Just. The. Worst.
Let's get that infection gone.
Just. The. Worst.
Let's get that infection gone.
UTIs. They’re common, they’re annoying, and they can be hard to kill. UTIs are very common, and usually caused by an overgrowth of bacteria (usually E. coli but other bugs can be the culprit) and manifest by a constant urge to go pee, smelly or discoloured urine and pain when you’re peeing. If you have these symptoms, head straight to your doctor for antibiotics - it’s the surest, swiftest way to start feeling better. However, if you’re suffering constant infections, you may want to scale up your efforts. Here’s our top tips.
Drink lots of water so your urine is clear. While you’re at it, turn down the volume on caffeine, sugar and alcohol - these substances can either feed bacteria or irritate the bladder, neither of which will help the problem. Wipe front to back, pee after sex, and make sure you’re getting your rest. UTIs are an infection. Good self-care will help!
When you’ve got a UTI, do two things - drink lots of water and get in front of a GP. An untreated UTI can travel to your kidneys and cause serious problems. You may have a medical condition that needs further treatment. Post-operative trans women can be particularly prone to UTIs, especially immediately after surgery. You can also be vulnerable due to a change in birth control or other gynecological challenges.
You can be more vulnerable to UTIs because of hormonal shifts and imbalances; if you use a period tracking app, make a note of your UTIs so you can consult this data alongside your doctor. Don’t be afraid to discuss your results with your doctor - this can be valuable information in determining the root cause of your recurrent infections.
Cranberry supplements help some people avoid persistent UTIs. Look for a brand with Proanthocyanidins, or PACs. A type of polyphenol, these compounds work by disrupting bacterial attachment to the walls of the urethra. A brand we know and like is Utiva.
If you’re experiencing any bladder leakage or weakness in the pelvic floor, mention it to your doctor. If you’re retaining urine due to pelvic floor weakness, consult with a pelvic floor therapist, get an Elvie or just download an app to encourage you to get your Kegels in. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about - it’s a very common, treatable problem.
If you always seem to get a UTI after your period, it might be time to consider your menstrual management. Lunapads were originally conceived as a solution to persistent UTIs in our cofounder, Madeleine Shaw. Disposable pads and tampons can cause irritation that could make you more prone to UTIs.
If you’re using a reusable, make sure you clean it very well (especially after a UTI). If you soak or handwash your pads, consider running them through a washing machine. It can be very hard to remove accumulated soap residue from handwashing, and a wet pad is a breeding ground for bacteria. If you use a menstrual cup, be very sure to fully void your bladder. A cup that is too firm can squeeze the urethra, making it hard to get all the pee out.
UTIs suck, and a recurrent UTI is a special kind of hell. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office. Many physicians now will work with you to find the cause of recurrent UTIs, and you should feel empowered to make changes to help yourself.
Photo by Zackary Drucker for The Gender Spectrum Collection.
When I was a teenager, conversations with my friends about our vulvas made me question whether mine was normal, so I asked my mother for a reality check. At an age that was embarrassingly old to do this, I climbed on top of my dining room table and went into a full spread eagle, allowing my mom a bird’s-eye view. My mom reassured me that I was perfectly normal—if petite—in that area.
Since then, I’ve discovered that I am not alone in my anxiety. In the research-focused journal “Body Image,” author Breanne Fahs wrote that “the increasing publicity around having a ‘designer vagina’—that is, perfectly symmetrical inner labia, a ‘tight’ vagina, and attractive and hairless outer labia,” has resulted in increasing insecurities.
But if so many vulva-having people are self-conscious, and the lack of representation in porn does little to counteract that, how are we supposed to build confidence in our most sensitive parts? I spoke with five women to learn if they’ve been able to overcome similar insecurities about their vulvas—and, if so, how they were able to do it.
As the child of a medical professional, Ashley* grew up knowing the difference between her “vagina” and “vulva.” Even so, when she first took a mirror downstairs to get a good look, it was nothing like she expected from the porn she had stolen glances at. “I had a small moment in time where I was embarrassed that it didn't look like the women on screen because those were the only vulvas I had seen outside of my own,” she told me. She would ritualistically check the mirror each week to see if her vulva had become “cooler,” but nothing changed. Over time, though, Ashley learned to feel comfortable with her differences. “I now know that she is different and that there is great importance in loving, pleasing, and caring for her.”
Raised in a religious, traditional household, Lindsay* feared her vulva “from a young age, as thoughts of sex and self-pleasure were absolutely off limits.” When she entered her first relationship with a woman, her girlfriend’s teasing about the shape of her labia made her “more hesitant in actually liking [her] vulva because it wasn’t ‘perfect.’” But, thanks to a random hookup, she gained a “new appreciation” for her vulva. Now, in her current relationship, she’s been able to move past the insecurities and fully enjoy sex. “Basically,” she told me, “I think my vulva and I are in a much better place than we were 10 years ago.”
For some, surgery is the path to an improved vaginal self-image. Casey’s* insecurities about her vulva were getting in the way of her enjoyment of sex, and no amount of external validation would change that. Since her labiaplasty, she told me that she feels more sexually confident. She said, “If women can feel good about their vaginas without surgery, then awesome—especially since insecurities are probably the product of stupid social pressures and unrealistic expectations perpetuated by porn.” But for Casey, the surgery has had a positive impact.
A very different surgery gave Megan* the opportunity to love her body in its entirety. Though, she told me, gender-affirmation surgery is incredibly painful, “when you’ve suffered for something you want, you either work at loving the outcome or you go absolutely crazy.” So she went along with months of follow-up procedures, knowing that they’d bring her closer to loving the area she once found “repugnant,” even as they created a “dissonance between [her] vulva and actual feelings of sexual pleasure.” Since then, she’s reconnected with her sexuality through exclusive parties and experimental dance.
For Jessica*, her vulva “could be a model for what that whole situation is ‘supposed’ to look like.” But problems arose when she married a man who desperately wanted children; something she wasn’t so sure about. With a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome, conception has been difficult—and the stress has been weighing on their marriage. Eventually, the routine sex simply for procreation’s sake had lost its appeal. “I had cerebrally given permission, but my body was clamping up. It was painful. I hated it.” While she understands that her husband, who has since asked for a divorce, has to advocate for what he needs to be happy, the message she takes away from her experience is that she’s not enough to salvage things. Even if her vulva is “cute and pink and attached to [her] personality.”
But Jessica, and anyone else featured in or reading this article, is enough. Whether your vulva looks straight out of a porno or you’ve never seen one like yours before; whether you’ve had surgery or decided against it; or whether you want to have children or have trouble conceiving—all of it’s okay. The appearance or perceived functionality of our vulvas and reproductive systems do not determine our value.
There’s no right or wrong road to accepting, and eventually loving, your vulva. But as societal pressures and pornographic depictions continue leading us to question whether or not we’re normal, it becomes increasingly important to make the most of the vulva you have (or the vulva you get). So go on and celebrate it, however you see fit.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
Sarah duRivage-Jacobs is a writer, editor, and copywriter living in New York City with her creamsicle cat, Jasper.
Here in Canada, we’re heading towards winter. I love the crisp fall air and returning to wearing flannel whenever the opportunity arises, but the change in seasons is also an invitation to check in on my self care. The colder weather can present some challenges to us all and it’s important to winterize yourself and your life as the leaves fall. Here’s six ways to you can take care of yourself as we approach the winter season.
I know, it’s colder, but if you can make a habit of getting outside for some fresh air, you’ll reap a lot of benefits for your mental and physical health. Getting outside is good for your vitamin D levels, stress levels and levels of physical activity. You can train for an autumnal 5K or go hiking, or take some kids (yours or borrowed!) to a pumpkin patch or apple picking. Even a walk through a local park to admire the leaves is a great way to get some outside time.
Set aside an hour or two on a day off to inspect your warm weather gear. It’s a great chance to make sure your coat and boots are ready to go and that you can locate both gloves. Mending and caring for clothes we already have is a key way to cut down on clothing waste.
While you’re at it, consider your home. Insulate your window and check in on your programmable thermostat, if you have one. Not only does this keep you warm, it minimizes your carbon impact on the planet!
Biggest cold weather party pooper? That would be cold and flu viruses. Be proactive. Consider getting a flu shot (herd immunity protects you and others!) and tuck some hand sanitizer into your bag. Protect yourself by keeping your hands clean and getting lots of sleep.
Consider putting together a cold bug survival kit. Stock up your favourite tea, cough lozenges, some painkillers and handkerchiefs so you have them to hand the second you feel that telltale throat tickle.
Ah, Thanksgiving. Delicious food. Football marathons. Time with family. With both Canada and the US in the midst of turbulent political times, it can be a time of hard conversations amongst family members. Don’t panic - prepare. Consider ways to set boundaries to ensure that everyone has fun. Prepare some alternative, safe topics of conversation. Learn about de-escalation and share your concerns with family members.
For some of us, family can be hard. If you can’t find a way to feel safe, remember it’s 100% okay to skip a family occasion. Blame outrageous flight prices or just issue a simple no. Sometimes setting firm boundaries is the safest way to be.
Fall is a great opportunity to change it up. Squashes, pumpkins, leafy greens and fennel are at their best as the cooler weather comes. Try out a new vegetable - they’re good for you! Getting your vitamins, especially in bright orange or dark green veggies, helps keep you healthy. Our recommendation is this easy vegan butternut squash soup to keep you warm and full of beta-carotene.
(NB. In no way are we suggesting you give up your Halloween candy or pumpkin pie. Some things are sacred.)
Lots of folks feel a bit blue as the snow approaches. If you’re cooped up at home, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut of Netflix and pyjamas. We would never knock a TV marathon, but taking some time over the fall to take up a new skill or hobby can positively impact your mental health. You could take swimming lessons, learn to knit, join a choir or get involved in volunteering. The colder months can mean more time indoors, but it’s never a bad time to get out of your comfort zone.
Whenever the seasons change, it’s always a good time to check in around your health and well-being. Sometimes, some simple habits can make a big difference. Try one or two of these tips to take on the new season with the vibrancy autumn demands.Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.
Getting your period can be tough on your mental health. Sadness, frustration, and anger are emotions we typically associate with hormonal fluctuations both before and during menstruation, but what if you also have a mental illness to contend with on top of PMS?
Historically, research on the relationship between menstruation and mental illness has suffered from the effects of stigma. Subjects have been considered “too emotional” in the first place and certain variables, such as race, age, economic demographic, and the presence of outside stressors have failed to be included. Recent data on this topic has been more sensitive to these important factors, although there is still no clear-cut consensus on how hormonal changes can have an effect on pre-existing mental illnesses. This article attempts to deconstruct some of the available data while also offering suggestions for support and self-care.
The relationship between your mental health and your period is determined by several factors, making it tricky to parse in many cases. If appropriate, getting a formal diagnosis is an empowering first step; it provides a framework for treatment options while also giving you an opportunity to become familiar with the ins and outs of the illness. So far, studies have shown there is a definite link between PMS, your period, and the following mental illnesses: bipolar I and II disorder, panic disorder, psychosis, depression, and anxiety disorders. One common denominator researchers seem to agree on is that healthcare providers tend to rely on the diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a serious but relatively rare condition which causes extreme anxiety, depression, and mood fluctuations up to two weeks before menstruation begins. By focusing on the possibility of a PMDD diagnosis, doctors and researchers may actually be ignoring the symptoms of a pre-existing mental illness.
When it comes to self-care and your own mental health, it’s important to do what’s right and appropriate for your unique set of circumstances. Most of the following suggestions offer physical relief, which may or may not relieve some of the anxieties associated with mental illness. If psychiatric help is warranted or welcomed, check with your mental health provider to get their input on menstruation and mental health.
For some individuals, this type of guided breathing can work wonders to ground your thoughts and calm the nervous system—the caveat being that for individuals who are dealing with on-going trauma, PTSD, panic attacks, or psychosis meditation and deep breathing can actually cause a person to dissociate and worsen symptoms (even inducing panic attacks).
Whether you prefer gentle stretching or active poses, yoga can be a good way to relieve physical tension while offering a sensation of control over your body and your mood. Again, be careful with (or avoid altogether) deep breathing and meditation-based yoga if you suffer from any of the above mental health issues.
Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help with both cramps as well as symptoms of depression or anxiety. There is very limited research on the effect exercise has on mania or hypomania, some individuals find this kind of exercise helpful in terms of actual physical release and the after-effect of tiredness. Other people with bipolar disorder find that this kind of exercise exacerbates their mania or hypomania or even leads to rapid cycling bipolar mania.
Ideally, every person who suffers from a mental illness would have a mental health provider (social worker, therapist, or psychiatrist) who could offer support and guidance on this issue. Like many other countries, mental health services are severely underfunded in Canada and getting help can be both costly and time-consuming. Having support in the form of family or loved ones is important—sometimes just having someone to call or someone to check in on your mental state can be an incredibly powerful coping tool.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada offers a list of Mental Health First Aid resources on their website. Some of the options listed include out-patient services, group therapy, and toll-free hotlines.
Femtech (the umbrella term that covers all tech related to women’s* health) is expected to exceed worldwide sales of $50 billion dollars by the year 2025. Like any other tech product, period tracking apps—along with many other types of femtech such as fertility apps, smart breast pumps, and intuitive sex toys that connect to an app—are constantly finding new ways to monetize their product for maximum profit. In other words, the app itself isn’t where the company makes their money, it’s the data being collected and sold that has the biggest financial value.
Selling data is not an uncommon practice. In fact, most apps (especially free apps with ads) use data brokers to sell apps to interested parties. Who buys data? Marketing companies, corporations, credit card companies, banks, as well as government operations such as CSIS and ICE. What makes period tracking apps distinct from other apps is the type of data being collected. For most apps, everything from your device settings, websites visited, and information about other types of apps you have on your phone is fair game. Unfortunately for period tracking apps, this also includes the sensitive information you volunteer when using the app: whether or not you’ve had sex, had an orgasm, intimate details about your bodily functions, as well as details about your mental health.
So how can you protect yourself and your data from being brokered? Make informed decisions about the tech you choose to support (or consider using a daytimer or notebook to track ovulation, premenstrual symptoms, and period specifics.
*Although some femtech companies are using more trans and nonbinary inclusive language most companies still only use the pronoun her and refer to their customers as women/ladies/girls. At Lunapads, we think this practice really sucks.
If you’re an Excel or Numbers whiz you can create design your own spreadsheet to track your menstrual cycle (and then share the template with others!). Alternately, a quick Google search will produce multiple sites offering free printable Excel spreadsheet templates.
For some people, a good old-fashioned calendar is still the easiest and most reliable form of period and ovulation tracking. Create your own coded legend to mark down specific symptoms and bodily functions to make analog tracking even simpler.Ashley Linkletter is a mental health, food, and nutrition writer based in Vancouver, BC.
Not to state the obvious, but not everyone has a uterus. Whether your uterus was removed by choice or circumstance, or you were born without one for one reason or another, many people don’t have uteruses, and many of those people are still women or identify with the feminine. Everyone, including cisgender men, trans women, non-binary people without uteruses, and people who’ve had hysterectomies all still experience physical and emotional cycles. Finding ways to connect to and honor those cycles may be healing even if you don’t experience a menstrual cycle.
Below are some suggestions on how to honor your cycles, particularly if you do not have a uterus.
Celebrate your body, as it is and as it has been. Whether you feel young or old, your body already has quite the history. Learn about your body; study your physical form. You might want to create a timeline of important events and experiences that your body has been through, whether it’s your own birth, surgeries, transitions, illnesses, recoveries, parenting other humans, or anything else that feels significant. Connect with your body, through activities like sex, movement, and eating. Notice what your body needs and wants, and how that varies from day-to-day, minute-to-minute. These variations themselves are a cycle of fluctuations that may be universal and at the same time unique to you.
Learn about the cycles you are experiencing. All living bodies are constantly cycling, whether they are menstruating or not. Two cycles that all of us experience are the daily cycle and the moon cycle. Every 24 hours, through movements of the sun, moon, and earth, we experience a cycle that moves us through midnight, morning, afternoon, evening, and back again. These time periods parallel the menstrual cycle, with midnight feeling similar to a period bleed, dawn feeling similar to the follicular phase, noon paralleling ovulation, and dusk mirroring the luteal phase. The moon cycle is a 28 day cycle that also has similar phases to the menstrual cycle: beginning with a new moon (menstruation/period), the moon waxes into a quarter moon (follicular phase), then full moon (ovulation), and finally wanes into another quarter moon (luteal phase) as it rotates towards the next new moon. People with penises also experience cyclical hormonal cycles, with higher testosterone levels in the mornings that taper off as the day goes on. You can read more about the menstrual cycle here, and think about other cycles that you experience that may parallel.
Create rituals around cycles. Just because you don’t have a uterus or menstruate does not mean that you don’t also need rest and release, that you aren’t also experiencing times of heightened creativity, libido, or extroversion. Consider the cycles you are experiencing and brainstorm rituals around those cycles that would feel good to you. Since the 28 day moon cycle is the same length as the average menstrual cycle, following the moon cycle as your main cycle can be helpful. Perhaps you give yourself some extra rest around the new moon, and schedule an exciting trip or hot date around the full moon. You could eat your favorite chocolate and head to bed early on the new moon and plan some extra fun sex—with yourself or partners—around the full moon. The possibilities are endless; get creative about what works for you.
Remember that you’re worth honoring. In case you need a reminder: your organs are just that, organs. Your body, your gender, your personhood are amazing and deserve honoring, at every stage of every cycle. You don’t need a uterus to track, honor, and live according to your cycles. Whether you choose to honor the cycles you’ve experienced throughout your lifetime, the daily cycle, the moon cycle, or one of the many other cycles we experience, it is importnat to remember that you—a cyclical being—are worth honoring.
Whether you no longer have a uterus or never had one to begin with, your body is an amazing, cyclical organism and there are many cycles that you experience. Learning more about your cycles and choosing to honor them can support your embodiment, mental health, and more.
Beth Rich is a queer educator and lifespan doula who works at the thresholds and intersections of menstruation, family-building, pregnancy, birth, loss, and other life transitions. They are a non-binary human who's excited to talk about bodies, periods, birth, and sex in language that holds space for all of us. Discover more of their work at thebethrich.com or on Instagram @thebethrich.
With 20 billion pads and tampons going to landfill every year, getting your period to go zero waste is an easy way to make a big impact. That said - we hear you. Your period products need to work - and ideally, make your period just that little bit better.
Okay, okay - you get it. With 20 billion pads and tampons going to landfill every year, getting your period to go zero waste is an easy way to make a big impact. That said - we hear you. Your period products need to work - and ideally, make your period just that little bit better. Here are some of our favourite solutions for everyday period problems - 100% effective, 100% planet-friendly.
Are you surfing the crimson wave? Dealing with a period that is super extra can be time consuming, expensive and anxiety-inducing. Surely your flow would overwhelm any disposable?
Not so. You've got options! If you're okay looking at an internal product, we love a cup for managing the heaviest of flows. Most hold nearly a full ounce, and yes, you can change it in a public bathroom (just empty into the toilet, wipe off with TP and re-insert - you'll be fiiiine).
If you're sure a cup isn't for you, pick up our Heavy Flow kit. It's lab-tested to handle any period.
Feeling good, then bad, then angry, then sad? Hormones can play havoc with your feelings, and sometimes, that's just the excuse you need to cuddle up with some snacks and Netflix. Turn off your phone - it will help, we promise.
For peak downtime vibes, we recommend picking up a pair of our MAIA Briefs, for ultra granny comfort. Remember, self care is the best care.
Sometimes you just can't quit your period. Managing light flow and dealing with occasional random spotting can be a pain in the tuchus. Our Performa liner is soft, thin and leakproof, making it feel like you're wearing regular underwear, instead of a sticky plastic liner.
They fold up super-small, and you can grab our stack'n'save discount so you'll have one for your bag, your office, your gym bag, your travel set...wherever you need.
When you've got your period, a giant deadline, some hormonal zits and some serious bloating, you need your sleep. However, you've got to have a period product that can go the distance (yes, we have the perfect reusable for the situation).
Our Boxer Brief features a leakproof lining all the way up to the back waistband, perfect for flow that refuses to stay put. If your flow is heavier, add the insert to increase absorbency overnight.
No matter your flow, there is a reusable for you. Our products have over twenty years of experience behind them - we're period experts.
Get in touch with us and we'll be happy to answer any questions you have!
It’s a random Tuesday. I’m at work, typing away on my computer for longer than I should without taking a break. My mouth feels dry, so I grab my water bottle and stand up. Immediately, I feel a quarter-sized blood clot squeeze its way out of my vagina, followed by a river of blood.
When I look down at my seat, there’s a dark spot spreading across the (fortunately) black fabric of my office chair. So I forget my dry mouth and rush to the bathroom, where I can see the damage my period has done. And then I tell my boss that I have to go home, because I’m having another bad period day.
Most people who bleed from their private bits have been there. It’s hard not to get a spot of blood on your pants every now and then. But it’s never just a small spot for me. I bleed through my pants as if it’s an Olympic sport and I’m going for the gold.
My periods have never been what you’d call normal, but sometime between senior year of college and that day at my desk two years ago, they became horrendous. Every time I saw a spot of red on the toilet paper, I’d prepare for war. Getting my period meant that I’d wake up five or six times during the night and waddle to the bathroom to clean myself up, sometimes trailing droplets of blood across my apartment on the way. It meant that I’d call in sick for two days, so I could be close to an endless supply of underwear and so no one at work would notice the inevitable bloody stain on my bottom. It meant that I canceled plans with friends, because no one wants to hang out with someone who has to duck into the bathroom every hour.
You’d think my life-ruining period would motivate me to check in with a doctor, because there’s clearly something wrong here. But it didn’t. I spent several years just dealing with it. I bought pads that looked like mini mattresses, I hovered over a toilet while twisting a menstrual cup into my vagina (and put a backup pad on just in case), I tried laying on a period sex blanket at night to soak up the overflow (even though I wasn’t having any sex).
I thought the bloody monsoon was something I’d always have to deal with; not normal for most people, but normal for me.
Guess what: bleeding so much that it affects the quality of your life, even for just a few days, isn’t normal for anyone. Abnormally heavy periods even have an official medical name: menorrhagia. “With menorrhagia, you can't maintain your usual activities when you have your period because you have so much blood loss and cramping,” the Mayo Clinic says. Hmm, sounds familiar. The clinic goes on to say that dreading your period because of heavy bleeding is a bad sign. And maybe you should check in with your doctor.
Eventually, I got so fed up with my periods that I did just that. My doctor told me that no, my periods definitely weren’t normal, and then referred me to an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in hormones). Not only did I learn that my heavy periods were caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but they were also exacerbating my already naturally low iron levels. I was severely anemic, and that made me tired all the time and constantly out of breath. It was a mess all around.
My doctor put me on birth control pills (which, as a lesbian, I’d never needed before) to regulate my blood flow. That was three months ago, and while the pill didn’t work a miracle to turn my loud, obnoxious periods into dainty ladies overnight, it certainly is helping. They’re getting shorter, a little bit lighter, and way more predictable. Before, I had no idea when my monstrous period would show up. Now, I know to expect it when my pills turn from yellow to brown.
So take if from me: if heavy periods are messing with your life, make the doctor appointment sooner rather than later. There’s no reason you need to suffer.
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that sure, your periods are heavy, but they’re not go-to-the-doctor heavy. So let’s make it clear. The symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, are: soaking through one or more pads or tampons every hour, needing to use double protection to control your menstrual flow, needing to wake up to change your pad, tampon, or menstrual cup during the night, bleeding for longer than a week, passing blood clots larger than a quarter, restricting daily activities due to heavy menstrual flow, and symptoms of anemia such as tiredness, fatigue, or shortness of breath.
You don’t have to have all of these symptoms at the same time for your heavy periods to “count.” The Mayo Clinic suggests checking in with your doctor even if the only symptom you have is bleeding through your pad or tampon, or overflowing your menstrual cup in one hour. Bottomline: If your periods make it impossible for you to do anything — go to work, hang out with friends, leave your house for more than an hour — then a doctor’s visit is worth it.
Our guest blogger today is Anna Toonk, a spiritual worker based in New York City. She enjoys using her intuitive and psychic gifts to connect you to yours, acting as spiritual support in the pursuit of person growth and self-acceptance. To do this Anna facilitates several forms of intuitive channeling, including Tarot reading, Akashic Records reading, and Reiki. She can be found at Annatoonk.com or on IG @annatoonk.
Oh winter. It lacks the sexiness of summer, thanks to one key missing element. The sun.
For thousands of years the Winter Solstice has been a cause of celebration to mitigate the fear of the night and express hopes for the return of the sun. The word solstice comes from Latin word solstitium, which translates to “sun standstill”. Ancient cultures marked the longest night with parties to encourage the sun’s return. The Roman celebration of Saturnalia marked the night with revelry and feasting, whilst ancient Germanic cultures gathered together keeping Yule logs burning, where they would meet the sunrise in community. These ancient celebrations were major influences of what’s known today as Christmas. Regardless of what you celebrate, the solstices and equinoxes invite us to check in with the energy of the season, and set intentions for how we would like to weather it.
In the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is December 21st, but anytime around then take a moment to pause and think about your intentions for the winter. Do you want to slow down and honor your needs? Take care of your body? Prioritize your mental health? Get super focused on the year ahead?
Using the energy of the Winter Solstice, celebrate and honor these intentions with fire and light. Write down what you would like to leave behind and not cocoon yourself with in winter hibernation (things like self doubt, playing small, questioning your intuition) and also jot down what you’re ready to really bring light to. Light a candle, and safely burn the list of what you’re leaving behind and not bringing with you this season. Next, blow out the candle and in darkness think of life without these things. Finally, light the candle again, and say aloud what you’re ready to allow to shine.
Light and fire not your thing? Salt is a great tool for energetic cleansing. Make yourself an intention-infused salt scrub. Sea salt and coconut oil works and you can feel free to infuse it with essential oils and herbs that call to you. While mixing your salt scrub, focus your energy on infusing it with something you want to slough off each time you use it. Working on body image? Select a body oil to use with the intention of honoring the body you’re in. Label the container with the intention and scrub away whatever you’re surrendering. Taking the time to lovingly massage your body, daily if you can swing it, imbues your self-care routines with magic and intention, giving them more power to shift your consciousness.
During the winter we have to have faith that the sun will shine again; that it won’t be all snow and brutal temperatures. Apply this to yourself: where can you have faith? What now must be allowed to shine? What qualities in you bring beautiful, sparkly light? Tend to yourself like a flame, remembering we need care and attention to thrive. Clear your energy regularly with salt baths or scrubs to soothe aching muscles. Allow enough time to grieve and let go. Bring evergreens into your home to ground and feel connected to the earth. Once a week pause to set your intention for the week and light a candle to mark it and bring it to light. Winter gives us stillness and quiet to listen to what we need and ourselves.
Trust your intuition to cocoon yourself with what soothes and bolsters your spirit and believe in the energetic support you have to slow down during the season. If nothing else it is absolutely okay to say no to obligations to have quiet time. No one needs to know if it’s just to exfoliate off 2018 and prepare for 2019.
Our friend and Luna-user Arielle Egozi is here sharing a lil period wisdom with us all. Self-care is the fuel of the resistance. Follow Arielle on Instagram at @ladysavaj.
For the last six years I’ve had a pretty intense yoga discipline — like waking up at five am, six times a week intense. In the last year, I practice before work, at the much more reasonable hour of 7:30am, since I’m sitting at a desk all day. Moving truly eases my anxiety. As someone who experiences dissociation almost always, it’s an hour of my day where I’m really focused on getting back into myself. When I don’t take the time to shake it all out, I notice how much faster repetitive thoughts spin through my mind and how tightly my tummy knots. I really need the time to move stagnant energy out of me.
Although I do my practice every day, it’s become a pretty sacred ritual that on the first three days of my period, I don’t practice. Instead, I get creative and find other ways to move. Usually that means I dance, and I’m never more in the mood to dance than when I’m bleeding. When the three days are up, when back to doing my practice and still menstruating, I notice my thighs burning because without realizing, I’ve been dropping it real low for the last song and a half.]
When I’m on my period, it almost feels like my body’s begging me to dance so it can use my shaking along with gravity to flush out my tissue, my blood, and anything that’s been pent up in my body for the last month. I wear my Lunapads undies and can’t help but watch my beautiful body do its thing in the mirror. I’m usually super bloated and feel like my legs are made of lead, but watching my hips grind and shake as my belly undulates while I’m almost naked, knowing the process my uterus is going through, is serious magic.
That’s not to say that it’s my period that makes me powerful — people have intuitive powers that have nothing to do with a uterus or menstruation — when I feel myself own my body and its spirit, even while society continues to attempt to colonize it, it transforms me.
When I feel myself own my body and its spirit, even while society continues to attempt to colonize it, it transforms me.
I feel the softness of the cotton on my skin, and if I’m wearing the briefs, I feel like some period pin-up chick. My curves accentuated, my belly feeling safe while it’s held snugly (if I’m not on my serious bloat days — on those days I use the hipster), and my vagina free-bleeding into the cotton gusset. I feel invincible as Drake is singing in Spanish on my speaker, and I’m doing body rolls in my underwear.
It doesn’t matter what my body looks like when I’m dancing, I’m feeling what it feels like, and my body feels so good. It feels grounded and powerful, flexible in some parts, stiff in others. It feels smooth and soft and strong. It feels alive.
Sometimes on my cycle, I can’t even fathom that I’m powerful enough to have energy to breathe, let alone have a dance party in my living room. On those days, I’m chillin’ on my floor pillows, surrendering into my need to slow down, and feeling the ease of not having anything shoved up inside me. I can free-bleed and just let my exhaustion pleasantly take over. I don’t push my body, I listen — or do my best to. It’s always a fine line for me around body stuff, as I’ve dealt with accepting my body as it is my entire life. Somehow it’s easier to accept my body when I’m on my period. I recognize it’s doing it’s thing, that it’s healthy, that it does so much for me, and it deserves to be unconditionally loved at every moment.
How could something, my body, that allows me to sink into music and find joy every day of the month, be anything but incredible? How could anyone have ever told me any different?
This isn’t always easy for me to feel, but I’m working on it.
After I’m done dancing and take my Luna Undies off, I look for the blood. By using my undies, I’ve been confronting not only my period blood, but the part of me that didn’t love me. The part that told myself my body was disgusting, was ugly, was too much. I look at the sweet sticky redness swirling in the toilet bowl and think back to moments before when I was gliding myself all over my living room rug. How could that be anything but beautiful? How could something, my body, that allows me to sink into music and find joy every day of the month, be anything but incredible? How could anyone have ever told me any different?
They were wrong, and they’ll always be wrong, so I put my Luna Undies back on and keep dancing.
Does your period steal your much needed sleep?
Take a nap. Then take action.
Cramps, sweating, muscle aches and fatigue. As most of us know, period symptoms aren’t always a walk in the park. They cross a line, however, when they begin interrupting your sleep. An unbalanced sleep schedule can not only affect your mental and physical health, but it can also worsen your period symptoms. And yet, many people report sleep disturbances during their cycle. Luckily, there are steps you can take to manage your discomfort and get the sleep you need.
Eat a light snack
A quick bedtime snack can do wonders for your sleep, as long as it’s small and packed with sleep-boosting nutrients. Foods like bananas and almonds contain high levels of magnesium which improves sleep quality, regardless of period discomfort. Or, if you prefer a relaxing drink, the antioxidants in chamomile tea promote sleepiness and reduce aches and pains. Whatever you snack on, just be sure to avoid greasy or fatty foods that can keep you up with indigestion and heartburn (that is, skip the potato chips and cake within three hours of bed).
Turn down the temperature
During your period, your core temperature rises. This can confuse your body, however, when it’s time for bed because your temperature naturally drops before sleeping. To combat this discrepancy, set your thermostat between 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit and use sweat-wicking cotton sheets. Another trick? Take a hot bath right before bedtime. The transition out of the steam-filled bathroom can convince your brain that your bedroom is cooler than it actually is and ease you into better sleep.
A few quick yoga poses can do wonders for your sleep during your period. Not only does the deep breathing and slow movement help you mentally unwind, but the gentle stretching can also relieve back pain and cramps. But, don't be intimidated-- yoga can move at your own pace. Start out slow with child’s pose or forward fold to ease yourself into the practice and still reap the benefits. Even just a five-minute yoga routine before bed can help improve your sleep.
The aching joints and sore muscles that accompany many periods can make it difficult to get comfortable enough to sleep. Along with a heating pad, try a new sleeping position that’s conducive to pain relief. Lying in the fetal position can alleviate pressure on your abdominal muscles to reduce cramping, muscle aches and flow. Also, consider using a foam mattress that will adapt well to new positions and still provide muscle support.
Work it out
We've all heard it: exercise is good for us. We get it, Michelle! But, the benefits of working out don’t stop at a slimmer waist and healthier heart. Exercise can have a major impact on both period pain and sleep. The endorphins released during physical activity can reduce cramping, stress levels and heart rate which makes it easier to fall asleep. Spending time outdoors also helps keep your circadian rhythms consistent. Anything from a walk during your lunch break to a jog in the park are great ways to get active and catch better Z’s.
By introducing some healthy lifestyle changes and self-care strategies into your daily routine, you can stop your tossing and turning. Use these tips and go forth to take back control of your period and get the sleep your body deserves!
Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash
Being body positive in the face of anti-Blackness is hard - because you have to confront your own demons first.
Our guest blogger Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is expecting - and she's sharing her plan to ensure her daughter lives a body positive life.
The bond between mother and daughter is one I have seen exalted - and commercialized - for as long as I could remember. Your daughter is your “mini-me”, and the portrayal of that relationship has often felt fetishized. But when I found out I was expecting a girl, I was more fearful than excited.
The romanticized images are cute, but I’m afraid of the responsibility that accompanies mothering a daughter. I’m even more terrified that I am vastly under-qualified to teach her all she needs to know about body positivity when my own self-love journey is still in progress.
So much about life feels predetermined when you’re giving birth to a Black daughter. Much of what molds her socioeconomic experience will be present from birth.
So much about life feels predetermined when you’re giving birth to a Black daughter. Much of what molds her socioeconomic experience will be present from birth. And even if she doesn’t identify with her assigned gender, those qualities will impact how the world receives her. But I have decided to prioritize on one of few things I can control - fighting to raise a body-positive daughter.
I’ve heard too many stories from loved ones on ways their mothers “toxic interactions” led to a life of self-hate. It seems way too easy to pass insecurities and personal demons to my daughter. I’ve decided the best gift I can give are the tools of body positivity and unconditional love. And I’ve done some thinking about the ways to accomplish this.
I plan to prioritize reproductive empowerment long before menarche. As dramatic as it sounds, the messages of shame and disgust will be all around. The TV shows, jokes, and folklore of our society make women into punchlines. And being twice marginalized, waiting to see what she internalizes is a luxury we can’t afford.
The most essential ingredients in the cocktail of self-love will be information and transparency. I don’t think it’s necessary to hide the hurtful aspects of the world- there are too many of them. But by informing her of the intricate process that was required not only for her to exist but her body to function properly she will have a leg up. Once you see our existence as a miracle, it will be hard not to perceive everything that comes from it as amazing.
The hardest part of her journey will be what I have to do. Having these expectations of her means I must learn to model them in my words and action. I can’t teach self-love unless I learn to reach the milestone for myself.
I can’t teach self-love unless I learn to reach the milestone for myself.
Understanding that the stretch marks, sagging breast, and hyperpigmentation I experience are nothing compared to the process of bringing a new life into the world. But more importantly, embracing that I am not flawed because of these things. The perfect form is a myth, and I have every right to love myself with wear and tear. Self-love, when you have been “othered”, shouldn’t be revolutionary. It’s a birthright.
Reinforcing the beauty of diversity in oneself and others will be another vital piece of our journey towards body positivity. I don’t believe it’s possible to rip apart the “problem areas” in someone else without eventually allowing that same criticism to destroy your own self-image. The human body comes in a range of appearances and forms- most often, we choose to focus on its societal beauty. I will encourage appreciation and even vanity in her appearance, but instead of being anchored solely in her looks it should develop from the complexity of her entire self. She shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate herself like I am.
I don’t expect her journey to be quick or easy. There will be many experiences that hinder the lessons I’ve maps out for her. But that’s the beauty of it all- it’s her journey.
The stakes seem much higher this go’ round. Each kick and hiccup I feel for my unborn child serves as a reminder of what I am fighting for.
If we came into this world loving ourselves wholly, we would have nothing to aspire to. The path to body positivity and self-love is littered with challenges. But also, high levels of joy. The ability to unwaveringly love yourself despite what trends are happening in the beauty industry or the number on the scale is invaluable. It’s something I want not just for my daughter, but also for myself, and for everyone.