck! Here’s How To Survive Your Next One

Having your period sucks. I know, because I’m surfing the crimson wave as we speak. If you happened to have access to my diary, you would find the following amongst this week’s entries:

Dear Diary,
Can you please send help? My stomach has ballooned to at least three times its regular size (I don’t need any help with the bloat, thanks), my skin has turned on me like that pack of savage mean girls did in Year 9, and I’m almost certain there are microscopic minions residing in my uterus, hacking away, thread by thread, with their own microscopic hacksaws. No one understands the gravity of the situation. S.O.S.
Yours truly,
The Saddest Girl In The World xo

I’m a walking cliche. Chocolate wrappers line my floor. 80% of the content streaming from my mouth can be deemed a complaint. The slightest criticism directed my way is enough to turn my eyes into the office water cooler.

To say I’m not a fan of this monthly ritual is an understatement of dreadful proportions. With the added bonus of endometriosis (more on that later), I fret over Aunt Flow’s monthly visits more than I do trips to the dentist. (That’s a lot, in case you wondered.) Once she’s packed her bags and left, I sit back, let one happy tear slip from my eye, and gesture *cheers* to the open air about the ensuing twenty or so days of pure, uninterrupted bliss. And so the ~cycle~ continues.

The only good I can find in periods is that they inspired this quote in South Park, straight from the mouth of the questionable Mr. Garrison: “I’m sorry, Wendy. But I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.” I guess they’ve got some other positives, like ensuring our fleshy vessels are equipped to house tiny humans. There’s also comfort to be found in knowing that your body is doing the things it’s supposed to be doing, even if it lets you know by way of regular and excruciating cramps.

Despite the beneficial evolutionary function they serve, periods suck. If you don’t agree, then either you’re a liar, or the most blessed person on the planet. If you do agree, I pray you find some solace in what I’m about to advise.

  • Prepare For Your Visitor's Stay, And Be Extra Gentle With Yourself

    Be the hostess with the mostess during Aunt Flow’s stay by preparing in advance. I got my period at age 11 (cry for baby me), and I’ve just turned 26, meaning I’ve been bleeding on-and-off for 15 years. I’ve only ever been on the pill for a year, but outside of that, I’m still surprised every time my period arrives. When you crunch the numbers, that means I’ve been shocked to find blood in my undies approximately 180 times in my life. What’s up with that? I also know I’m not alone, because of the ~very extensive~ office research I conducted for this story. Since there’s an app for literally everything, there’s are loads that help you track your flow. Our two faves are iPeriod and Eve (100 points to iPeriod for the name alone). iPeriod lets you record everything from your flow, weight, exercise, spotting, and ovulation. Eve lets you add your period, cycle length, sexual activity, and the birth control you’re using. It also gives you a heads up as to when you can expect your next period, and comes with a range of actually fun (!) educational games, for all the sex nerds out there. Keep abreast of your cycle, and then become the most nurturing version of yourself, to yourself. 

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    Talk About Your Period As If It Were Human

    #SorryNotSorry for referring to my period as Aunt Flow, and for talking about her as if she truly were my blood relative (lol), who (quite bizarrely) comes to stay at my house every month. 

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    Down Some Magnesium, Girl!

    Magnesium is a muscle relaxant proven to reduce symptoms of period pain, caused by excessively strong contractions of the uterus. Magnesium helps those uterine muscles to chill the fuck out, reducing all dem cramps. Magnesium deficiency can also contribute to migraines and increased PMS symptoms, such as bloating, dizziness, fluid retention, and sugar cravings. The joy! Outside of taking magnesium supplements, dark leafy greens, salmon, artichokes, avocados, and nuts are all rich in magnesium, and should feature highly on your plate when the painters are in. All those, and as (beautiful) fate would have it, dark chocolate.

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    Eat (And Drink) Your Anti-Inflammatories

    Aside from eating foods rich in magnesium and eschewing those that cause bloat, it’s advised you eat as much fresh food as you can. Polyphenols (a class of micronutrients) are packed with antioxidants, and can help lower inflammation levels. They’re found in foods like turmeric, red grapes, green tea, acai berries, onions, ginger, and berries.

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    Bath Salts Will Bring You Back To Life

    ICYMI, baths are the single greatest thing of life. We doubt anyone would turn down the chance to fill the tub and get horizontal for an hour, and menstrual cramps take the number one spot on my list of Good Enough Reasons For Me. Just like a poor diet, stress is a source of inflammation, hormonal dysregulation, and menstrual symptoms. To counteract all the stress, light your favourite candle, pop some bath salts, and then yourself, in the bath, and listen to Bryson Tiller’s new album. Some great salts here, for when retail therapy seems a promising release. If navigating your period on a shoestring, however, you can very easily whip up your own healing salt bath. All you need is 900 grams of Epsom salts, half a cup of coconut oil, and a few drops of an essential oil of your choosing. Dim the lights — it’s time to get bathing.

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    Avoid Consuming (Most Of) The Things You Love

    I’ve generally found that any bodily discomfort I’ve ever experienced has been exacerbated by the consumption of everything I’ve ever loved: ~fatty~ foods, salt-rich foods, sugar, alcohol. These are the main culprits in causing water retention and bloating, which isn’t very fun when you’ve already got a shedding uterus on your hands. A low-fat diet, on the contrary, decreases overall levels of inflammation in the body. I arrived at this conclusion by way of commonsense a long time ago. A night drinking vino = debilitating cramps in the days to follow, conveniently coupled with the headaches of all headaches. A pasta dinner = cramping up the wazoo, and the belly of a seasoned beer veteran. Oftentimes you need science to gently affirm what you already know to be true. Give it a rest for the next five days, then book a table at your favourite restaurant and go H.A.M. on your vices to celebrate your self-imposed abstinence.

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    Befriend A Hot Water Bottle

    I remember the day I finally bought a hot water bottle like it was yesterday. Probably because it was yesterday! Before then, lying in bed making exaggerated dying sounds was the only thing that calmed me before I slept. I love ~old wives’ tales~ that actually work, and the trusty hot water bottle has been backed by science. According to Brian King, a senior lecturer in physiology at the University College London, “Heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect — it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers.” *Clutches water bottle tighter*

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    Make A Mixtape

    Every great tragedy deserves its own soundtrack. Aside from setting unattainable benchmarks for how a guy I’m new to dating should act, the part in No Strings Attached where Ashton Kutcher’s character makes Natalie Portman’s character a period mixtape revolutionised my life. Mixing puns, music, and periods? What a bloody fantastic idea! I was going to make my own playlist for this story, but with the internet being the internet, there’s a whole Reddit thread dedicated to this very thing. I also have better things to do, like lay in the foetal position on the couch cradling my new BFF (see above).

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    Decry The Injustices Of Our Tampon Luxury Tax To Anyone Who Will Listen

    Seriously. Scream it from your rooftop. Scribble it on the wall of your local pub. Bring it up during your next date.

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    Take "Self-Love" Literally

    Now, more than ever, you should be filling your online shopping baskets with vibrators and Chakrubs. Orgasms are the new black! A lot of people still hold onto the deeply-ingrained, misogynistic view that having your period means cooling it down south. I was like that for a good chunk of my teenage-hood and first relationship. But fuck that. Fight the patriarchy (and your menstrual cramps) by going to town on yourself, instead. When you orgasm, your body releases dopamine and oxytocin; natural pain relief that can ease even the most monstrous of cramps, and can also help you sleep. Heaven. You’re also probably your most hornbag self during your flow. Researchers refer to it as the “sexual phase” — a six-day period that begins three days before the luteinizing hormone (which triggers ovulation) surges during your period. During the research, women were not only more sexually active on their periods, but had more sexual fantasies, too. Honour science by honouring yourself.

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    Quit The Cigs

    Here’s just one more reason to ditch the darts on a list that is nearing the billions: Cigarettes ain’t great for cramps. Smoking constricts your blood vessels, which can exacerbate menstrual pain. Yet, it’s also been found that women crave cigarettes more when they are menstruating. Ah, what an imperfect world we live in.

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    Be Extra Kind To Your Skin

    Our skin tends to look its worst during the days leading up to our period. This is caused by a decrease in oestrogen and a surge of progesterone, which can cause oil production, which can cause pores to become clogged, which can make them appear larger. Hormonal breakouts tend to occur on the chin and along the jawline, and your skin is at its most sensitive during this period. Mid-flow, our oestrogen levels are low, and our inflammatory prostaglandins are high. This can cause skin blotchiness, and the use of a topical antioxidant is highly recommended. Our patron saint of skincare, Mario Badescu, just released a new face mist with aloe, cucumber, and green tea to give you a much needed hit of antioxidants during this trying time. Now, more than ever, you need vitamin C in your skincare arsenal.

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    Words, Madeleine Woon. Photography, Kava Gorna for Par Femme.