So, your period is here and, alongside the usual unease of knowing blood is escaping from your body in a slow, painful dispersion of mess, you’re also experiencing cramps, mood swings, bloating, fatigue, acne, cravings, and so much more. And no, we aren’t exaggerating on how uncomfortable periods can get; experiences have shown, time and time again, that a menstrual cycle can bring with it an unhelpful ratio of high progesterone and low estrogen and serotonin. This sudden imbalance of hormones can have drastic effects on the body and mind- which accounts for feelings of depression, irritability, and anxiety during the days leading up to, and during, your period. Long story short, if there’s ever a time and need for balance, restoration, and comfort, it’s while you’re on your period.
Since factors such as exercise, sleep, and diet can all factor into how your period might turn out, it’s pretty clear that menstrual care is a clear reflection of a balanced lifestyle. And, because, at MANTLE, we believe that CBD adds balance to daily life, taking a dose a day, regardless of whether you’re on your period or not, might just be the best thing you can do for yourself.
Period Pain: Manifesting Stress and Trauma
At MANTLE, we stand firm on the belief that wellbeing can often manifest into different outlets: an unhealthy diet can show itself on the skin, a consistently low mood can translate into low immunity, and, in following this rule, a lack of overall care for yourself can reveal itself in the form of a painful and uncomfortable period- in more ways than one. One theory postulates that all human beings store trauma in the body, and that this trauma often manifests itself in quite insidious ways- of course, symptoms of serious health problems or recurring chronic pain might need to be checked out by a medical professional, however, altering lifestyle habits for the better might be a helpful way to invoke a more positive menstrual experience.
To really showcase this theory, Stephen Porges of the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium at Indiana University asserts that this mind-body connection of emotional trauma has a lot to do with the way the physical body processes our emotional pain, kicking into action when we feel unsafe or unhappy. Since the body controls physical things like heart rate, stomach issues, and even blood pressure (all of which can be closely linked to how we are feeling emotionally at any given time), this correlation between sadness or danger and the reactionary, unconscious response that the body takes becomes palpable. We can also ascertain that the body responds to stored trauma- that is, trauma which we repress- by manifesting it in the physical realm.
So, how do our periods tie into this phenomenon?
How Stress Can Increase Period Pain
Periods are painful in more ways than one; it’s true. But one serious condition is known as dysmenorrhea- and it’s experienced by 40-90% of period-having people. Dysmenorrhea can range from merely having mild to severe cramps, to possibly linking with some more debilitating chronic conditions, such as endometriosis or PCOS. But what connects painful periods to our lifestyle?
As upcoming research shows us, many instances of dysmenorrhea have been shown to directly correlate to a stressful lifestyle. While stress is subjective, these readings have been repeated often, with the individuals own perceptions of stress recorded down- but the universal recordings all revealed similar stress symptoms, such as feeling overwhelmed and responding to those stressful feelings with hopelessness, negativity, sadness or anxiety. More than one result concludes that the risk of dysmenorrhea increases by double for those who experience higher stress (in this case, the study was conducted based on their daily diary readings of 1,160 Chinese women over a period of time) but these findings have been repeated on different populations of women, with similar results. That a stressful lifestyle can cause a physical manifestation of pain in the form of dysmenorrhea is an example of how strong the mind-body connection can be, and, of course, how powerful and crippling these physical manifestations of stress can become.
How The Biological Stress Response Works
Biologically, the body responds to stress by activating a hormone pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis or HPA axis. It’s a long, complicated-sounding word, but, at its core, the HPA axis basically increases levels of cortisol. Cortisol is released to cope with the parasympathetic stress response, but its side-effect involves suppressing hormones involved in reproduction and released during the period, namely oestrogen and progesterone.
In fact, the HPA axis has a significant effect on other systems, such as lowering immunity, libido, and energy. Since everything in the body is connected to one another, these side-effects tend to accumulate and hinder the body even further. Sometimes a person’s stress response can become so high that the body might skip ovulation- hence why you might skip a period when you’re under a lot of pressure or stress. In some cases, cortisol might also delay ovulation, causing your period to come later, and resulting in a heavier, more painful flow due to the internal lining being built up for longer.
A Lifestyle Response
So, science shows us that period pain can be increased as a response to our lifestyle choices. This makes sense when we look at how many of the body’s major responses are a reaction to how we lead our lives. It also shows how important it is to maintain a good self-care routine. Since our lifestyle (and quality of life) is dictated by the small choices we make in our daily habits, it’s safe to assume that the little things we do to balance and centre ourselves can lead to a happier period- and this isn’t just limited to the choices we make on our periods. In fact, many accounts tell us that a more joyful period stems from feeling restored and well throughout the month; diet and lifestyle habits take time to form properly, feeling more positive in the long-run takes some practice, and, above all, if periods are partially a manifestation of stored trauma and stress, it’s essential we spend our time releasing negative habits, patterns, and emotions.
CBD and Your Period
Making CBD, also known as cannabidiol, work for you can be surprisingly easy. Just a few drops of The Original Oil in the morning can potentially promote a newfound sense of balance. Just one or two drops of CBD oil in your morning tea may balance you for the rest of your day. Alongside this, here’s some of our favourite ways to use CBD to complement your balanced lifestyle.
Our Body and Exercise
It’s never too late to introduce a fitness regime into your lifestyle- not only can exercise make you look better by improving muscles and physique, oxygenating the cells and clearing the mind, it can also be incredible for improving mental wellbeing. You might have heard that exercise can really help to release feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, having a stable exercise regime with a bespoke, personal schedule can be empowering and accomplishing. Completing a task that we know is good for us releases a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) called dopamine- it is this specific neurotransmitter which is released when we set targets and accomplish them, making us feel even more improved overall.
Exercise and Dopamine
Dopamine is responsible for helping us to curb depression, anxiety, and other such unpleasantries.
The pleasurable release of dopamine can either help or hinder us. When we feel accomplished after completing a particularly challenging exercise class, we get that addictive dopamine rush, which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves. In this case, our brain is working with us by giving us that addictive rush we feel after we have done something beneficial. This can be a good thing, fuelling our desire to exercise more and more, helping to curb negative emotions and also improve fitness. Long-term dopamine release can benefit our lifestyle by helping to keep up mood, reinforcing that previously mentioned body-mind connection between our physical movement and mental wellbeing.
Exercise and Trauma Release
Embarking on a consistent exercise routine (such as weekly classes) can be incredibly important when we look at how exercise may be used to release stored trauma and tension in the muscles. Many have speculated upon the potential connection between physical movement and wellbeing, which relies, once again, on the hypothesis that the body stores trauma in some physical sense which is released via moving and stretching the limbs. However, movement alone cannot help to release trauma and tension- creating a stable routine that challenges you and makes you proud of yourself by living up to it, such as signing up to a particularly challenging fitness class, is also important.
Since CBD potentially balances us, it may be a useful incorporation before, after, or during a class which involves movement, stretching, or a combination of both. Indeed, CBD and exercise can be a powerful combination.
Exercise is well-known for providing us with the perfect start to feeling each rising emotion that might accompany a particular stretch or hold, and potentially allow that emotion to finally release with a long-held sigh.
Why not try incorporating CBD into your pre-workout routine before you embark on an exercise or yoga class?
CBD and Meditation
Meditation, which centres around clearing the mind by paying attention to the breath, can be incredibly useful for improving mental health and wellbeing. This is because meditation encourages the mind to take a break from the intrusiveness of uncontrollable thoughts: according to yogic philosophy, since thoughts are essentially vibrations which we can use to manifest change in our lives, they are incredibly powerful; and should be treated as such.
How Does Meditation Work?
The practice of meditation circulates around one philosophy: just as our body needs to be trained in order to perform optimally, so does our mind. In silencing the mind, we can re-shape it. Much like how physical exercise can release stored trauma, a quiet, intentional mind can pave a path for a better life. We’ve already discussed how our periods can be an example of our traumas, facets of trauma manifested in the physical realm. But, focusing specifically on how debilitating PMS and mood swings can be for some people, meditation may have the potential to significantly improve mood-related symptoms associated with PMS. In fact, meditation has been anecdotally known to ease depression, anxiety, and other chronic mental conditions by improving the mood, reducing self-criticism, and quieting self-destructive thoughts.
According to yogic science, meditation is incredibly powerful because it trains every thought to be infused with intent and purpose... which provides us with better thoughts and, as a result, a better life. Now, of course, it isn’t easy to re-shape the mind- for the majority of us, the idea of having control over each and every thought seems incredibly difficult. In fact, most of us tend to experience intrusive negative or anxiety-riddled thoughts. And, since yogic schools of thought tell us that we do become our thoughts, those of us who suffer from overly negative intrusive thoughts tend to build up depression, anxiety, and other invasive, impulsive thoughts until it’s hard to distance ourselves from the state of our mind. Our thoughts become who we are, and, eventually, they can take over our personalities, overshadowing us with a variety of harmful mental conditions.
CBD and Intention Setting
Since meditation can be a challenging endeavour, taking CBD before indulging in your meditation practice might be balancing throughout your experience. While meditation fosters focus, CBD may balance you, if taken before or after meditation. This may be especially useful during PMS, when the mind tends to wander, brain-fog often occurs, or low-mood strikes especially potently. CBD may potentially balance you if incorporated into your routine correctly, alongside centred meditation practices.
CBD and Diet
Diet can affect a whole host of things in your life- and womankind’s important monthly occurrence is most definitely improved with a balanced, healthy diet. In fact, growing sources suggest that vitamin D, iron, omega-3, and calcium are especially important in the days leading up to the period; since PMS symptoms can often begin as early as two weeks before womb-shedding, keeping up with a consistently healthy diet is essential.
This is not to say you can’t eat what you’re craving during your period- at MANTLE, we prioritise balance for a reason. This simply means infusing your diet with more healthy options, and making sure that your food makes you feel good. Since a balanced, healthy diet filled with iron (for oxygenated blood and energy), vitamin D (for reduced menstrual cramps and good mood), zinc (to improve the mood and prevent cramps) and fish (to keep up mood, improve cramps, and help with stomach upset) is necessary for a healthy body as much as it’s essential in easing the symptoms of period pain, it’s safe to say that a healthy body means a healthy period- the two are mutually inclusive.
Improving Your Diet
Since CBD balances you, knowing that you’re enriching your lifestyle with a sense of balance can be incredibly potent all on its own.
In fact, there’s something important to be said about improving your lifestyle with routine- for example, infusing CBD oil into your morning coffee. It can significantly boost your sense of balance, making you feel good about yourself and encouraging you to continue to feel this sense of accomplishment by providing your body with a healthy diet. The repetitive effect of taking a balancing dose of CBD, plus the accomplishment that incorporating balancing supplements into your diet can give you may in itself lead to an overall centred lifestyle. This, as we might have guessed, can sneak into other avenues of your life. It’s true: a good lifestyle can only help to improve other avenues of our life- including our period.
CBD and Self-Care
We’ve already discussed the potential effects of having a routine which involves good eating, meditation, and keeping a great exercise routine- all balanced by starting off your morning with a few drops of CBD oil. Because, sometimes, improving the mood is psychological: it’s less about the CBD, and more about the action behind doing something which is a key part of self-love and pampering: this is essentially what’s known as self-care.
Self-care isn’t just bubble baths and face masks; the core principle of self-care relies on intentional actions which you consciously do in order to make yourself feel better. While these actions may seem small at the time, they can form important building blocks for a more intentional, uplifting life. Since there’s a correlation between keeping a balanced routine, dopamine release, and knowing that you’re improving your life, even if that improvement is small and subtle, a small action (such as pouring some CBD into your coffee) can make you feel that you’re intentionally improving yourself- through the potential balancing effects of CBD.
Self-care in itself may encourage intentional change, such as that which makes you want to do something else which makes your brain happy.
It’s been proven that conscious effort can be one of the most potent ways to feel better- and this isn’t always through discipline. Sometimes even waking up in the morning is enough to feel that you have done something for yourself; other times, this can mean following a disciplined routine. Self-care is subjective, but it’s also incredibly powerful.
Periods: A Part Of Us
Recognising that every action can manifest into physical pleasure or pain can be incredibly important in improving your standard of life and self-care. We tend to think about our periods as things which happen to us, instead of things which represent what’s happening on the inside- the sooner we recognise this mind-body connection, the better off we might become. This principle can also encourage unintentional change- so that, before your next period, you may take some time to release a little tension, or even breathe a little deeper. These little rituals of improvement can be incredibly potent in helping you for the long-run.
So, take a deep breath... and happy next-period!