It’s that time of the month when cramps, bloating, fatigue, and other unglamorous symptoms rear their ugly heads. That’s right–I’m talking about what Cher Horowitz refers to as “surfing the crimson wave” (see: Clueless), otherwise known as being on your period. The good news? With some TLC for your mind and body, you can turn the dreaded week into an opportunity to tune in to yourself and your needs and just go with the flow (pun intended). Read on for period self-care practices to incorporate during the week of your menstruation to honor, celebrate, and get in touch with your body.
1. Nourish your body with iron-rich foods
You’ve likely heard of cycle-syncing, or making lifestyle adjustments according to your hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the month. In other words, The Cycle Syncing Method® suggests changing up your routine to support your body’s needs based on the different phases of your reproductive cycle.
Now is the time to load your plate with nutrient-dense and iron-rich foods and ensure you’re consuming enough calories. For protein sources, think wild salmon, beef, chicken, or turkey. Vegan or vegetarian? Stock up on lentils, chickpeas, or pinto beans. And we can’t forget veggies, of course. Consider dark, leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale to be your best friends this week. Finally, add herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon to your dishes for a boost of anti-inflammatory goodness.
2. Replace coffee with tea
Bad news for coffee lovers: coffee may be making your period symptoms worse. According to Flo Health, caffeine can cause inflammation, worsening bloating or cramping. Studies in 2014 and 2016 found that drinking coffee was linked to a higher intensity of period pain. Give your coffee maker (or barista, if we’re being honest) a break this week, and swap your cup of joe for non-caffeinated teas, such as red raspberry leaf tea. Red raspberry leaf is packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E, as well as calcium, iron, and potassium. Still not convinced? A study showed that red raspberry leaves may reduce the menstrual cramping caused by the spasms of pelvic muscles (excuse me while I go clear out Whole Foods’ entire inventory of raspberry leaf tea).
3. Go easy on your workouts
Ever notice how enticing your bed becomes with the onset of your period? While cozying up in bed all week isn’t realistic (a girl can dream), listen to your body and avoid putting your body through any strenuous exercise. Hit pause on your HIIT workouts, marathon training, or any Rocky-inspired sessions. Instead, opt for lighter, low-impact forms of exercise, like walking, stretching, Pilates, or restorative yoga. Or get your endorphins going while soaking up Vitamin D by heading outdoors for a low-key hike, jog, or swim. Sure, staying active during your period has many benefits, like lessening fatigue and mood swings, but if you’re feeling especially drained, there’s nothing wrong with taking a rest day or two.
4. Schedule time in your calendar for R&R
When you’re accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle, it can be hard—even uncomfortable—to allow yourself to rest. You may be used to pulling a 60-hour work week or double-booking your calendar, but this week is not the time to go full speed ahead. Rather, take the week to slow down and make time for yourself. Lighten your schedule with fewer work meetings and social obligations; block off time to take a warm bath or get a massage; get sexy if you’re up for it, or romance yourself with some self-love if sex isn’t in the cards; step outside and connect to the earth through grounding; and optimize your Zzz’s by keeping your bedroom cool and resisting that “just one more episode” urge.
5. Let go of what may be holding you back
Just as the uterus sheds its lining during the week of your period, it’s time to self-reflect and release anything that’s no longer serving you, whether it be people, habits, beliefs, or a job. According to Alisa Vitti, the creator of The Cycle Syncing Method®, this phase is the optimal time to evaluate your life and process your reflections because your level of clarity and intuition is at its peak. What can you let go of that’s keeping you from being your highest self? And by doing so, what can you create space for? Try implementing journaling, manifestation, or meditation to guide you toward living your best life.
6. Consider alternative menstrual products
As convenient as tampons are, they’re not budget or eco-friendly, and using them seems counterintuitive when the point is to release and let it flow. With many innovative and sustainable substitutes to traditional period products available today, making the switch has never been easier. Before your “Flo” comes around again, consider reaching for feminine care alternatives like period underwear, menstrual cups, or menstrual discs. And if you find yourself in a pinch and scrambling to the nearest drugstore (we’ve all been there) or you just prefer to use tampons, go the organic route (sans chemical additives). Because being mindful of your body and the planet doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.