(This blog post is a shortened version of what you’ll find in the podcast episode. If you want more information on each point, listen above!)
Maybe you thought you’d grow out of period problems as you got older. Maybe you have a good cycle most of the time, but every once in a while your body throws you for a loop and things get unpredictable.
I’m going to talk about some common reasons why things like PMS, period pain, and other cyclical problems might still be an issue for you.
1. Your doctor prescribed birth control to regulate your period.
This is a myth. A very common myth. The only thing that birth control regulates is the timing of your period. That becomes predictable and regular. You might find some relief from symptoms, but it doesn’t mean that those symptoms have been cured.
Before I get more into it, I want to stress that there’s no shame in taking birth control if that’s your decision; however, I believe the pill is over-prescribed and framed as a solution when it’s really not targeting the root cause of your problems at all. And we aren’t usually given enough information to have fully informed consent.
So how does the birth control pill work?
Its mechanism of action is to inhibit ovulation and create hostile cervical mucus. It alters the communication between your brain and your ovaries. Hormone production starts in the brain, and those signals that come from the brain and go to the ovaries are essentially shut down.
Once you’re off the pill, your hormones are going to be produced again, and you will likely have the same problems you started with, which is why it’s so important to figure out the root cause of your hormone imbalance — the pill does not fix it or regulate it.
If you have severe symptoms and you need the pill to manage life, that’s okay. I also encourage you to find a practitioner who will work with you on the underlying cause of those symptoms.
2. You’ve accepted period problems as a fact of life
When you first got “the talk” about your period, that conversation probably revolved around how to contain it, the various products you’ll need to use, and all of the horrible symptoms to expect. The cramps, the mood swings, the cravings.
We grow up believing this, and many people make it to menopause believing this. Their entire cycling life bogged down by symptoms that were actually not normal. These symptoms are a sign that something is out of alignment, there is an imbalance, and most of the time it can be solved by getting in alignment with your cycle.
Imagine what you could do with all the energy spent dreading your period, having your period and being miserable, being confined to the couch because you’re in too much pain to go about life, missing social invitations, missing school or work, no energy or motivation for creative pursuits.
Imagine what you could do if you had that time back, how much more powerful you could be if you could channel all of that time and mental space to things that mattered more.
You could put that energy into creative projects, your spiritual practice, strengthening your friendships and family relationships and romantic relationships, being an activist, being your best most authentic self. It is a possibility, and it often doesn’t feel like it, because of this third reason:
3. You’re not taught anything about your menstrual cycle.
Many people don’t actually know what happens throughout your cycle until their 30s or 40s or 50s! And this is not your fault. It’s the fault of our educational system, it’s the fault of the scientific community for not including menstruators or accounting for cyclical changes in research, it’s medical institutions for perpetuating implicit bias against our complaints.
Once you are familiar with not just how a healthy cycle works but what your personal rhythms look like, things will change. Your outlook will change, your perspective on your physical and mental feelings throughout your cycle will change.
Suddenly there becomes less of a need to feel guilty about resting, and living in alignment with your cycle helps you reduce PMS symptoms, so there’s no PMS-induced snapping at your partner, or your kids, and also no subsequent regret that immediately floods in afterward.
There’s less shame or hatred towards your body as it fluctuates throughout the month, or feeling out of control with your hormones.
Identification and awareness are foundational elements of change. And learning about your menstrual cycle will get you on the right path to solving your period problems.
4. You think aligning with your cycle is only for people with more time or more money than you.
Cycle syncing is a big topic these days, it’s becoming more mainstream, but a lot of the rhetoric that I see about it is very rigid. Like, you must do this my way, you must follow my guidelines or your entire endocrine system will collapse.
And I’ve had clients say this to me too, that they’ve tried following a certain plan but it just didn’t feel aligned with what was actually going on in their body.
And that’s good! They’re listening to their intuition. A big complaint that I’ve heard that is in addition to this is that it feels like you have to change your entire life in order to keep up with cyclical living. That’s not really true.
It certainly is a whole lot easier to fully honor the ebbs and flows of your cycle when you’re in complete control of your life, but that’s almost never the case that we can perfectly honor our cycle every single day.
We all have obligations that fall outside of what our cycle phases need, jobs to do, bosses to please, kids to entertain, social lives to maintain. But the more you develop cycle consciousness — and by that, I mean awareness around your personal patterns and rhythms and needs — the better you’re able to manage your life while staying in alignment.
For example, maybe you’re in your late-luteal phase. Your energy is low, you’re dealing with PMS, you just want to be alone. But you have meetings to attend despite not feeling very social. So how can you honor your cycle?
In this case, I’d say if you’re able to have some control over the meeting, since the luteal phase is when you’re typically better at admin work and evaluation (rather than, say, brainstorming new ideas), see if that can be your role for the meeting that day.
If not, that’s okay. I would try to plan some extra self-care around this time to give yourself a buffer for the things you can’t change. And by self-care I don’t necessarily mean go home and pamper yourself for four hours. If you have the capacity to do that, by all means, but maybe it just means that you close your laptop after and disconnect for 15 minutes. Or you take a walk, or go make yourself a cup of tea. Something that makes you feel good and allows you to recharge.
I can tell you how your cycle and energy typically fluctuate based on science, but you are an individual who knows your body best, and so you can wake up every day and decide what you need.
We track our cycles to look for patterns so we can better plan for what we need, but it’s also important to check in with yourself to see if you’re in alignment with what’s been planned, or if you need to make some adjustments. This is a daily practice that does not require any money, and it only requires time in ways that work for you and that fit in your lifestyle.
Cycle consciousness is key
Cycle consciousness helps you cultivate body literacy. Body literacy is a term used in the Fertility Awareness Method meaning self-knowledge about your signs of fertility, but I think it extends to honoring the natural ebbs and flows of your cycle, learning about what does and doesn’t work for your body, and gaining awareness about how you personally work. All of this helps you to be a stronger advocate for your health.
Cycle consciousness also helps you strengthen your intuition and your creative force. Painful cramps, mood swings, intense cravings, heavy bleeding, fatigue, and other PMS symptoms bring a lot of noise with them, and a lot of mental clutter, and that takes up a ton of valuable energy.
Clearing that clutter allows more space for intuitive messages to come through — if you don’t know, your menstrual phase is actually your most intuitive phase because it’s when hemispheres of your brain communicate more strongly. So knowing to get quiet and listen at that time, developing a relationship with your intuition, learning how it speaks to you, it really helps you create a deeper relationship with yourself and with the universe or whatever higher power you honor in your practice.
And finally, this is a feminist issue. I’m a firm believer that PMS is a tool of the patriarchy. It might not be a conscious thing, but it’s absolutely a systemic problem within science and medicine and education.
When you’re out of commission one week every month, that’s 12 weeks a year, that’s a quarter of the year! When your moods ricochet from one emotion to another, it’s fodder for why women can’t be in power, or why you should be paid less, or it’s ammo for calling you hysterical. Not to say that period problems make you weak, but the system is designed for you to suffer, so the people in power can use it as an excuse to stay there.
Aligning with your cycle is a daily practice that helps dismantle the patriarchal standards of living we’ve internalized. Until now, you’ve been living in a world that wasn’t designed to support you. Working with your natural cycle unlocks a whole new way of living that accounts for your changing needs throughout the month, filling up your tank to become the powerful being you are rather than depleting that valuable fuel you need to have a fulfilling life.
If you feel fired up about this, I would love to invite you to my free class coming up. It’s a little early right now I know but the workshop is happening on May 19 and it’s called The Patriarchy vs Your Body. If you’re not sure if you can make it live this early on, that’s ok, sign up anyway and you’ll receive reminders and a replay. We’re going to talk about:
- How our health and hormones are impacted by patriarchal standards of living⠀
- The importance of body literacy and cycle consciousness⠀
- The lack of education around menstruators’ bodies in science and medicine⠀
- Why diet culture and emotional eating are feminist issues⠀
- What you can do to break free from the patriarchy, live cyclically, reduce your PMS symptoms, and be empowered to take care of your body in a way that serves YOUR unique needs⠀
The goal of this workshop is to help you understand how you can embrace your own inner power and align your life with the flow of your menstrual cycle. It’s how you can discover your SUPERPOWERS, because, my friends, you are so magical and I want you to know it!⠀