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 was menstruating 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, menstruation and my body’s monthly cycle was a cause for distress, and I lived believing that I needed to hide how I felt. I was not alone as my female friends and colleagues regularly asked me “Do you see a stain?” or “Oh my god, it’s so heavy, can you smell it?”
In short, all other women and I had some sort of negative relationship with our body’s cycle and our menstruation mostly because it seemed like the world around us had not developed to accommodate what was needed to support a woman’s biological cycle and her period.
Now that I am in a better position to decide what I do and when I do it, I realise the world can run based on my body’s cycle.
A Time for Restoration
For starters I choose not to do anything results based at all during the first few days of my period. Instead, I use these days 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. I also use this day to re-connect with close female friends and family. It’s also a great time to go for a women’s retreat.
Understanding your 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 this. 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 through your monthly cycle: 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. There was a deep reverence for this connection in ancient advanced civilisations such as India and Egypt. In the recent past, society has evolved to become disconnected from nature, and also the cycles of the female body. Spend time learning to understand the moon cycle, how nature works in tune with the moon cycle and your own garden. This will assist in growing an intuitive connection to your body. It needs as much attention as you can give it.
Aligning Your Day Job with Your Cycle
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 one day female.
If I was still in a corporate job, and I was 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 some women may be working some weekends, but we would have downtime in line with our bodies. This could be a choice for some 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 monthly physical cycle 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.
“Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History – Eleanor Roosevelt”