The stereotypical period involves a ton of PMS symptoms, painful cramps, lots of sugar cravings, misery, rage, tears… everything but actual productivity. A healthy menstrual cycle really doesn’t have any of that.
You don’t have to be relegated to the couch for a week with a hot water bottle on your stomach. You can actually be productive on your period.
Before I tell you how, I want to note that the reason you’re feeling all of those symptoms in the first place is that the patriarchal education system teaches us absolutely nothing about our bodies. In fact, you’re led to believe all of that is totally normal, par for the course.
Have a capitalist-critical period
On top of the lack of education about our bodies, capitalism has us working against our cycles day after day, trying to be as productive as possible at the expense of our physical and mental health. It convinces us that we always have to be doing, that rest is a waste of time, and our worth lies in our output.
None of that is true! You don’t have to feel like shit during your period, but that idea that you always have to be producing can contribute even more to feeling like shit.
Mental stress from failing to perform at the same level every day can take a toll on us physically, messing up your hormone balance, which leads to those PMS symptoms that you were taught were just par for the course, which causes more mental stress, and so it goes. A cycle within a cycle.
While I love to work towards dismantling the capitalist patriarchy and its emphasis on productivity, we still live in a capitalist society, unfortunately, and have to play the game to get by.
So here’s how you can honor your cycle and get the most out of your menstrual phase without burning yourself out.
Understanding your cycle
If you don’t know how your menstrual cycle impacts your body throughout the month, then you won’t know the best times for meetings, content creation, organization, evaluation, etc. Learning how your reproductive hormones impact your creativity, productivity, and focus throughout the month is key to maximizing your potential in each of the four phases of your cycle.
How does that help you to be more productive on your period? If you’re taking advantage of the right times for certain work activities throughout the month, you’ll have the energy and focus to do what you need to when you’re menstruating, and you won’t feel like garbage doing it either.
How to honor each phase of your cycle at work
In the follicular phase (or your waxing moon time), estrogen is building along with your energy. Also growing is your creativity and ability to solve problems, making it a great time for starting new projects, brainstorming, and taking on mentally challenging tasks.
In your ovulatory phase (full moon phase), your communication skills are strongest. This is best for meetings, client calls, and other modes of communication like writing proposals, blog writing, marketing copy, etc.
In your luteal phase (your waning moon time), things are winding down and you become more detail-oriented. It’s the best time for sorting out what’s working and what’s not, and revising your processes. It’s also good for reconciling your books, managing invoices, and other clerical tasks.
And then finally your menstrual phase (new moon time) is more about self-care, rest, and reflection. Your intuition is strongest here, so if you have to make a decision on something and need a strong gut feeling, now’s the time to do it.
What you need in your menstrual phase
I know it’s not always easy to perfectly align work activities with your menstrual cycle. Now that you have a better idea of when different types of tasks may feel easiest, honoring this as much as possible will make getting things done in your menstrual phase a lot easier.
Here are a few more ways you can honor your body while you’re on your period so you can feel great and GSD:
Don’t forget that rest is actually one of the most productive things you can do. You aren’t an Energizer Bunny. Eventually, you’ll run out of steam. Rather than completely burning yourself out, allow for periods of rest. Take a personal day or a half-day if you can, or if that’s not possible, take an *actual* lunch break. Not one where you’re eating at your desk and answering emails at the same time.
Are you meal-hungry or snack-hungry? If you’re meal-hungry and opt for snacks, you’re going to need a meal’s worth of snacks to feel full (which can feel like you have no willpower when you’re actually just trying to fulfill a biological need).
Are you actually eating enough? Sometimes when we’re trying to get a ton of stuff done, we forget to take a break and eat a real meal and instead just graze all day, getting distracted and never really feeling satisfied.
Is your meal balanced? Eating enough food will keep your blood sugar from dipping, activating your stress hormones, and messing with your focus. Even better, having a good balance of protein, fat, and fiber in your meal will have you feeling satisfied and keep your blood sugar stable. Blood sugar stabilization, as thrilling as that sounds, is actually a key part of keeping hormones happy.
Are you honoring your cycle in the kitchen? Try to eat cyclically if you can. Nutrient-dense, mineral-rich, and hydrating foods (like seaweed, seafood, and fresh produce) support blood and water loss during menstruation and help replenish nutrients like iron needed for this phase.
Since the menstrual phase offers us a natural “sacred pause,” give yourself a little space to breathe, whether you do deep breathing on its own or follow a guided meditation with a trusted practitioner.
Deep breathing is not for everybody — particularly not for those who have trauma associated with breathing — so don’t feel pressured to enter this practice if you’re worried about what will come up. Emotions can definitely be stirred up here if there’s something underlying, so if you do choose to try this, seek out a trauma-informed breathwork instructor.
This practice helps take us out of the chronic “fight-or-flight” stress response which we seem to always be in these days. It brings you into the present moment and helps your body physically relax so it’s better prepared and able to perform all its necessary internal processes (so you can perform all your necessary external processes!).
Drink alcohol intentionally
I don’t love to tell people to avoid anything because you’re an adult and are free to do as you wish, but I like to educate so you can make informed and intentional decisions.
You may find that you’re more sensitive to alcohol in the menstrual phase (likely due to changes in insulin sensitivity), so you’ll feel its effects a little more easily. Enjoyment of alcohol also increases at this time (probably as a coping mechanism for period problems, tbh), so it’s a double-edged sword.
You might like it more, but will the subsequent hangover help you be more productive the next day? Unlikely, but you know your body best. Take this knowledge and proceed with intention!
Questions for reflection
The menstrual phase forces us to slow down a bit, and some reflection and introspection here will be helpful. It’s the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one — so how did it go? Consider these questions as you set goals and intentions for the next few weeks.
- Write down what you did and/or didn’t accomplish this cycle. How do you feel about it all?
- What are your values? Are the items on your list in alignment with your values?
- How can you organize your schedule to focus more on what you do value?
- For the things you can’t change, how can plan around them to better honor the natural fluctuations in your energy, productivity, creativity, etc. Where can you add in some self-care to make up for the mandatory obligations?
- How are you getting along with others? (Coworkers, authority figures, family, friends.)
- What is one change you can focus on this next cycle to bring you more in tune with your body?