Period, Menstruation, Dysmenorrhea, time of the month or whatever else it is called in our world today, this amazing feat of the human body does not get enough regard for what it means to the existence of humanity today. Most of us regard it as waste, similar to our other natural body waste. For the majority of us, for most of our lives we are only concerned with how best to dispose of it discreetly and manage the pain and discomfort it can cause on a monthly basis.
But is that all our period was ever meant to be?
I shared a bathroom with my younger brother when we were growing up, and my mum made entirely sure that I did not leave any signs that I had my period in the bathroom. Yes, hygiene had a lot to do with it, but so did this nervousness she had about her young son discovering menstruation.
As a working adult, my monthly cramps always made my first day unbearable while working in London. I had to carry files across town, or I had to travel some distance quite regularly in the rickety public transport. At my place of work, there was no option to request for “non-travel, non-carry” tasks for those days of work.
All in all, my period was a cause for much distress, and I lived under the emotion of needing to hide how I felt. I was not alone as my female colleagues regularly asked me “Do you see a stain?” or “Oh my god, it’s so heavy, can you smell it?”
In short, many other women and I had a negative relationship with getting our period every month because it seemed like the world around us had not developed to accommodate what was needed to support a woman on her period.
Now that I am in a position to 100% decide what I do and when I do it, I realize the world can run based on my period.
A Time for Restoration
For starters I choose not to do anything results based at all on the first day of my period. Instead, I use this day as a self-retreat. I wake up and intuitively think about what my body needs. It is usually a variation of light exercises, long walks, meditations and creative flows. It’s a wonderful day to get that journal or canvas out . There is a place near my home that sometimes offers belly dance specialized for women on their periods as well. I also use this day to re-connect with close female friends and family.
Understanding the biological cycle
I have also begun to pay attention to needs of my body across the month which differs based on what phase of my monthly cycle I am in. As women, biologically, we cannot be at our peak every day due to our hormonal cycles, and there is nothing wrong with that notion. But across an entire month, we can be extremely productive also because of our hormonal cycles. Here is an excellent article on managing your energy levels and your period: How to Live Your Best Life in Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle.
The Menstrual Cycle and Nature
Before patriarchal times, many activities were designed around the female cycle which was linked to the moon cycle–and which was therefore related to the Earth’s cycles. All this information points to a deep reverence for nature and its role in life in advanced civilization. In the recent past, society has evolved and become disconnected from nature, and therefore the cycles of the female body.
Aligning Activity with the Woman’s Cycles
Today there are companies that offer days off for period pain as explained in Period Pain Paid Time Off Policy in addition to annual leave. However due to the inverse relationship between leave and corporate performance, it is still considered taboo for a woman to take a day off because of a difficult period day. Unfortunately company policies and strategy have not been designed with an understanding of the hormonal benefits of a woman’s cycle. This may need to be a consideration if 50% of the workforce is expected to be female.
If I was still in a corporate job, aware of how my hormones worked and I was openly able to discuss my monthly cycle with my manager, perhaps me and my other female colleagues could have worked together to develop company targets and activities aligned to our cycles. They can be tweaked a month in advance without affecting company results.
This might mean that we may be working some weekends, but we would have downtime in line with our bodies, if it works better for us. I believe it is possible with some creative thinking, not just in a majority women environment.
In light of the above I invite every woman and girl out there to develop a positive relationship with her period and to help other women and men see it positively too in any aspect of life.
Maybe one day none of us will ever need to need to manage or “hide” what is the most normal thing about being a woman.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage – Anais Nin”