By Toni Brannagan
The average menstruating human is on their period for approximately 6 years of their entire life — that’s a lot of blood and a whole lot of time. Seriously, 6 years! Do you have any idea how much I could achieve in 6 years??? No really, if you do, let me know because right now, I’m trying my hardest not to spend those 6 years eating cookie butter out of the jar and crying over The Bachelor — raise your hand if you feel personally victimized by Arie Luyendyk Jr. Anyway, one week a month *really* adds up, and you owe it to yourself to reclaim that time.
Believe it or not, it doesn’t take fancy products, or very much effort, to upgrade your period routine. In the long run, I bet you’ll be spending less time than ever worrying about how your period is gonna derail your week.
With just a few simple lifestyle changes, you’ll be period-ing like a pro in no time — if only it was as easy to quit my addiction to Bachelor Nation (#JusticeForBecca).
Catch Some Winks
Or at least, more zzzs than your usual four hours of restless sleep after passing out in front of The Office. There’s a reason people tend to be low-energy on their periods, and power naps aren’t gonna cut it. To really combat the daily fatigue menstruating usually causes, you need to be well-rested.
Easier said than done? Try unwinding early. Hopefully you’re already cutting down on caffeine for the week, but try to get into a bedtime headspace before you’re stuck lying awake on your pillow for hours.
So slap on a face mask, light some soothing candles, and for the love of the period gods, put your phone down! If you’re fearful of Instagram withdrawal symptoms, at least make sure you’ve got your phone’s blue light filter turned on to minimize its effects on your beauty sleep.
Put Down the Pizza
You probably know this already, and I totally get why you might want to pretend you don’t. The yummy, greasy, carb-filled feasts you want to indulge in while you’re on your period are simply not gonna do *squat* for your cramps (or your skin — and unless you’re the lovechild of a Glossier-Beyoncé romance, you don’t need to do anything else to invite more breakouts).
The key here isn’t focusing on what you can’t have, but making sure that when your time of the month rolls around you’re prepared. Keep some healthy snacks around — I’m talking about healthy snacks that you’ll *actually* eat, not just push to the back of your pantry before grabbing a family-size pack of Doritos at the bodega.
Unless you’re an actual saint, don’t beat yourself up too much if you slip up a little. It can also help to know what indulgences aren’t the worst. For example, if you can’t live without caffeine, tea is lot easier on your stomach than coffee. And if your chocolate stash is non-negotiable, go dark.
Chances are, you’ve already got some sort of system down to avoid being unpleasantly surprised by blood in your underwear every month. Whether you’re marking an inconspicuous dot in your calendar or just ~going with the flow~, set aside a couple extra minutes this month to take control of your cycle. And that means more than taking Midol a day before you know you’re about to start your period.
There are dozens of free period tracking apps on the market, make sure to pick one that lets you track your symptoms, moods, and sexual activity, too. Flo is one of the most popular, and they also serve some good period-related content. Spot On, by Planned Parenthood, even tailors your experience based on your birth control method and its effects on your flow. If you’re looking for something simpler, there’s also Period Tracker Lite, which is easy, functional, and most importantly, very aesthetically pleasing (flowers grow when you are ovulating, IT’S SO CUTE!).
Tracking your cycle in detail might not seem like an important thing to do if you’re not trying to get pregnant, but you’ll be surprised how much more you learn about your body. Your period is almost like a report card for how your body’s doing — abnormalities like changes in regularity, consistency, and color are letting you know something’s wrong, and can help you figure out the cause (or when to hit up your gyno) earlier.
Just like cutting down on junk food, exercising to alleviate period cramps seems like one of those ideas that everyone passes around — and promptly ignores. It’s undeniable (unless you don’t believe in science, which is apparently a thing now), endorphins released while you engage in physical activity will boost your mood, but let’s be realistic...
If you’re more of a “walk, don’t run” type of person when you’re not menstruating, trying out SoulCycle on day 3 of your period is not gonna make you happy. Honestly, speaking as the laziest person in quite possibly the world, even a brisk 30-minute walk, a quick boogie in cute leak-preventing dancewear, or a few very simple yoga flows are enough to help me out with even the worst IUD cramps.
Pro-tip? Sex is totally a physical activity. And can be performed as a team sport or solo. Heads up, if you’re opting for the latter, vibrators are perf for massaging those hard-to-reach achy spots on your lower back (not to mention some spots way lower). Live your best life, my peeps.
What have you done to upgrade your own period cycle? Give me your tips!