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  • Writer's pictureHolly Christiansen, L.Ac.

Your Cycle is Not a Burden

A daring proposal: a woman's monthly cycle is an encyclopedia of health and wellness information, rather than an annoying monthly burden? Long before a doctor of Chinese medicine let me in on a little secret about the magic of the menstrual period, I was already a complete believer in this medicine, when it alleviated my stubborn and chronic shoulder pain.

Years ago when I knew virtually nothing about Chinese medicine, an acupuncturist explained to me in a quiet whisper that a healthy menstrual flow occurred every 28 days (even more magically witchy is that this parallels the phases of the moon) and that any deviation from this cycle provides both the period-having-woman and her practitioner with feedback as to what might be off. Our bodies are amazing!

Life happens. Things come up. Medications can alter bodily functions. Sometimes we eat the wrong things or forget to make time to move our bodies. WE ARE STRESSED OUT! Periods can be late, irregular, excessive, painful, debilitating even. We can feel irritable, angry, sad, bloated, fatigued, achy, exhausted, or even overly stimulated, and anxious. Insomnia and an over-active mind often kick in for women around the beginning of their period.

Maybe you don't even know when your period will come, it's been absent for some unexplained reason, or you basically have no relationship with it and don't understand it

PRO tip: you can ALWAYS re-define your relationship with your cycle, any time!

Headaches, migraines, diarrhea, breast tenderness, and back pain commonly accompany menstrual flow, and all respond very well to acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle modifications.

There is no shame in disliking, hating, or dreading your period. Our society is no longer designed to give women a pass during her period, nor do we celebrate menarche (a woman's first period) as a rite of passage. Consider the verbiage and advertisements used around the menstrual cycle. Menstrual products, and maintaining "problems" around our periods is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Periods are the worn out punch-line in jokes and women are demonized when their period arrives, both by other women and their partners and family members.

Women are expected to, or want to hide their periods or "push through". We may fear the repercussions around not feeling as productive or social around our period. And we may have a job that doesn't allow us time off or a change in engagement or role as our cycle fluctuates.

Humans are creatures of habit and tend to naturally dwell in the negative: it's a normal survival mechanism. Things that hurt or feel bad are more memorable to us so that we AVOID them in the future. Communing in groups centered around our diagnosis, malady, and often -- our complaints -- mean we feel kinship in our misfortunes. It's no surprise that we may find ourselves commiserating to complain about our periods. Understand though that this may reinforce a negative association with your cycle.

How have you and I been TOLD to view our period? I'd say, more often as an inconvenience and embarrassment, rather than affirmation of adulthood, power, and fertility. EVERY. SINGLE. WOMAN. knows that hushed voice we all use to ask someone if they have a sanitary product, lest we be banished for something completely normal?

If you're not already familiar, learn about Red Tent Traditions to provoke some new insights, or gently consider whether you're at a minimum open to having a loving relationship with your cycle. Openness is not only the starting point for change, it's also a feminine quality. Many of us get "stuck" in our masculine energy which is where we go when we're working and getting things done. Masculine energy is amazing when we have stuff to do. Guess what? Having a period is the EXACT OPPOSITE! Openness and allowance means less tension and resistance when blood and energy is exiting our bodies. Less tension and resistance means LESS PAIN! It also means we can actually experience happiness and appreciation DURING our period! Whoa!

This could, quite literally, feel like one of the most feminine aspects of your cycle. You can express that with the style and color of your clothing, the type of food you eat, and the activities you participate in during your period.

I would never tell a woman what she should or shouldn't do; but I would suggest from both a personal anecdotal stance, and in working with many other women, you CAN have a minimally dramatic menstrual cycle, despite your experience up until now. Let me know if I can help you further. Your body is powerful <3

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