The Menstrual Phase: Nurturing Your Body & Mind
The menstrual phase, commonly referred to as the period, occurs at the start of the menstrual cycle. It typically lasts between three to seven days.
During this phase, the lining of the uterus, which has thickened in preparation for pregnancy, sheds if fertilisation did not occur. This process is accompanied by the release of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, causing changes in the body and emotions.
This phase of the menstrual cycle is often referred to as the "winter" season. By understanding and honouring our menstrual cycle superpowers, we can navigate this phase with grace and self-care.
Body Changes and Energy Levels
The menstrual phase brings about several changes in your body. You may experience menstrual cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, and fatigue. These physical symptoms can vary from person to person, but it is essential to listen to your body and provide the care it needs.
Some tips to alleviate discomfort include:
- Heat therapy: Applying a heating pad or taking warm baths can help relax the muscles and reduce menstrual cramps.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
- Gentle exercises: Engaging in light physical activity, such as walking or yoga, can help relieve cramps and boost endorphin levels.
Emotional Well-being and Mood
Emotionally, the menstrual phase can be accompanied by mood swings, irritability, and heightened sensitivity. It is crucial to prioritise self-care and engage in activities that promote relaxation and emotional well-being.
Some strategies to consider include:
- Practising mindfulness and meditation: Taking a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness or meditation can help reduce stress and bring about a sense of calm.
- Prioritising self-care activities: Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading a book, taking a bath, or engaging in creative pursuits.
- Seeking support: Talk to trusted friends or family members about your emotions or consider joining a support group where you can share experiences with other women.
Sex Drive and Intimacy
During the menstrual phase, some women may experience a decrease in sex drive due to hormonal fluctuations or physical discomfort. It is essential to communicate openly with your partner about your own needs and boundaries.
If you do feel comfortable engaging in sexual activity, using menstrual products designed for intercourse, such as menstrual cups or soft tampons, can provide comfort and ease.
Nutrition and Foods to Eat
Proper nutrition plays a vital role in supporting your overall well-being during the menstrual phase. Aim to include the following nutrient-rich foods in your diet:
- Iron-rich foods: Consume foods such as lean red meat, dark leafy greens, lentils, and fortified cereals to replenish iron stores depleted during menstruation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Include foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts to help reduce inflammation and promote hormonal balance.
- Vitamin C-rich foods: Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes can enhance iron absorption and boost your immune system.
Exercise and Physical Activity
While it's essential to listen to your body's needs, engaging in gentle exercises can provide numerous benefits during the menstrual phase. Light to moderate exercises like walking, stretching, or low-impact workouts can help alleviate cramps, boost mood, and increase circulation. However, it's crucial to gauge your energy levels and modify the intensity as needed. Always remember to stay hydrated and wear comfortable clothing during exercise.
Sleep and Rest
During menstruation, your body may require additional rest and sleep to cope with physical and hormonal changes. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to support your overall well-being. Consider creating a calming bedtime routine, such as reading a book, practising relaxation techniques, or avoiding electronic devices before bed. If you experience discomfort during sleep, try using a heating pad, applying a hot water bottle, or experimenting with different sleeping positions to find what works best for you.
The menstrual phase is a natural part of life, and understanding its nuances can empower us to embrace it fully. Honour your individual needs and seek support from trusted sources when necessary. With self-compassion and self-care, you can cultivate a positive relationship with your menstrual cycle.
Checkout our blog on The Menstrual Cycle: A Comprehensive Guide to Understating Your Body or explore the intricacies of each phase, including its timing, physiological changes, emotional shifts, and practical tips to support your well-being;