All hail the return of the revered Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s fall again and, you know what that means: the holidays are just around the corner. Whether you go all out for the festivities or prefer a more low-key approach, there’s no denying that the busiest time of the year can make you feel a little more stressed than usual.
Throw your period into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a Lifetime movie worthy meltdown. That is, unless you know how to survive it with your sanity intact.
From warding off cravings to gracefully dealing with family members who make you wonder if you were adopted, managing your period during the holidays doesn’t have to break you. Use our mini survival guide and tackle three of the most common holiday stressors like a boss.
Go easy on the eggnog
And the pie. And the cookies. I get it, the holidays are basically one big feast from Thanksgiving (at least in the US) to New Year’s Eve. But all that sugar can wreak havoc on your body, making PMS symptoms feel even worse than they are. This is partially due to sugar being inflammatory, which can increase cramping and partially due to estrogen and progesterone interfering with how your body interacts with insulin, which regulates your blood sugar levels. In other words, your hormones are on a rollercoaster ride and they’re taking your blood sugar levels along with them. Be weary of empty carbohydrates and too much dairy, too. Simple carbs convert to sugar in your body and are pretty much useless. Dairy contains arachidonic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid, and can contribute to inflammation and more intense cramping. Thanks but no thanks.
Hack it: I’m not saying don’t eat any delicious treats. Just consume in moderation. Pick your top 2 to 3 season must-haves (mine are pecan pie and eggnog!) and indulge just a couple of times throughout the next few months. You’ll have more energy for all the festivities and you’ll be able to keep your PMS in check.
Regretfully decline and watch Netflix instead
Speaking of festivities, exactly how many shindigs are you going to? If you’re like many of us, you often find yourself scheduled down to the minute with everything from work gatherings (because you obviously don’t see your co-workers enough) to your neighbor’s annual Festivus party. It is so tempting to get a case of FOMO - that’s “fear of missing out” -and RSVP yes to every single invite.
Here’s the thing, though. Many women experience disrupted sleep patterns throughout their menstrual cycle. When you’re ovulating (around day 14 for an average menstrual cycle), your estrogen levels rise which can boost your energy levels. Great for when you want to get a workout in, not so great when you’re still tossing and turning at 3 am. After ovulation, your levels of progesterone start to peak which can leave you feeling drowsier than after Thanksgiving dinner. That’s not all - both estrogen and progesterone levels dip a few days before your period, which can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Hack it: Do yourself (and your period) a favor and only attend the events that you really want to go to. Keeping your schedule manageable will help you avoid burnout and make dealing with wacky menstruation-induced sleep patterns a lot easier.
While holidays should be a time of fun, relaxation, and spending quality time with the ones we love, more often than not we find ourselves turning into stressed out balls of anxiety. When you’re under too much stress, though, your body produces the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When the levels of these hormones get too high, your body is forced into shutting down nonessential functions - like menstruation. Cortisol tells your brain to stop producing estrogen and progesterone, both of which are necessary for your menstrual cycle to function properly. This could mean no period, a shorter period, or bleeding between periods. It just depends on your body. While having a less intense period may sound like a good idea, especially amidst the holiday chaos, being in survival mode isn’t good for your reproductive health in the short or long term.
Hack it: Choose your battles. Schedule in downtime. Eat foods that nourish your body. Avoid your crazy aunt that always wants to ask you about your love life. Keep your menstrual cup in your purse (just in case!). Oh, and for your benefit and everyone else’s, do some yoga.