Let's be honest — when it comes to preparing for your period, there is a lot to keep in mind. Do you have tampons? How's that PMS? Is there time for a nap? It often blurs together, time flies by, and before you know it (ready or not) Aunt Flo has arrived.
In a more perfect world, you'd reach day one of your cycle feeling amazing, with a fully-stocked bathroom, zero cramps, and energy to spare. And yet this rarely happens. In fact, I've had my period for years and still find myself walking around begging friends for tampons and Advil like I didn't see it coming. (And I'm sure I'm not alone.)
So yes, it's become quite obvious to me that a huge part of preparing for your period is just that — preparing. This means stocking up on the necessary accoutrements, and taking really good care of yourself so that the process can flow by (no pun intended) as easily as possible.
The taking care of yourself part is especially key. I know everyone is different, and many women struggle with health issues that affect their periods in ways that can't easily be helped. But sometimes simpler things like cramps, constipation, and exhaustion can be mostly avoided with a little forethought.
Don't get caught high and dry, and feelin' bad. Read on for a list of ways to prepare for your period, feel better, and help the whole process go more smoothly.
1. Get Yourself A Period Tracker
One of the best ways to plan ahead for your period is to actually know when it's going to happen. Help yourself out by downloading something like the Period Diary app. This thing counts down to the big day, thus helping to eliminate the element of surprise.
2. Stock Up On The Necessities
There's nothing worse than feeling that first twinge of your period and realizing you aren't prepared. Don't let this be you. Remember to stop by a drugstore well in advance and stock up on your feminine hygiene products. Grab some pain killers, a heating pad, and some magazines while you're at it, too.
3. Stash Tampons Everywhere
Or pads, or DivaCups, or whatever it is you like to use — just make sure you have them ready to go. Keep a box in the bathroom, a few in your bag, and even some in your desk at work. That way, no matter where you are when the flow strikes, you'll be ready.
4. Stay As Active As Possible
When it comes to staving off PMS, one of the best things you can do is exercise. As Tammy Worth said on Health, "... The National Women’s Health Information Center recommends two and a half hours of moderately intense activity, one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of the two each week, plus two muscle-strengthening sessions." So get thee to the gym.
5. Get Plenty Of Sleep
Lovely period-related symptoms, such as cramps, bloating, and headaches, don't exactly allow for the most restful sleep. In fact, women report worse sleep during the days prior to and during the first few days of their period, according to SleepFoundation.org. So do your best to relax, rest, and practice good sleep hygiene in the days leading up to your period. Hopefully you'll get some rest, and the ensuing days will be smooth sailing.
6. Start Taking Supplements
You can start taking a preemptive pain killer in the days before you period, but it's even better to try to feel better naturally. (In my opinion, at least.) As Jeannie Bianchi, LAc, said on OneMedical.com, "Take calcium and magnesium supplements throughout the month, as these nutrients work in concert to aid muscle relaxation. You should aim for a total of about 1000mg of calcium daily, and up to 500mg of magnesium daily."
7. Pay Attention To What You Eat
Even though PMS has you hankering for snacks on snacks on snacks, do your best to eat as healthy as possible. That's because too many "bad" snacks (AKA foods that aren't nutritional, colorful, or real) can really do a number on your body and your mood. As Worth said, "A salt-heavy diet can cause bloating, caffeine can aggravate irritability or anxiety, alcohol may worsen depression, and too much sugar can destabilize your blood sugar and mood." See? It seems like it's way better to stick to the good stuff.
8. Lay Off The Coffee
As I mentioned above, caffeine can make your irritability and anxiety feel worse. It can also increase your chance of annoying, painful cramps. "Caffeine, especially from coffee, is a well-known vasoconstrictor — it makes blood vessels constrict," Bianchi said. "Indeed, it may cause the vessels that feed the uterus to tighten more than they do in non-coffee drinkers." And this can lead to way worse cramps.
9. Keep Stress To A Minimum
Reducing your stress is easier said than done in this day and age, but still worth a try — especially if it means a less horrible period. As Gardner said, "You can try deep breathing, massage, meditation, or yoga, which can soothe the mind and body." Doing so well help ease PMS, and make the whole week feel less atrocious.
10. Drink Up (Water, That Is)
While you should always be sipping on water, it's especially important to hydrate in the days leading up to your period. As Vicki Clinebell noted on SheKnows.com, "Staying fully hydrated actually helps eliminate that bloated sensation. Drinking enough water — at least two liters every day — will speed up your digestion and help prevent water retention caused by monthly hormonal changes." Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
11. Eat Some Chocolate
You probably already really want chocolate due to PMS cravings, so go ahead and have at it. According to Clinebell, "A square of dark chocolate stimulates secretions of serotonin — which gives you a good feeling ... Look for high cacao levels in dark chocolate to soothe your spirits."
12. Give Acupuncture A Try
I don't know about you, but I'm willing to try anything when it comes to preventing cramps. So if heating pads and Advil aren't doing the trick, it may be time for something a bit different. Enter: acupuncture. As Bianchi said, "Certain acupuncture points are thought to regulate blood flow through the abdominal cavity and relax the nervous system, which can help calm muscular contractions. Studies show that acupuncture is just as effective as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines for reducing pain."
13. Try To Stay Regular
Ah yes, the dreaded period constipation. Not only is it painful, but it makes your already bloated stomach feel so much worse. And unfortunately, it happens to a lot of women in the week leading up to menstruation, according to Prevention. That's because fluids that normally flow to the colon, to soften and move stool, are held in other parts of the body. Try to stay regular by adding fiber to your diet, drinking water, and exercising. Hopefully everything will start moving right along.
And hopefully you period will move right long, too. If you plan ahead, and take care of yourself, it should no longer be the "dreaded time the month."
Images: Pexels (14); Isla Murray/Bustle