The menstrual cycle taboo has been present for centuries. As a writer and avid reader of fantasy and historical fiction, I have always been amazed at how all bodily functions and bloody experiences are described in stories—sometimes quite vividly. The menstrual cycle, however, seems to not exist at all.
It wasn’t always this way. At one time, women’s bodies and cycles were revered and honored—as perhaps they should be. However, it’s hard to honor something that is perceived as taboo, unclean or a burden. Not to mention, some of us are crippled with a painful or heavy flow. These symptoms seem to shut our lives down for days or weeks on end. As a result, women create so much stagnant energy around their cycles. It’s no wonder we dread it.
What if we had a different perspective regarding our time of the month? What if we allowed ourselves to focus on how much power our cycles have to change our lives for the better? We might realize that our cycles offer us hope, dreams and goals? In recognizing (and focusing on) the inherent power of our cycles, we have the ability to harness that energy. And in essence, we can grow as individuals and women and achieve our dreams.
Overcoming the menstrual cycle taboo
The menstrual cycle is undeniably a very powerful time. It can cause irritability, pain and a wide array of discomfort. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Simply discussing and celebrating the female body opens up more resources for common complaints. With resources and knowledge, we can also remove the menstrual cycle taboo.
Monica R. from New Jersey said her period wreaks havoc on her body. She suffers from two weeks of migraine headaches and a flow so heavy she is chronically anemic. She sometimes needs iron administered intravenously.
Perhaps a large part of the discomfort of the menses is a direct result of our diminishing it. We think of it as a battle and we work on “powering through.” We hide from and avoid this very beneficial and necessary bodily function.
Over the past five to ten years, my personal goals have included healing the struggles associated with my menstrual cycle (everything from migraines, to severe mood swings, to heavy and painful flow). My largest successes have come—not from medication, herbs or lifestyle changes, as I had initially expected—but from a shifting of perception. As I learned to hear what my body was telling me throughout different points of the month, I was able to change my focus on how I handled my health. I was also able to overcome my own belief in the menstrual cycle taboo. This shift in focus also allowed me to organize my life around my body’s needs.
Working with our cycles to heal—physically and emotionally
Depending on the severity of PMS symptoms and how you perceive your cycle, it can be seen either as a nuisance or as an empowering event that brings new beginnings. When we overcome the menstrual cycle taboo, we open more opportunities for the latter.
Mind Key Social Media expert, Erin Ernest said, “for someone with bad anxiety issues, I dread [my period] each month, and it gets worse the older I get. Anxiety, inability to sleep… I am a believer in natural medicine, but during the week leading up to my period, I need to turn to prescription anti-anxiety medication regularly. I hate it because I don’t feel like myself, but sometimes my anxiety is so debilitating that I have no choice.”
On the other hand, Evelina Vivianne, New Jersey nutrition and skin therapist specializing in hormonal health looks forward to her period each month. “I feel cleansed and renewed after. I also feel a sense of calm and wisdom after.”
Sarah Berkman, herbalist and owner of Gather Tea Shop and community space said, “Uncomfortable PMS symptoms equal our body telling us to slow down.”
Most times, these symptoms are a direct result of stress, Sarah said (which is another trigger for the fight-or-flight response).
During a recent class on the menstrual cycle, Sarah talked about how women’s bodies work. The detailed mechanics of the menstrual cycle is something that is severely missing in many sex education classes. A discussion on how women can work with the hormonal ups and downs to be more productive and heal themselves is lacking. The menstrual cycle taboo, due to the sometimes improper teaching of the menstrual cycle, can also result in other physical ailments.
How our cycles work
Everything menses begins in the uterus, which is a place of origin and growth. Sarah explained that if there is an obstruction in the Baou Mai, the channel that runs from the uterus to the heart, it can cause things like dysmenorrhea (painful, heavy flow) and fibroids.
When “your time of the month” is consistently uncomfortable, it is usually your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Take a deep breath and attempt to eliminate some stressors in your life. This does not mean that there isn’t something physically happening that needs additional attention. However, in most cases when the body is struggling, this is a good first step to take. Some people find continued discomfort, even after seeking professional medical attention. Many have found success in combining prescribed remedies with a better understanding of when to slow down and give yourself extra self-care.
These are the hormonal sequences or phases that regulate the menstrual cycle.
- Follicular phase
- This phase takes place from the time you start bleeding to when your ovaries begin to ovulate (release an egg). This phase brings a spike in testosterone, a decrease in estrogen and a burst of energy.
- Use this time of the month to accomplish tasks and start new projects or finish old ones. This is also a very connected time, particularly while you are bleeding. Take care of your body and get connected with the world and others around you.
- This is when a follicle ruptures and an egg is released, primarily for reproduction if sperm in present. During this phase, your mind may become sharper and you experience an increased libido.
- Use this opportunity to invest energy into creative endeavors. Make connections, manifest. Your creative energy is high, which is not only good for artistic endeavors, but anytime when you want to create or bring something new into your life.
- Luteal phase
- This phase takes place from the start of ovulation to the time of your next period. Estrogen dips, you may become emotional and reflective, and experience a lack of motivation.
- Use this phase as an opportunity to rest, relax and reflect. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to accomplish things at this time. Many women prefer not to vacation at this time because their bodies are working in overdrive… PMS symptoms abound, we tend to feel and look bloated and generally not at our best… However, I’ve found that this time of the month is a great opportunity to do things for yourself and to forget about some of those looming tasks that stress you out.
Note: Be sure to consult your physician when attempting to make changes to any area of your health.
Focus your energy
Part of moving past the menstrual cycle taboo is accepting that the way we feel during different times of the month is not only natural but beneficial. Working with those times of the month, and focusing our energy appropriately, can help us overcome the societal taboo.
If you’re constantly trying to get things done when you’re bleeding, chances are your body will automatically go into fight-or-flight mode in the days leading up to your menses. But, if you’re planning a solo-spa retreat at a time when you’re in your follicular phase, you may find yourself clawing the walls trying to figure out why you want to dive into work or adventure when your intention was to relax and offer yourself self-care. Perhaps the better choice would be to focus your energy into work during this phase, and schedule the indulgent time-off at the spa for your luteal phase. (Of course, this will depend on you! You may want to climb mountains on your vacation, or connect with locals in a profound way… in which case you may want to schedule your trip differently.)
If timing is what it is, then shift your focus. Perhaps combine that spa getaway with some healthy journaling or other creative activity that will allow your imagination to weave your dreams into reality. Use it as an opportunity to exercise in a comfortable way—perhaps through yoga or stretching. You may find that you get more accomplished during your relaxing trip simply because you allowed yourself to focus that creative energy rather than boxing it up with the reprimand that “this is me time.”
Your menstrual cycle is a time to destress
Usually, however, our problem as women is in doing too much. That said, try focusing on scheduling your lower-key tasks during the luteal phase and your highly creative, intensive, high-energy work during the follicular phase of your cycle. During your luteal phase, Be sure to make time each day to focus on self-care—whether that be a bath, some journaling, or some light exercise or meditation. Be gentle to yourself. Be giving. Let your fire-self reign when your body is open and ready for it.
See what this does for you. Do you notice a difference? Are your periods less stressful? Remember, it may take several months to notice a difference. Old patterns are, after all, hard to break. Journal your experiences. They can be the window to recognizing patterns and taking control of your health back into your hands.
Being in constant cycle
Sarah explains that our cycles are more than just the one week a month when women bleed.
Although most of us understand the basics behind this, what most of us don’t realize is that our cycles last all month long. In other words, those moments when you feel empowered, in tune, and totally creative? They’re usually a direct result of the same hormonal mechanisms that leave you feeling overwhelmed, irritable and frustrated at other times of the month. Allowing ourselves to focus on where we are in our cycle, and to focus our intention and energy accordingly, can help us feel more in tune. As a result, we’re destined to feel more productive, more at peace and less in pain all month long.
Focusing on your body’s natural cycles is a powerful way to not only heal on a physical and emotional level, but to be more productive. By overcoming the menstrual cycle taboo, you can become more at rest and more at peace no matter what time of the month.
If you are seeking natural and manageable avenues for working with your cycle to heal, or to heal your cycle, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (401-314-4014), or contact danielle@mindKEY.me for an affordable consultation that can offer avenues for working with and healing these energies in a way that is manageable for you and your lifestyle.