We’ve all heard about the importance of self-care and how we should all be doing more of it. But more often than not, self-care is linked to spa-like activities such as massages, pool/beach days, and facials. But that’s a very limited view of it all. And honestly, if that’s what self-care is, then no wonder we don’t do it as often. It sounds a bit pricey.
If spa-days are only part of self-care, what’s the rest of it? And what does the Menstrual Cycle have to do with it all?
I’m going to say something very obvious here –> self-care is about taking care of self (Raisa, can you be more redundant?). It’s true though! Self-care is about taking care of our temple/body. And that means your physical self, your mind, and your emotional well-being. Here are some examples of each so you get an idea of what I’m talking about:
Physical self-care: nutrition, sleep, rest, movement, and personal hygiene.
Self-care for the mind: reading, learning new skills, solving puzzles, playing games, meditating.
Emotional self-care: journaling, engaging in hobbies, going out with friends, spending time with loved ones (and pets).
Self-Care And The Menstrual Cycle Phases
Now let’s bring our hormones into the self-care mix. As menstruating beings, we are not the same day-in-day-out. One Monday does not look the same as the next when it comes to mood, energy, cravings, metabolism, and even how we think. Our hormones fluctuate, and so do our needs. That’s actually the beauty about living in a cyclical way and embracing our 28-day rhythm instead of just a 24-hour clock. It’s about listening, connecting with your body, and providing it the best care according to its needs. So that in return, you have the tools to live well, go on adventures, and follow your dreams.
Here are some self-care tips to support you throughout the different phases of your menstrual cycle:
The menstrual cycle begins with your period, a phase marked by the shedding of the uterine lining. Physically, this phase may bring about discomfort such as cramps, bloating, fatigue, and breast tenderness. Emotionally, you may experience a range of feelings, including mood swings, irritability, and sadness. It’s important to practice self-care during this time, honoring the body’s need for rest and renewal.
- Prioritize rest: Listen to your body’s need for rest and relaxation during this phase. Allow yourself to slow down, get sufficient sleep, and engage in calming activities such as reading a book or watching your favorite guilty-pleasure shows.
- Use heat therapy: Apply a heating pad or take a warm bath to soothe menstrual cramps and muscle tension. Magnesium also does wonders for cramps. Enjoy a nice cup of warm tea to bring much needed comfort.
- Gentle exercise: Engage in low-impact exercises like yoga, walking, or stretching to promote blood flow and alleviate discomfort.
Following your period, the follicular phase emerges. Hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen rise, preparing the body for ovulation. Physical changes can include better energy levels, enhanced cognitive function, and a sense of well-being. Emotionally, you’ll often feel more optimistic, social, and mentally alert. Engaging in physical activities and nurturing relationships can complement the surge of energy during this phase.
- Energize with movement: Take advantage of the increased energy during this phase by incorporating more vigorous exercises like cardio workouts, dance, or strength training.
- Get outdoors: Spend time in nature to boost your mood and connect with the changing seasons. Take walks, go hiking, or engage in outdoor activities that bring you joy.
- Nourish with nutritious foods: Focus on a well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, tons of fresh fruits + veggies, protein, and healthy fats to support your body’s nutritional needs.
Ovulation, the highlight of your menstrual cycle, occurs when an egg is released from the ovary. Physically, you may experience mild pelvic discomfort or a heightened sense of sexuality. Cervical mucus can also become clearer and stretchier, to better allow sperm movement. Emotionally, you may feel more confident, attractive, and connected. It’s an wonderful time to make time for intimacy (keeping in mind that this is also your fertile window) and creative projects.
- Embrace your confidence: Connect with your sensuality and self-expression. Engage in activities that make you feel elated and good, such as wearing your favorite outfit, trying a new hairstyle, or engaging in creative endeavors.
- Enjoy social time: This time is perfect to catch up with friends, go out on new adventures together, and enjoy good company.
- Practice self-care rituals: Pamper yourself with self-care rituals, like enjoying a relaxing bath with essential oils and candles, using face masks, or getting a massage.
- Prioritize intimacy: If you’re comfortable, this is an ideal time to connect intimately with your partner and explore your desires. Once again, if you are trying to avoid pregnancy, this is also the time to be more mindful since you’re in your fertile window.
After ovulation, the luteal phase begins, characterized by the presence of the corpus luteum and increased progesterone levels. Physical changes often include breast tenderness, bloating, increased appetite and food cravings. Emotionally, you may experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or even sadness. It’s crucial to practice self-care and prioritize emotional well-being during this phase, which can involve relaxation techniques, journaling, and seeking support from loved ones.
- Focus on balanced + nurturing meals: Complex carbs will be very important during this phase and will help with the cravings. Make sure that all of your meals (snacks too!) include a great source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbs. Also, your appetite might go up during this phase. Listen and nourish your body.
- Practice stress management: Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle yoga to calm the mind and body.
- Journaling: Reflect on your thoughts and emotions through journaling. It can help release any tension or anxiety and provide a sense of clarity and self-awareness.
- Engage in calming activities: Explore activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, listening to music, spending time in nature, and practicing gentle stretching.
If you’re not used to paying attention to your menstrual cycle, this can initially feel like a lot. I get it! Not too long ago, that was me. But what’s most important here is to learn to listen to your body. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that self-care is an ongoing process that evolves as you do. There’s not perfect formula or a right vs wrong way of doing it. It’s about figuring out what works for you. And by paying attention to the way your body changes throughout your cycle, you can enhance your overall well-being and cultivate a deeper connection it.
And never forget this – self-care is not selfish and it’s not something only for the rich and famous. Self-care is a necessity. It’s taking care of the most precious thing we have in this life – our bodies, the home to our souls.