By Alexa Santory
Women’s bodies go through it all: periods, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. What gives??? Boys don’t go through half the stuff we do and they’re the spoiled ones! In any case, the female body gets put to the test as we move through life. Let’s learn some of the best ways to take care of our bodies at all ages, young and old. Plus, a breakdown of what I like to call a woman’s other puberty: menopause.
Take care, sis!
With all the wild changes women’s bodies’ experience, there has to be consistency. This helps build a foundation to keep our bodies, minds, and souls strong through the changes. Here are some of the best ways to care for yourself on a deeper level as you go through the flow of life.
Detox with lemon water every morning. Think: alkalizing your body, balancing everything out. Lemon water has some pretty amazing detoxing properties. Doing this every morning can help get your digestive system back on track because lemons help stimulate good stomach acid production. Lemons also have a ton of vitamin C, which is essential for our immune systems as well as giving our skin a healthy glow. The potassium in lemons is great for a boost of energy, too! Starting every morning with a warm glass of lemon water will help your body feel more balanced.
Meditate and journal. Physical health is important of course, but taking care of your mental health often falls to the wayside when we get caught up with life. Take care of your mind and soul by practicing meditation. Meditation and its practice are meant to ease the mind, slow your breathing, help you center yourself and find an inner peace. The stresses of daily life don’t have to be so stressful if you take time to slow down and look within. You have all the tools to get through just about anything you set your mind to. I believe in you ❤️. Journaling is an excellent way to get your most pressing thoughts and feelings down on paper. Opening up to another person can be intimidating for some, so writing it down could help release anything you’ve been holding on to. A journal may not be able to talk back to you, but putting it down on paper may give you some of the answers you’re looking for. It’s important to focus on your mental and emotional health no matter what age you are. They’re great alternatives to common practices for dealing with mental health disorders and even addiction.
Cut back on sugar. This is always the first thing we cut out when we go on diets, but there are a ton of other good reasons to cut back on sugar. I’m not talking about the natural sugars that appear in fruits and veggies; I’m talking about the added sugars in some of our favorite snacks. These are the ones that make you gain weight, spike your insulin levels, and fill you up with empty calories. Sounds like a waste. Cutting back on sugar intake also helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to a healthier heart. Less sugar intake can also help keep your brain sharp and improve cognitive function. There have even been studies that show that lower sugar intake could prevent depression, something women are more susceptible to as they begin to go through menopause especially. This is because the brain depends on chemicals like glucose and insulin. When insulin spikes are more frequent because you’re eating more sugar, your brain becomes immune to it. There’s also a lower risk for diabetes and you’ll have more energy. Plus, less sugar in your diet means happier, clearer skin!
Stay active. You have to keep your blood flowing and your heart racing. Stay active reduces endorphins, which keep you happier, less stressed, and more grounded. Increased blood flow strengthens the heart and improves the overall appearance of your skin and hair. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise everyday if that’s not your thing. Go for a walk in the sunshine, get your body moving outside, dance around your room in your underwear, or go to a yoga class with your friend. Whichever way you choose to do it, staying active and fit is a surefire way to not only care for your body, but also to boost your confidence and self-esteem, relieve stress, and keep you looking young!
Get plenty of sleep. This is vital, crucial, and super important at every age. I’m in my 20s and I’m already regretting those nights I stayed up super late doing nothing in my teens. Don’t skimp on your sleep y’all! Your body literally needs it to survive. Lack of sleep leads to lethargy, poor concentration, irritability, poor appetite and eating habits, and even more serious issues like depression and anxiety. Our bodies need sleep to regroup and reboot for a new day. Sleep helps rebuild and restore muscle, regrow tissue, and adjust your hormones. Getting better sleep (that is, being mindful of your sleeping habits, trying to get at least 7-8 hours/night, going to bed at the same time everyday, and making the conscious to get up before noon!) will lead to higher energy levels, better cognitive function, and a much better mood overall. I heard binaural beats are great if you’re having trouble sleeping!
Use daily affirmations. Having a positive and healthy relationship with yourself is just about the most radical thing you can do in the year 2018. With people and circumstances and life trying to keep you down, the most important part of keeping yourself healthy at any age is establishing your lifelong commitment to yourself. Using daily positive affirmations will shift your mindset to a more positive one and remind you that you and your purpose are important. We need as much positivity and self love that we can get. You never know who it might rub off on!
Them Changes Part II
From navigating puberty to navigating adulthood, then the possibility of starting a family, giving birth, recovering, maybe giving birth again, and then boom, puberty number 2, it’s insane the amount of change women experience in a lifetime. We’ve all probably swum through (maybe almost drowned a few times) the murky, uncomfortable waters of puberty by now. I would not like to go back thank you!! Let’s look ahead to what our bodies have in store for us!
How to deal: Your period
Oh man, I could write a book on all the crap my period has put me through; actually, what having a period has put every woman I’ve ever met through for that matter! Listen, getting your period, for some of us at least, is no walk in the park. If you’re one of the lucky ones (and I know you exist!!) who has super short, painless, light periods, just know that I don’t like you. I’m kidding, but still, I hope you realize how lucky you are. That same dreaded week every 28 to 32 days that people I know and love have ended up in the hospital because of...she’s tough. But women are tougher. Dealing with bad periods is a challenge, but knowing your body definitely helps. Monitor your symptoms every month, and I mean every. Single. Month. You ovulate from your opposite ovary every month -- take note of how you feel and if those symptoms only appear every other month. Invest in a heating pad because it will honestly save your life. If nausea or vomiting is an issue for you, drink ginger tea and eat ginger candies to calm your stomach down. Headaches are a big problem for me for about a week before my period. I try to drink a ton of water, get plenty of sleep, and practice acupressure. It’s an ancient Chinese medicine practice where you put pressure on certain parts of your body to relax a much bigger, more elusive area (i.e your brain). Acupressure points for headaches include the skin between your index finger and thumb, the spot between your eyebrows (aka your third eye), and the two indentations on the back of your neck, on either side of your spine. Apply pressure and massage your chosen area in a circular motion for 30 seconds, take a break, repeat. Try to avoid over processed or deep fried foods on your period. I know its hard because of course that’s what we usually crave the most, but they’re doing more harm than good. They weigh you down and make you feel more lethargic and can even make your cramps worse. Stick to anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, berries, and nuts! As women, a universal experience we all share is dealing with the sometimes overwhelming difficulty of being on your period. Look at it this way: your body is doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s all completely natural and beautiful if you let it be, and if you weren’t trying to get pregnant, congratulations, you’re not! Like I said before, having your period is tough, but you’re tougher.
How Your Body Changes: Pregnancy and Post-Birth
I saw this absolutely insane cross section in a textbook once showing how almost all of our organs get pushed up and out of place to accommodate for a fetus. It’s etched into my brain forever. That and The Miracle of Life from ninth grade bio. The insanity of it all aside, pregnancy is pretty dope and a testament to the strength of women everywhere. We grow humans inside of us, y’all. Remember that next time someone wants to play you. Our bodies go through some pretty wild changes during pregnancy, pretty much on a weekly basis. On the short list there is: bloating, nausea, vomiting, mood swings, fatigue, intense cravings, breakouts and acne (but also clear and glowing skin, aka the “pregnancy glow”), back pain, breast tenderness, and in some cases, depression. It’s not all bad though, and everyone experiences pregnancy differently. My mom, for example, had little to no issue carrying my two brothers. But with me, she had adult acne, diabetes (which she’s never had before or since), and some intense morning-noon-and-night sickness (I’ve been a handful sine the womb, what can I say??). I’ve been around my fair share of pregnancies in my life and I can honestly say they were all rather peaceful and they all loved being doted on. Good changes are always worth it!
Your body is strong enough to carry another life, but some women have a hard time adjusting to the overwhelming amount of changes that occur during pregnancy. Try to be as comfy as possible, especially in the later trimesters. Invest in maternity clothes and comfortable shoes. Some women experience some intense body image issues during pregnancy -- try dressing in clothes you like and that make you feel beautiful. You’d be surprised how much it can positively impact how you see yourself. The hormonal changes during pregnancy can bring up a lot of pent up or new emotions, and in some cases, can lead to depression. Try to surround yourself with supportive, loving people and talk things out. Tell people how you feel and get things off your chest. Stress isn’t good for the baby after all!
Transition: Perimenopause and Menopause
Every woman, at some point in their lives, will experience the end of their monthly period and enter into a new realm of womanhood: menopause. The age where women begin menopause is subjective and based on when they got their first period. Usually, the younger you were when you got your period, the younger you are when you go through menopause. There’s also a transitional period into menopause called perimenopause, which happens years before. This is when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and estrogen production has slowed down significantly. During perimenopause, women experience hot flashes, low sex drive, bad PMS, irregular periods, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. The bladder also tends to be overactive!
Menopause is when everything pretty much stops. Your ovaries stop producing hormones, no more eggs are released, and it’s been a year since your last period. Menopause is a new beginning of womanhood. Women typically enter perimenopause in their 40s and slowly transition into menopause after a few years. The median age for entering menopause is 51, but Black and Latinx women tend to start it 2 years earlier. Besides no longer getting your period, the symptoms of menopause are typically more intense. Women in menopause experience mood changes and depression and anxiety at a much higher rate. They also deal with insomnia, difficulty concentrating, headaches and migraines, an increased risk of UTI, reduced bone mass, and hair loss. Sheesh. We really can’t catch a break?! There are ways to take care of yourself during this transitional period. In terms of your physical health, more doctors’ visits are necessary. Our bodies are at a higher risk of developing more serious diseases and conditions. During menopause, make sure to get your yearly mammograms! Also, be sure to get screened for both colon and skin cancer. Lower bone mass and weaker joints are another symptom of menopause, so be sure to consume a lot of calcium and vitamin D. Stay active too! It’s not only great for your body, but your mind too! Since some women experience depression and anxiety during menopause, staying active helps relieve some of the symptoms. Doing yoga and practicing meditation are other awesome ways to ease the mind. Changes in diet are necessary now too; we can’t eat chips and soda like that anymore! Incorporating more wholesome foods with good, healthy fats are important. Anything and everything that’s good for the heart and the brain! While menopause can be difficult (my mom’s hot flashes were intense and legendary), it’s a beautiful transitional period in a woman’s life and a true testament to the strength and power of the female body!
Dealing with the onslaught of symptoms perimenopause and menopause bring can be tough. Sticking your head in the freezer isn’t exactly ideal so get a handle on hot flashes by taking long, deep breaths -- in through the nose, out through the mouth. Try lower impact exercises like yoga or tai chi to help with mood swings and sleeping habits, since both have been found to calm an anxious mind.
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