I went to Target to buy tampons the other day. As I buried my box of Organic OB underneath a refill bag of Method dishwashing soap, I had a thought: I am a grown-ass woman. Why am I embarrassed about getting my period?
After all, most women my age menstruate, it’s part of the process that helps create new life, and I’m not embarrassed when I buy Band-Aids. Why should I be embarrassed by any other kind of bleeding?
Let me be clear: I’m not totally on the “Periods are a wonderful thing” bandwagon. Miraculous, yes. But for me they also mean migraines, anxiety, and insomnia. So they’re not exactly fun.
I am, however, on the “Let’s talk about the things that make us uncomfortable” bandwagon, so here I am, posting about my flow. Because while nonchalantly presenting my box of tampons to the checkout guy may be new to me, tracking my cycle is not.
Why I Started Tracking My Periods
When I was in high school, I felt like I was getting my period All. The. Time. After a while I got sick of being the voice calling Does anybody have a tampon? from behind the closed door of a bathroom stall. (Or worse, wrapping the crotch of my underwear in toilet paper and crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t soak through.) I started putting a little red X in my Day-Timer every time I got my period and I quickly found that I do indeed get my period a little more often than most people: every 21-22 days to be exact.
Of course, that meant that every phase of my cycle was a little bit shorter. Understanding that helped me better anticipate not only when I should tuck a tampon into my makeup bag, but also when to carry my migraine meds, and when to load up on water to help avoid cramps.
Now that I’m 38 and going through the ups and downs of perimenopause, I’ve gotten even more scientific about tracking my period. I use an app called Clue to help track each phase of my cycle so I can better anticipate and understand my symptoms. I’ve been doing this for about a year now, and I’ve learned a lot about my body and my overall health. I can’t overstate the improvement this has made in my quality of life! And the best part: it literally takes two seconds!
Here are 6 Surprising Benefits Of Tracking Your Periods:
You’ll get a better handle on your overall health. Knowing which phase of your cycle you’re in means you’ll know exactly when to perform breast self-exams, avoid foods that contribute to headaches or hormonal acne, and understand when you’re most fertile. This means you’ll be aware of small issues when you’re still able to control them…and hopefully wipe them out!
You’ll be more productive. This may sound weird, but hear me out: men’s’ hormonal cycles are based on a 24-hour period, while women cycle every 28 days on average. So when it comes to the workday, men have a time every day where their strength lies in a different area. But for women, our strengths come in blocks of time based on what part of our cycles we are in. According forward-thinking wellness experts like Flo Living’s Alisa Vitti, we can harness our cycles to be more effective at work and at home by booking at least 25% of our time according to what part of our cycle we’re in. For example, we tend to be more social when we’re ovulating, so it’s a great time to network, drum up new business, or make a presentation. You can learn more about this method here.
You’ll have better sex. Women tend to have more intense orgasms during the last two weeks of their cycle. So if you’re down to get down, that’s a great time to do it!
You’ll get more out of your workouts. Our energy generally peaks mid-cycle, which makes it a great time to schedule an extra-challenging sweat sesh. Conversely, we often feel tired and crampy during our periods, so it’s a great time to do gentle yoga or go for a walk. You can learn more about working out throughout your cycle here.
You’ll better understand and manage your period. As I mentioned earlier, tracking my periods has helped me anticipate when I might experience some of the more negative parts of my cycle. This has allowed me to be more proactive about preventing migraines and managing emotional ups and downs. I cannot oversell the value of being able to say, “It’s not me, it’s just my period” when I’m having a full-on anxiety attack a day or two before my period. Understanding this enables me to breathe and move on instead of getting caught in a cycle of spinning thoughts.
You’ll manage your diet more effectively. Whether you’re seed cycling or just trying to avoid a bad case of bloat, knowing which part of your cycle you’re in can help you choose the right foods for your body at any given time. For example, I avoid red wine and sugar during the week before my period because they often cause migraines and breakouts. Ditto for cabbage during my period, as it can make me feel even more bloated.
If you’re interested in tracking your cycles, I recommend using an app. I use Clue, but there are a variety of different period-tracking tools like MyFlo and Glow, all of which offer different features. This article gives a summary if several popular apps so you can choose which one is right for you.
Have you started tracking your period? What have you noticed? Don’t be shy – tell me about it in comments! It’s time to stop hiding our tampons, ladies! We are grown-ass women who bleed once a month. And that’s nothing to be ashamed about!