Nesting, not just for pregnant mommas

birdy

 

When’s the last time you heard the term ‘nesting’? Was it when your friend was pregnant? When you were pregnant, and suddenly those baseboards needed immediate cleaning? Talking about birds?

What if I told you that women go through a natural cycle of nesting every month, and that you could take advantage of this to make your life a little less stressful?
Today I am grocery shopping. As I pick up various fruits and veggies I am considering a few things. Which greens should I grab? What kind of meat should I cook up in the coming week? What will be easy to make ahead of time? Unlike other trips, this one is more thorough. I fill my cart with not only fresh fruits and veggies but also stock up on all the necessities. I throw some cleaning supplies in for good measure; after all I’ve got to deep clean my home this weekend. The kitchen needs a thorough scrub, as does the bathroom, and the bed will need fresh linens and the bedroom needs to be tidied.
But why all of this fuss? Am I expecting company? Is a relative in town? Well, sort of. My period is due at the end of the week.
You may think I’m crazy, and that’s fine. It’s taken me years to figure out a method that works for me around having my period. As a doula I was struck by all of the benefits that women can have while preparing themselves and their homes for a new baby. I would often advise them to cook at least two weeks worth of frozen dinners, organize help from others, and get on top of anything that needed to be done before the baby arrived. Suddenly it struck me, when was the time I needed this as well? Of course, on my period. So I started trying it out.
In our modern world, there’s an awful lot of focus around constantly working, doing, and being busy. People look down on other’s for taking a break, and we are expected to keep going as if we don’t have period, bleed, or are suffering from cramps and fatigue. We’ve forgotten many traditional cultures ways of resting during menstruation, instead taking up the cape of superwoman. Of course we can do anything while we have our periods, but does that mean that we should take on the hardest task of the month during them? Maybe not. Maybe it’s time to end the days of popping in a tampon, grabbing a granola bar, and swinging back a midol as we run out the door. Surely we owe ourselves a little more care than that?

Why the extra prep makes sense

Maybe you are a unicorn and have great periods. If so, my hat off to you, can’t say I’m not a little envious. But for women with heavy flow, intense cramps, mood swings, cysts, or even endometriosis, periods can be a bit of a nightmare. If this is you then you know how hard it can be to maintain your daily grind when aunt flow comes knocking. Hands up if you’ve been stranded on the couch in pain while a pile of dirty dishes stares you in the face, and you’ve yet to eat anything today. It truly sucks.
Instead of repeating that horrible cycle, why not prep instead? Imagine the day you wake up to aunt flo and the dishes are done, your fridge is fully stocked, and your tub is scrubbed sparkly clean so you can have a bath and try to tame those evil cramps. Maybe you’ve even gone all out and precooked your favorite meal or stocked up on herbal tea. Whatever works for you. Our periods aren’t meant to be a time of torture for us. Like the seasons of the year, we operate on a cycle. A time for hustling, and a time for rest. Planning out this small break can not only let you get through your period easier, but also make it something you can begin to look forward to. Okay, maybe not everyone will, but we all have to start somewhere right? Let’s look at the science that backs this up.

Our hormones are at their lowest point during menstruation

Remember when I said we operate on a cycle? When you chart your month long cycle according to hormones, you can see that there is a pattern of a wave. Hormones rise and fall depending on what stage we are at. The beginning of each month starts when our period begins. On the chart below you can see that the hormones plummet right before the start of menstruation.

chart

Progesterone Plays a role in

– Has a calming and relaxing effect; at it’s lowest point this could mean more sadness and anxiety
-Sexual desire; at it’s lowest you may have a low libido

Estrogen Plays a role in

-energy and alertness; at it’s lowest point that means tiredness and brain fog
-Mood and overall happiness; at it’s lowest it actually drags down mood regulating hormones serotonin and dopamine (Hint; this is why we crave binge worthy foods right before and during our period, because they temporarily increase our serotonin levels). Yikes!

cry

We are actively losing iron

According to stats Canada, roughly 8% of women suffered from anemia between 2009-2011. You are at higher risk if you have heavy, long periods, or have conditions such as fibroids which can cause more bleeding. Remember to stock up on that nettle tea!

Our uterus is working hard

Each month we build up the lining inside the uterus, called the endometrium. To oversimplify things, this is to provide a nice little home for a tiny human if we get pregnant. If not, we shed this lining when our period begins.

uterus

This means that right before our period, our uterus is actually a little swollen and bigger than it usually is. Check out the pic below for references. Once bleeding begins, the uterus, which is actually made of muscle tissue, contracts in order to start new. Hence, cramps. This is why running, heavy lifting, and other jarring movements aren’t ideal for our swollen working uterus. Maybe restorative yoga instead of cross fit?

uterus before period

So when is the best time to nest?

The best time to nest is 5-7 days before your expected period. If you suffer from bad PMS or PMDD, starting even earlier may be more beneficial before those symptoms start.
You want to be resting the last two days before bleeding starts, and the first three days of your period. This is usually the time when most people feel really tired. As our period goes on, slowly our hormones will start to climb. This is why the last day of our period can often feel much better than the first.
Now go out and nest, and have a happy period!

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