Updated: Apr 24, 2021
We're finally at the last installment of our series on Mental Health and Your Period! Today, we'll be taking a little bit of a different approach. Rather than talking about the immediate experience of having a period, we'll be covering some things that you can do to support your loved ones as they go through the difficulties that come with the menstrual cycle.
Talking about periods can be taboo, a topic that only seems to be social appropriate to discuss behind closed doors while surrounded by others who have had the same experience. But you don't need to personally experience menstruation to be educated and supportive; chances are, you have at least one loved one who menstruates. These 4 ways are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to supporting your loved ones through their periods. We hope that they will inspire you to start reaching out and learning about the experience that your mother, sister, partner, or friend has during that time of the month.
Reading the last two installments of this series is a great place to start, and the internet is filled with information about what happens during the menstrual cycle. Beyond that, talk to your loved one about how their period experience is. You'd be surprised how seldom this question is asked (never, in my experience). Every person's period experience is different, or maybe it has changed over time. Sitting down and talking about it will not only solidify your plan of action, but will also make your loved one feel attended to and like their experience matters.
Education paves the way for preparation. Keep in mind foods that your loved one particularly enjoys on their period as well as ones that are proven to provide necessary nutrients that benefit the mind and body during bleeding. Add these to the grocery list for a week before your loved one is set to start their period. If you don't live with that person, consider DoorDashing or UberEats-ing something to them.
Another way to prepare is to get acquainted with your loved one's preference for pads, tampons, anything in between. You can purchase those for them in advance or check in with them about whether they've already bought some for that week. Gone are the days of the stereotypical comedy father, shell-shocked in the aisle of the local drugstore, gobsmacked by the sheer volume of choice of sanitary products. The media makes it seem as though learning about periods and individual preferences for period management is some sort of huge mystical deal. But it doesn't have to be! Reach out and ask, and I promise that your loved one will feel appreciative no matter how awkward the conversation might feel.
Take note of which self-soothing methods are effective for your loved one, and gently remind them of these as they head into their period. These might be things like deep breathing, yoga, going for a walk outside, or journaling. Being on your period on top of everyday life can make it hard to remember to be mindful - help steer your loved ones towards their coping strategies not just when they seem worse for wear, but all throughout their cycle.
An effective way to gently create a soothing and mindful environment can be to do the mindfulness or self-soothing techniques yourself and invite your loved one to join in. It's a win-win: mindfulness for the both of you.
Give Them Space
The shifts in hormone levels during a period can result in bloating, headaches, moodiness, irritability, feeling tired, sleep problems, appetite changes, trouble with concentration, tension or anxiety, mood swings, and more. On top of that, work and life are still going on. Despite all of your good intentions, your loved one simply might not have the mental bandwidth to deal with an additional person calling for their attention. Be aware and empathetic that sometimes a little space can be incredibly helpful.
And, as always, make sure that you are taking care of yourself as well. You can't pour from an empty cup, so stay mindful of your own mental and physical state. A supported person can be a better supportive person, so continue to practice mindfulness and self-care. Both you and your loved ones will benefit from it all the more.
To catch up on the first two installments of our series, click here:
Part 1. Mental Health and Your Period