Things I’ve said while on my period include: “Men will never understand how bad this is,” “My uterus forced me to go into the store and buy chocolate—I had no choice,” and, “Why is this happening to me?” It’s a trying time.
And while there’s pretty much nothing that will make having your period, well, not terrible, there are plenty of ways to make it suck less. I asked around to find out how some of the women in my life make their periods bearable, and added some of my own picks.
Here are some tried and true methods for making your period suck less:
1. Chow down on guilt-free desserts
There’s something about that time of the month that makes your body demand ice cream and chocolate. Multiple women I talked to touted Halo Top as a go-to for them, and when I asked why I was told it’s because the low-calorie, low-sugar ice cream is practically guilt-free.
“But my period doesn’t care about health,” I persisted. “It walks me right into the store and says, YOU SHALL BUY ICE CREAM AND YOU HAVE NO CHOICE AND THAT IS MY DECREE.”
“Exactly. And that’s where Halo Top comes in,” was the response.
As for me, I like Ben & Jerry’s nondairy Cherry Garcia eaten straight from the container. I’m also obsessed with a certain chocolate bar from Alter Eco, which features toasted quinoa in dark, organic, fair-trade chocolate. Seriously, get it. It will change your life.
2. Use a heating pad
There’s no discounting the excellence of over-the-counter painkillers when you have awful cramps, but heating pads can be a godsend. My friend recommends an electric heating pad, which can be had for just under $11 and doesn’t stop working until you unplug it. My personal favorite is the $7 Bed Buddy Hot and Cold Pack. Unlike the electric heating pad, you’ll have to keep getting up to toss it in the microwave, but it has a perfect amount of weight for pain relief, a comforting smell, and is also great for sore necks. Buy your own, because I will never relinquish mine—I just love the thing too much!
If you’re on the go, a friend of mine recommends hand warmers. They’re cheap and can also be used to, well, warm hands.
3. Sip lots of tea
Another go-to for me is tea—Chamomile because it relaxes and rooibos because I read somewhere that lots of women use it to treat PMS (also, rooibos is delicious). Other teas recommended by the women I talked to include mint and vanilla.
Most of the time it’s an effort not to spend that time of the month curled up in a fetal position. But if you can make yourself do a little gentle yoga, you might find it helpful—try doing a video designed to help relieve cramps and PMS symptoms. I know some ladies who swear by more aerobic activity, like running, but I cannot personally vouch for this because I think it sounds like unnecessary torture.
5. Take supplements
A woman I know turns to a Chinese herbal supplement called Xiao Yao Wan, or Free and Easy Wanderer, recommended by her acupuncturist. She says it reduces stress, depression, and irritability during those times. You may want to consult with your doctor before starting a new supplement, but it can be had for about $15 on Amazon.
Another supplement that you might find helpful? Iron. This is another one you’ll want to run past your doctor, but sometimes women who have heavy periods can become anemic, and iron can help with those feelings of faintness and weakness.
6. Use period panties
It seems like everyone’s singing the praises of Thinx these days, but I failed to locate anyone I know personally who has actually used ‘em. However, Dear Kate’s offerings are worth your time. They are basically the same kind of thing—breathable underwear lined with moisture-wicking, leak-resistant material. They aren’t designed to replace your usual method of containing your period, but they are meant to be a second line of defense. That means you won’t spend your heavy days worrying about leaks or wake up to find you need to wash stains out of your sheets.
7. Drink enough water
Dehydration can make you faint, dizzy, irritable, and can give you headaches. So basically, it’s extra important to drink enough water when you’re menstruating. Carry a water bottle around with you and follow these tips.