How to Practice Self Care During Your Period
Have you met Aunt Flo yet? She visits most girls every month, some girls more than once a month, and other girls at different times in a year. If you haven’t met her yet, don't worry girl, she will be arriving soon. If you’re wondering who Aunt Flo is, I will give you a hint: she makes monthly visits with a gift that can last for 3 - 7 days. You might be wondering, how do you know when she arrives? Well, there are several physical and emotional symptoms that you will experience before and during the arrival of Aunt Flo. If you haven't guessed yet, Aunt Flo is your period and preparing for her arrival can make you feel anxious or stressed. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. By practicing self-care and developing a routine, preparing for her visits will become easier each time.
The arrival of Aunt Flo can be a stressful time for girls. You have to go to school, complete your homework, study, and attend to your other responsibilities when you would most likely prefer to remain in bed all week. While you can’t control when your period arrives, there are things you can do to prepare, manage your symptoms, and make yourself more comfortable for the duration of your period. Gathering the following period essentials will help you prepare the next time your period comes and makes the entire experience more manageable.
The first few days of your period can consist of pains, aches, or cramps. But you can ease the pain and discomfort using the following methods:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, prevent inflammation and the production of prostaglandins (a chemical in your body that makes your muscles tighten) which is what causes our cramps.  Some examples of ibuprofen you may be familiar with are Advil or Motrin. Medications such as Midol and Aspirin are other treatments that you can use to relieve period cramps. When you take any medication, check the labels for the correct dosage and the side effects you can experience when taking these pills. Before taking any medications, consult your doctor and get approval from a parent to determine which medication will be the most effective for you.
Heat has proven to be a successful method for easing period cramps that doesn’t cause any side effects. Heating pads and hot water bags are great relief when you have cramps and backaches. Studies have shown that heat can be as effective as NSAIDs and Aspirin.  If you don’t have a heating pad or a hot water bag, you could DIY one with a sock, rice, and string. Just fill a sock (preferably clean) with some uncooked rice but make sure you don't fill it to the top. Then heat it in a microwave for about 2 minutes and tie it off with a string - just make sure to check in with your parents first before trying anything new!
Working out is probably the last thing you’d want to do when you’re on your period. However, exercise increases the blood flow to the abdomen and releases endorphins (chemicals in the body that make you feel good) which can help ease period cramps.  Studies by Clue have demonstrated that aerobic exercise, stretching, and yoga can reduce the strength and duration of menstrual cramps. Exercising regularly every month is also effective in managing the emotional symptoms you may experience due to PMS such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue. 
Pads and Pantyliners
Pads are made of absorbent material to soak up the blood that is discharged from your body during your period. Pads look like diapers and are sticky on the back so they can stick to your underwear. Some also have little flaps on the side that are called wings. These wings are attached to your underwear to keep the pad in place and prevent leaking. Pads come in different sizes and thicknesses depending on your body and your blood flow. If you have a heavier flow, longer pads might be more comfortable for you because they absorb more fluids than smaller pads. Always, Tampax, and U by Kotex, all have different types of pads. Our favourite is Blume’s organic cotton pads that we featured in our subscription boxes. When you choose organic pads or tampons you are using bleach-free products which are better for your overall health.
Pantyliners are similar to pads, but they are smaller, thinner, and commonly used for your vaginal discharge. On the days you have a light flow, pantyliners are a great option to prepare yourself and prevent stains on your underwear when you start bleeding. U by Kotex, Always, and Tampax, also have several types of liners you can use depending on your personal preferences.
When you’re craving all these salty and sweet treats, it can be difficult to make healthy choices. But choosing healthy snacks during your period is recommended because it reduces the symptoms that are caused by PMS. Following a healthy diet before you have your period also helps ease symptoms of cramps, bloating, and fatigue. The good news is there are healthier alternatives to sweet and salty foods that you’ll enjoy! Here are some alternatives to help you make healthier food choices.
When you’re craving carbs or salty foods:
- Salmon: rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help relax your muscles and relieve pain. Studies have also shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can help with depression and mood swings during your period. 
- Popcorn: a healthier alternative to chips and still satisfies your cravings for salt. However, to remain healthy, be mindful of how many servings you’re consuming and make sure that the popcorn is lightly salted. Skinny Pop is one of our favs! 
- Edamame: a great snack to satisfy salt cravings when boiled in water and sprinkled with salt. 
- Trail Mix: the combination of fruits and nuts is perfect when you’re craving both sweet and salty foods. Nuts also have several benefits to your health. 
When you’re craving something sweet:
- Dark Chocolate: dark chocolate contains magnesium which helps to boost your mood. 
- Citrus: Lemon, lime, and oranges all contain Vitamin C and fiber. They also help keep you hydrated, reduce bloating, and relieve mood swings. 
- Fruits: bananas contain vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium which help reduce bloating. Watermelon, plum, figs, and berries also help alleviate bloating.  
- Tea or Coffee: a warm drink can help with cramps and also prevent you from eating sugary foods.
Remembering when you've had your period the previous month can be difficult. Using a period tracker app is an effective way to track your period, symptoms, and prepare yourself for your next cycle. Some of the best period tracking apps include:
Creating a Self Care Routine During Your Period
If you’re wondering how to take care of yourself when you’re on your period, developing a self-care routine for your period can help make your monthly period more comfortable and manageable. When developing your routine you’ll want to include the following:
A Period Kit
The first thing you want to have when you’re on your period is a pouch for school or a basket in your room with the period essentials mentioned above. Some other items you can add to this kit on the days you are in class include:
- An extra pair of cotton underwear: this is essential in case you need to change into a clean pair of underwear or get your period when you’re at school. It’s also important to carry a plastic bag to dispose of your clothing or your pad if there’s no trash cans available.
- Feminine wipes: wipes are great for when you want to freshen up and feel clean throughout the day and you can’t take a shower. Always and Sweet Spot have a few great options you can choose from. If you don’t have any feminine wipes, baby wipes are a great alternative.
- Deodorant or Body Spray: if you’re worried about the smell of your body during your period include a deodorant and your favourite body spray.
Take A Warm Bath or Shower
Taking a warm bath as part of your period self care routine can help you feel more relaxed and clean. It is also known to relieve cramps, soothe aches, and improve your mood. If you do choose to take a bath, you must clean yourself in the shower first and once again when you've finished your bath  Taking a bath isn't the most hygienic way to cleanse when you're on your period so you'll want to rinse off any soap or dirty water once you've finished.  If you don't want to take a warm bath while on your period, a warm shower will also help with cramps and backaches.
As mentioned above, exercise provides many benefits for the symptoms you will experience during your period. It can be difficult to encourage yourself to get up and exercise. Who voluntarily wants to move their body more when they’re on their period right? But following some dance workouts on YouTube or dancing to your favourite songs can make the idea of exercising more enjoyable. If you can’t blast your music at maximum volume, yoga is another great option to stretch your muscles and feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Meditation is a great technique to add to your self care routine because it reduces stress and other symptoms caused by PMS. Guided meditations, mindfulness meditation, and breathing exercises are all types of meditation you can practice during your period. Headspace and Calm are popular meditation apps you can download to your phone. They provide a variety of guided meditation and breathing exercises. YouTube also has a ton of free guided meditations and breathing exercises you can practice.
- You should change your pads every 3 - 4 hours, if you have a heavier period you might want to change it more often depending on the type of pad you’re using 
- Wear loose and comfortable clothes to avoid infections that can be caused by the combination of tight clothing (yoga pants or leggings) and sweat 
- When you clean your vagina, make sure you clean only the outside areas as the vagina actually cleans itself! 
- When you are wiping after using the toilet, wipe from front to back, because if you wipe from back to front you could risk getting an infection.
Simple Ways to Relax
Grabbing a healthy snack and binge-watching a new Netflix series or your favourite film is also a great way to de-stress and unwind. If you’re more of a book lover, you can also light some candles, make some warm tea, and read a book from one of your GGS boxes. Dare to Be You by Marianne Schnall is a great read on the days you’re feeling down and need a source of inspiration and motivation. Listening to music while you draw or colour can also help relax your brain and refocus your attention to colouring.
- Druet, Anna, and Clár McWeeney. "What We Know about Menstrual Pain." Period Cramps: How to Relieve Menstrual Cramps, and Why They Happen. Clue, 21 June 2021.
- Ferguson, Sian. "What to Eat During Your Period: Fish, Leafy Greens, Yogurt, and More." Healthline. Healthline Media, 16 July 2019.
- Hopp, Deven. "14 Foods to Eat (and Avoid) on Your Period." Byrdie. Dec. 2019.
- "Hygiene Tips and Tricks." Hygiene Tips and Tricks. U by Kotex.
- Shkodzik, Kate. "Which Foods to Eat and Avoid During Your Period." Flo.health - #1 Mobile Product for Women's Health. Flo, Sept. 2020.
- Tantry, Tanya. "Can You Take a Bath on Your Period?" Flo.health - #1 Mobile Product for Women's Health. Sept. 2020.