This Simple Shift In Mindset Can Improve Period Symptoms

period

As women, we are fortunate to have a monthly cycling of hormones which ends (or begins) with the physical and emotional catharsis of menstruation. We do this through our fertile years, and it is a symbol of the intrinsic creativity of womanhood. The significance of which has “a history as long as the creation of the first myths”1 and is present across cultures.

You may at first find this positive contextualization difficult to conceive, especially if you experience depression, pain, nausea or a litany of other discomforts associated with the menstrual cycle. You are not alone with your symptomatology— the vast majority of women, 90 percent, are with you.2 Further, a quarter of women stay home from work or school because they feel this so intensely.3 The sheer number of women who experience menstrual discomfort warrants the perspective that these sensations are normal biologic phenomena and not on the spectrum of illness.

We live in a culture, however, that is overly-medicalized— our joy is mania, our sadness depression, and the natural variations of how we cycle are pathologized into a myriad of diagnoses that are easy to take to heart.  Additionally, the historical patriarchal dominance of our society shapes our views of menstruation: it is a burden that needs to be dealt with or pushed aside so we can get on with our day, something to hide and of which we should be embarrassed or ashamed.4 Many of us hold these ingrained negative perceptions subconsciously, unaware that they are causing us increased levels of stress.5,6  Indeed, I have found in clinical practice that such perspectives exacerbate the negative aspects of menstrual symptoms and detract from the powerful nature of this sacred biologic phenomenon.

Please be safe and properly medically evaluated when necessary, but do not let anyone tell you that your body, your innate feminine power is a problem. If your menstrual cycle is intense, I urge you to look at what is right about it, how it serves you, makes you who you are and connects you with women who have come before you and will after you. Finding that deep inner-knowing has proven invaluable in clinical practice, and the scientific literature shows that adjusting to more positive beliefs improves the experience of menstruation.7,8 In fact, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists gives a grade A recommendation for doing this in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and states this “should be considered routinely as a treatment option.”8

I encourage you to read about the phases of your menstrual cycle, start tracking it, and know when you are fertile; this will increase your understanding of your own body. Further, look at how you are interpreting your bodily signals, explore what you are feeling beyond pain/no pain or good/bad. There is a diversity of somatic sensations that are all normal, and in fact, beautiful. Please take the time to relax, be good to yourself, cry if you need to, laugh if you need to, and give yourself the space to flow— whatever that looks like for you. I hope that you experience the deep release that you deserve, that is your birthright as a woman on this earth. My deepest love and gratitude to you all.

 

References
  1. Behjati-Ardakani Z, Akhondi MM, Mahmoodzadeh H, Hosseini SH. An Evaluation of the Historical Importance of Fertility and Its Reflection in Ancient Mythology. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility. 2016;17(1):2-9.
  2. Winer SA, Rapkin AJ. Premenstrual Disorders: Prevalence, Etiology, and Impact. Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 2006; 51(4 Suppl) 339-347.
  3. Grandi G, Ferrari S, Xholli A, et al. Prevalence of Menstrual Pain in Young Women: What Is Dysmenorrhea? Journal of Pain Research. 2012;5:169-174.
  4. Merskin, D.  Adolescence, Advertising, and the Psychology of Menstruation Sex Roles. 1999; 40: 941.
  5. Forbes GB, Adams-Curtis LE, White KB, Holmgren KM. The Role of Hostile and Benevolent Sexism in Women’s and Men’s Perceptions of the Menstruating Woman. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2003; 27: 58–63.
  6. O’Flynn N. Menstrual Symptoms: The Importance of Social Factors in Women’s Experiences. British Journal of General Practice. 2006; 56 (533): 950-957.
  7. Chrisler JC, Johnston IK, Champagne NM, Preston KE. Menstrual Joy: The Construct and Its Consequences. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 1994; 18: 375–387.
  8. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Management of Premenstrual Syndrome. British Journal of Gynaecology. 2016.

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