The Menstrual Magnifying Glass: Embracing the Cycle of Creativity

The other day something that normally would’ve had me thinking, “Bummer… That’s sad,” had me sobbing an ocean. That same day, my dog looked even cuter, my husband even hotter and the distracted cell-phone-talking driver ahead of me EVEN…MORE… ANNOYING!!! #$*&#$#$&*… than usual. (Whew! That felt good. ;)) Since then, I’ve had vivid dreams, a major epiphany about my novel-in-progress and woke yesterday feeling pretty darn, dare I say, unconquerable. Am I crazy?!? Nope. More like fabulously female.

I’ve long seen PMS as a type of magnifying glass. Rather than create problems or trigger unfounded feelings, it highlights them. Okay, so highlight may be putting it mildly… Regardless, it can serve as a tool—if we let it.

Positive Framing & PMS
A study published by the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing showed that women’s attitudes play a significant role in PMS symptoms and our ability to manage them. If we view PMS as a horrible, embarrassing illness (which it’s not), we’re more likely to experience severe physical and emotional symptoms. Look at the ordeal in a healthier light and you may get a heap load of benefits.

Menstrual Cycle Perks
In addition to the negative symptoms related to menstruation, which I’m guessing need no explanation, we can experience positive sensations, according to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, such as:

  • A greater connection to nature
  • Creative energy
  • Increased sex drive and orgasms
  • More intense orgasms
  • A sense of relieve, release, euphoria and invigoration
  • Increased empathy and connectedness with others

The Creativity Cycle
Dr. Christine Northrup, a ob-gyn and renowned author of The Wisdom of Menopause and other best-selling books, says that the first half of our menstrual cycle is a “very good time to initiate new projects.” And when ovulation strikes, we are at our creative peak.

Hormonal changes during the weeks after ovulation, says Northrup, make for a useful evaluative and reflective time in our lives. By looking back on what we’ve accomplished, created or faced, and pondering criticism, frustrations and obstacles, we can see what needs adjusting and begin addressing them.

Once PMS rears it’s complex but natural head, we may experience boosted testosterone levels and feel empowered or moved to do things we’ve not done before. This can be awesome or awful, depending on how we utilize it. We may have the strength and gusto to break up with Mr. Wrong, the determination to set aside others’ demands so to finish a creative work or the courage to stand up for something we feel strongly is right. Or…we may scream and cry at a loved one instead of speaking gently, toss our work-in-progress (with great potential) in the trash out of despair or react to criticism from a trusted professional or friend with our latest kick-boxing move. The moral of this story? Listen to your urges, but think before you act.

To turn menstrual “madness” into marvelousness, consider the following:

1. Cry. Studies have shown that tears known as “emotional tears” contain hormones. Releasing them is one way to improve hormonal balance in the body.

2. Get ample z’s. Our bodies work hard in preparation of and during menstruation. Allowing yourself extra sleep time can also help alleviate stress and stock up on those vivid dreams. ;)

3. Eat well. Eating balanced meals and snacks containing primarily whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, guards against nutrient deficiencies and promotes positive blood sugar levels, energy and moods. For more information, read my LIVESTRONG.com article: PMS SOS! Can Diet Help?

4. Respect your cravings. Our bodies need more calories during PMS. Eating too little, skimping on nutritious food and avoiding foods we crave can make many menstrual symptoms worse. Crave chocolate? Have some. Chocolate contains natural plant chemicals that can help balance those hormones. ;)

5. Exercise. Physical activity helps minimize stress, boosts feel-good hormones, reduces bloating and promotes creativity. For best results, MayoClinic.com recommends aiming for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, such as biking, swimming, aerobics or hiking, most days of the week.

6. Express yourself. I can’t tell you how many deeply emotional songs, stories and chapters I’ve written, much thanks to premenstrual mood swings. Creative expression is a great way to manage and maximize the benefits of PMS and menstruation.

7. Remind yourself of the perks. When we realize that menstrual symptoms are not only natural but beneficial to our creativity and other life factors, we become better able to access the benefits and feel less brought down by the challenges.

For some awesome inspiration, check out these links:
75 Ways Women Are Sexy, by Marcia Richards
Do You Believe in Second Chances? by Marcy Kennedy
Love Your Failures, by Ingrid Schaffenburg
Where Do We Live—For the Story, by Debra Kristi
When Life Gives You Lemons, by Karen McFarland

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts. What has your menstrual magnifying glass taught you? If you don’t menstruate, how do you deal with support loved ones who do? Any challenges, successes or hilarity to share? I’m all eyes/ears!

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