Mine, yours, ours — it was always a topic I felt confident discussing openly, in an attempt to charge through the stigmas surrounding a more public discussion of menstruation. It’s in my nature to tell it like it is, and at times, this meant throwing a few unexpected curveballs in order to assert the tone that should be set. To assert what “normal” can be.
Modern conversation around periods remains very much in the red zone.
Despite how comfortable and confident I feel about my own experiences, I still feel the pressure to “fake it” in many environments and situations — like the workplace, for instance. For only one, brief example of female resilience, consider the women who manage to come into work and perform their duties without question or complaint, while their uterus is, in fact, holding court to a Black Friday stampede, with pain reaching comparable levels to that of a broken limb or labour contractions for some, Dr. Dasha Fielder, an Australia GP who specializes in women's health explains in the Daily Mail.
Before taking a year-long sabbatical from work to travel, I was a Marketing Director at several design focused companies, including Spacing magazine, a Toronto-based publication focused on creating healthier, more livable sustainable cities. Our office was predominantly male, so I was always grateful for any female counterparts, or allies who could understand — and partake in — menstrual-centred bathroom banter. At home, I’m fortunate that my partner, Dylan, has been a steadfast soundboard to my monthly period talk. We often joke that he gets his “period” when I get mine, as he often feels similarly sluggish and worn out during that time of the month — something like a Couvade syndrome effect.
That being said, when we sold off all our belongings (see above: year-long sabbatical), we were both very aware of the realities of the female experience. Your body doesn’t care if you have an amazing weekend planned on the coast of Portugal — if I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, or if I physically could not, my journal for the day would read:
“bear-hugged a pillow all night while in the fetal position.”
What I wasn’t fully aware of at the time was how much travel itself could influence your body. My cycle flew off the charts, and for several months in a row, I happened to always get my period right when we had a plane to catch. The stress of planning, travel, and moving through time zones is bad enough, but now I had to contend with a lack of access to hygiene products, or if I was lucky enough to remember to pack them in my carry on, the painful insertion process in a tiny, cramped airplane bathroom during turbulence. In Australia I got my period early, in Portugal I experienced a huge scare where I missed my period. I learned that travel is in direct relation with stress, and because of this, your body’s hormones are greatly impacted. This change “can cause cortisol levels to fluctuate”, Dr. Klein explains in the Health article about travel and menstruation. "Changes in sleep schedules, like early flights and time zone changes, and added stress can have some effect on these hormone levels," he adds.
As I got into the thick of it (by which I mean my endometrium, naturally), the more I researched my experiences, hoping to understand and find connection from it. This led to talking about it with my friends, family, and really, anyone I came into contact with during that time. It was during this time that I first became aware of a number of brands under the menstrual umbrella that were looking to totally reimagine our collective experience, as they work to change the conversation. (My personal collection includes goods from Living Apothecary Co., Easy., FloLiving, THINX, DotCup, Tia, and Period Movement.) Without really realizing it at the time, I became a bit obsessed. An off-the-clock creative, my art began to directly reflect my life — watercolours and doodles resembling Period Art.
As I was doing all of this, I learned first-hand, with help from Alisa Vitta’s “proactive period scheduling”, just how little the world revolves around or responds to the average female’s cycle. Upon returning to work post-travel, I had the luxury of a self-made, flexible schedule. I could, quite literally, sync my cycle and my work hours to a routine that allowed me to be as proactive, and productive, as possible. And it got me thinking:
although society has historically been dominated and driven by men, how might a modern workplace optimize the female experience?
While change is, admittedly, slow and arduous, I urge you to create this structural change when and where possible in your own life — if only for your own sanity. As mentioned, the majority of how the world operates runs on a normal male cycle. Bedtime, office hours, even typical meal times, all reflect this same male renewal cycle - their entire hormonal cycle (yes, men have hormonal cycles too) lasts 24 hours, rinse and repeat. Women, on the other hand, typically have four phases and, depending on what’s going on in the body and at which phase she's in, she can perform at her most optimal and carry out her day according.
Below, I’ve shared my own cycle schedule as inspiration for your own re-tooling.
I’ve found it helps to think about your body cycle as one that mirrors nature’s seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn, taking on the activities that best correspond to these times:
Rest + Reflect
Hibernate: Time to reset, go inward, relax, conserve energy.
Activities: Slower schedule, cozy nights in, NETFLIX, NETFLIX, NETFLIX, rest for the upcoming season.
Spring (follicular phase)
Planning + Goal Setting
Renewal: Time for growth, creativity, optimism, and this time you look into future and plan.
Activities: planning, try new things, take bold action, action steps to goals, great for learning - taking-up a skill.
Play + Adventure
Fun: social, making connections, going out, pleasure, and play, a time of feeling confident.
Activities: spending time with friends, family, and partners, hitting-up a new restaurant, etc.
Autumn (luteal phase)
Slow down: detail-oriented tasks rather than big-picture thinking, nesting and self-care.
Activities: Cut-back schedule, catch-up on paperwork/bills, sort your closet, get your meal prep organized.
In short: Get familiar with your body’s menstrual calendar for at least three months. That will help you get a better sense of when each phase of your cycle lands. It’s your cycle — own it.