If you're anything like me, you probably have a pretty intense love/hate relationship with your period. On one hand, you know it's something that women do so, every time yours rolls around, it's a reminder that our bodies are working just as they should be. On the other, ugh—there's the bloating, the cramping, the semi-paranoia that you're leaking, and (what really gets on my last nerve), the period pimples that almost always leave some sort of mark behind.
Even though I'm almost 45, my periods are still something I can set my watch to—the 21st, sometime around noon. I'm gonna be bloated, there's gonna be a zit in the most inconvenient place on my face, and my first two days are gonna be so heavy that sticking close to home is wise. Lord.
The silver lining is, as I have figured out what to expect (and endure) about my cycle, I've also discovered that the following 10 hacks have a way of making everything about my period a lot more pleasant than they used to be. Thank goodness for that!
Download a Period App
While a lot of people are down for using a period app when they're trying to conceive, some folks sleep on also using them if they're not. Since most physicians agree that a woman can get pregnant five days a month (4-5 days going into ovulation and about a day afterward), if you're sexually-active, you need to keep up with when those days are. If your period is not regulated, your ovulation could be all over the place.
Just so you can actually smile when you see a plus sign on a pregnancy test,download a period app. That way, you can know when it's a good idea to take extra special precautions when it comes to gettin' some so that getting pregnant isn't something that catches you off guard in the not-so-good kind of way.
Buy Some Organic Tampons and Pads
Personally, I prefer pads. I'm pretty sure a lot of it has to do with being taught that blood is designed to flow out and pads make that possible. Not to say that I don't totally get the convenience of wearing tampons (especially as it relates to the non-squishy factor). Either way, it's best to go with organic brands for both. Not only are they hypoallergenic but since they're biodegradable, they're good for the environment too.
Try a Pair of Period Panties
This is how old I am. When I got my first period (at 12), sanitary napkins still came with the belt that you had to wear around your waist. I was a couple of years older before I started wearing the self-adhesive kind. My point? Every time something new comes out as it relates to our menstrual cycle, we're gonna be skeptics, at first. That's why I totally get that you might turn up your nose at any pair of underwear that professes to hold two tampons-worth of blood, but that's just what Thinx panties do.
Personally, I think they're best for light days or when you need some extra back-up for your tampons or pads on heavy ones or when you want to sleep overnight in peace. While they're not the cheapest drawers on the planet (between $24-38 based on the style of panties you want), to know that you can toss all of your period panties away and reuse your Thinx makes it well worth the price tag (to me).
Invest in a Menstrual Cup
Something that is proven to make menstrual cramps so much easier to bear is having sex; more specifically, having orgasms from sex. The oxytocin that's produced from them helps to relieve uterine pain and discomfort.
That said, if you and/or your partner cringe at the sight of blood, consider using a menstrual cup or, my personal favorite, menstrual disc. Someone convinced me to give the disc a try and I must say that it was remarkable to not see or even feel any blood the entire time it was in there. Well…that is until it's time to take the disc or cup out. Then it's a bit like a murder scene.
However, women have told me that they've had sex and not even told their man they were on their period, thanks to the cup/disc, so…that makes all of the blood fingers worth it. Right? (If you wanna figure out, which cup is best for you, take a quiz here.)
Pay Attention to Your Blood’s Color
Just like your vaginal discharge can tell you a lot about your health, so can the color of your menstrual blood. Bright red is the color of new blood. Dark red is the color of blood that comes out in the morning time. Brownish red is old blood (typically what you'll see towards the end of your cycle). Pinkish red is usually what happens when you're spotting (although it can also be a sign that you are vitamin deficient). Orange-red is somewhat OK, but if the texture and scent are also different, see your doctor. It could be a sign that you've got an STD. And finally, if your blood happens to have a blue or purple tint, that tends to mean that your estrogen levels are higher than normal and you need more fiber in your system to balance them out.
Take Some Evening Primrose Oil, Calcium and Vitamin E
Something that has totally changed my life is evening primrose oil. It's a gamma-linolenic acid that contains anti-inflammatory properties that decrease PMS symptoms and perimenopause and menopause symptoms too. Since I've added it to my daily diet, I've had very little breast tenderness and no cramping discomfort at all.
As far as calcium goes, a lot of women have PMS symptoms simply because they are low in it. But if you take around 500 mg a day, it can reduce fatigue, cravings, and even feelings of depression. Personally, I prefer taking a calcium, magnesium, and zinc blend because the combo also calms my nervous system and helps me to sleep more soundly.
Vitamin E is cool because it slows down prostaglandins (compounds in the body that create hormone-like effects). As a result, cramps decrease significantly so. Foods that are high in Vitamin E include almonds, spinach, sunflower seeds, avocados, and mangoes.
Just make sure to consume these things throughout the entire month. You need a while to get it totally into your system in order for them to be the most effective.
Use Geranium Essential Oil
Whether you're looking to regulate your period or to decrease the amount of cramping that you feel, it's well worth the money to pick up a bottle of geranium oil. It's great because it helps to balance out your hormones. This is also the kind of oil that regulates your blood flow by constricting your blood vessels. Plus, it contains anti-inflammatory properties to relieve cramping and discomfort.
Usage tip: It's most effective if you add 3-4 drops of it into a carrier oil like sweet almond, avocado, or grapeseed and then rub your abdomen area with it, 2-3 times per day, during your period.
Eat Toast and Melons. Don’t Eat Dairy and Sugar.
It's pretty common to experience cravings while you're on your period. Just keep in mind that what you eat will determine a lot about how good or bad you'll feel until your cycle is over.
Foods that make the thumbs up list include toast and melons. Whole grain toast, because your body needs carbs during this time and it's a complex one that's better for you than cake or cookies. Also, whole grains produce serotonin in the body which soothes and relaxes you (which is why whole grain popcorn is a great "period food" too). Melons are beneficial because they contain something known as Cucumis melo; that's relevant because, in the days leading up to your period, your body stores up salt and fluids. Cucumis melo is a compound that flushes unneeded water from your system so that you have less bloating.
Foods that get the thumbs down? One of them is dairy. That's because it contains arachidonic acids. What those end up doing is triggering your prostaglandins in your body and increasing the intensity of your cramps. Another no-no is sugar. Yes, you may crave it, but it's a substance that will send your blood sugar levels on the kind of roller coaster ride that will throw your testosterone and estrogen levels completely off. In fact, a lot of women's mood swings during PMS can be directly attributed to them giving into their sugar cravings.
Don’t Drink Coffee. Do Drink Peppermint Tea.
No matter how much you love a piping cup of java in the morning, in the days leading up to your period and until it ends, try your best to go without it (or, at the very least, drink some decaf). The caffeine that's in coffee naturally causes your blood vessels to constrict. When that happens, your cramps feel stronger and can even last longer.
Instead, opt for some herbal tea; preferably peppermint tea. The antioxidants in it will make PMS symptoms like bloating and fatigue less of an issue. Plus, the menthol and anti-spasmodic properties that are found in peppermint leaves will provide a cooling effect on your reproductive system while lessening your cramps simultaneously.
Take a Nap
If you're someone who feels severely sleep-deprived during your period, you are not alone. Reportedly, 23 percent of women claim to not get enough z-z-z's the week before their period and 30 percent claim to toss and turn during the week of their cycle.
Aside from the fact that power naps increase productivity and creativity, reduce stress, and betters your mood, it can also relax your reproductive system so that your period doesn't drain you quite so much.
You can take advantage of all of these benefits by laying your head down for 10-15 minutes. Definitely something to think about when you're trying to decide between taking a nap in your car or going to the closest drive-thru on your lunch break.
(Hint, the nap is your better bet!)
Take care of you; especially during that time of the month, OK?
Featured image by Megan Madden / Refinery29 for Getty Images
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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The nicest thing about the music business over the holidays is that most well-known artists have already released their albums and singles for the year and have taken a seasonal slumber until the new year arrives. This gives lesser-known musicians who must work year-round a chance to shine and take over the airwaves for a short period of time. Therefore, this week's new music is filled with artists that you don't know but should.
With songs that share relatable themes of self-sabotage ("Ruined" and "Departure"), self-assurance and confidence ("I Am Love" and "Limbo"), and self-love and reflection ("Learn Ya" and "project"), this week's new songs illustrate the self-awareness that comes at the end of the year when everything has slowed down and solidified itself. Here are the top ten new songs of the week.
"Ruined" - Michael J Woodard
This song feels... familiar. The songs that the guitar strums remind me of were probably released in the late 2000s or early 2010s. The song's tempo, reminiscent of the time period, soothes listeners into a state of comfort as Michael J Woodard speaks on how a previous romance destroyed him. The ballad "Ruined" highlights two key points: first, the singer takes responsibility for his own life's devastation, and second, he is now pleading for some sense of pity, since his partner has moved on, indicating that his careless actions in the relationship have destroyed whatever prospects he may have had.
The song is enjoyable. However, listening to Woodard sing over the chorus of this song, which expresses how he created the riff in his relationship, yet is offended that his love has the nerve to go on, is annoying after a while. One finds it difficult to feel sorry for someone who is so self-aware. Mostly because, like a lot of others, he thinks that just admitting his mistakes and making a commitment to never make them again absolves him of responsibility for what he has done.
Although he doesn't appear to entirely believe in this "forgive and forget" truth, there is a part of him that thinks his love will hear about his suffering and understand that he is ready to change now that he understands where he went wrong. And with this belief, it feels like he never truly learned the lesson that ruined him in the first place.
"Marking My Time" (Live) - Elmiene
Futuristic neo-soul musician Elmiene released his newest EP, Marking My Time, in October 2023. When discussing the EP's release, the singer states that it was meant to mark time in his personal history so that he wouldn't "get lost." Almost creating an adhesion checkpoint, the singer wanted to be sure to document and acknowledge the imprint he left on the musical world, no matter how small. This, of course, makes sense, given the R&B singer is someone we will likely hear about for years to come, especially after being dubbed the "Golden Boy" of Brit R&B.
In his latest single, "Marking My Time," the singer speaks of putting his soul on fire and escaping a society that he believes is morally corrupt and damaged over a soft guitar and dramatic string orchestra. The live version of the song is warm, comforting, and a little disheartening as we hear the singer's smooth vocals moan and plea over the ability to free himself and how doing so is easier said than done. The entire EP is worth listening to. However, if you don't have the time, treat yourself to the live rendition on YouTube.
"I Am Love" - Cecily
"You're my favorite, dubby dubby doo."
Cecily Bumbray, I believe, would be the musical love child of Jill Scott, Kaiit, and Esperanza Spalding. A singer and songwriter from Washington, DC, Cecily finds her footing in the R&B/Soul/Jazz world in her newest single, "I Am Love," in which she sings of being the epitome of love. The lead track from her next project, Awakening Pt. 2, which drew inspiration from bell hooks' book All About Love, emphasizes the value of affirmations, as the song highlights one's ability to remind oneself, especially during times of hardship, that you are love.
Due to its earnestly positive themes, the song has a cozy, milk-and-honey feel about it. It is endearing, restorative, and full of affection.
In the end, the song provides a nice groove that shows that love can come from many places, even and especially from within. "I Am Love," characterized by a laid-back rhythm and deep harmonies, seamlessly resides at the nexus of jazz and soul, mirroring the romantic sentiments of 1990s neo-soul artists with a contemporary spin.
"Black Owned Friday" - Keke Palmer ft. Crystal Waters
This song would probably be a terrific choice for a ballroom challenge if Max hadn't canceled the show, Legendary, which Keke Palmer used to cohost. Unfortunately, it has been canceled, so this song would only work well at a club during a Renaissance- or 1980s/90s-themed night. During Black Friday weekend, the song honored Black-owned companies and provided unwavering support for them. Palmer reworked the 90s hit song "100% Pure Love" by Crystal Waters in collaboration with Google to highlight Black-owned businesses.
The song is entertaining and catchy, while the music video features several Black-owned businesses and goods. She exhorts that everyone, regardless of race, invest in Black-owned companies and use their earnings for projects that would help more underprivileged entrepreneurs. The message conveys the importance of building financial success in communities that otherwise wouldn't be able to do it on their own.
"Learn Ya" - 6LACK
In preparation for his upcoming fifth studio album, 6Lack is releasing the lyric video to some of his older songs. One of those songs is "Learn Ya" from his 2016 album, Free 6Lack. Now that I have the opportunity to listen to the song again, I can't help but think of how masterfully written the song is and how it makes one accountable to their partner.
In the ballad "Learn Ya," 6Lack describes the problematic relationship he has found himself in. Confronting his girlfriend, or soon-to-be ex, the singer lists many attributes that are necessary to have a successful relationship. Unfortunately, his lover doesn't seem to possess any of them. So, throughout the song, he brings her shortcomings to her attention in a straightforward, non-accusatory tone. He merely points out how she could love him better, and in hopes of succeeding together, he holds himself accountable for teaching her how to love him correctly.
Although she appears purposefully ignorant of her mistakes, throughout the song, she seems unwilling to correct them. Still, throughout the song, 6Lack continues to use words like "we" and "us" to show that she doesn't have to grow alone in their relationship and that despite being frustrated with her, he still desires to make their relationship work.
"Limbo" - Meduulla ft. The Mouse Outfit
How evocative this tune is.
I've been missing the storytelling rap that only a few artists—Kendrick Lamar, an early J.Cole, and older rappers from the 1980s and 1990s—can provide. Meduulla discusses finding contentment in simple existence in a narrative akin to a lullaby. Living such a life means remaining loyal to herself and without compromising the qualities that define her. She struggles, though, to balance the life she is now attempting to give up and leave behind with the one she is creating for herself through her goals.
Her biggest struggle at the moment is how to handle herself during this transitional period, or how she will manage to overcome being in limbo.
Even yet, it doesn't sound like she's doing this in a melancholy manner in the song.
As she creates the life she believes she deserves, she is primarily interested in learning the answer to her question in order to make sure she takes the most tranquil and healing path possible for herself. The song is easy listening and fun, making you question where people feel safest while they're going through their transformations and how one can obtain the most peaceful manner in accomplishing their purposeful growth.
"Lonely At the Top" (Remix) - Asake & H.E.R.
Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake's song "Lonely At The Top (Remix)" is the newest single from his latest project, Work of Art [WOA]. In the song, Asake and H.E.R. delve into the themes of determination, tenacity, and the cost incurred in pursuing one's dreams despite naysayers' beliefs. The song captures the loneliness that one can acquire when at the top, and how it frequently accompanies achievement when one is in unwavering pursuit of their dreams. The singers consider the difficulties associated with success and how it can create a feeling of loneliness, while one longs for understanding and human connection.
This is one of the better H.E.R. collaborations to come out in the last few weeks. This is mostly because the song does a fantastic job of capturing the artists' dedication to following their passion relentlessly, regardless of what other people might approve of or desire. The song's lyricism is serious, but the melody is relaxing and surefooted, allowing for moments of reflection on one's circumstances. The single demonstrates the artists' will to follow their ambitions despite opposition and loneliness.
It emphasizes putting one's own aspirations ahead of other people's ideas and expectations by showing the sacrifices and steadfast devotion that come with chasing dreams.
"Departure" - Fetty Wap
It appears that a number of musicians have encountered significant legal issues recently. For instance, Young Thug's long-delayed trial for gang-related charges has recently begun after more than a year of the rapper's incarceration, Tory Lanez was just sentenced to ten years in prison, and YNW Melly is awaiting a retrial on his charges of double murder. And that's only a handful of the musicians facing difficulties; Fetty Wap, for example, hasn't put out an album in what seems like 1,738 years due to his legal issues. Nevertheless, the musician has released his most recent album, King Zoo, months after being sentenced to six years in prison on drug trafficking charges. While away, the "Trap Queen" artist released his newest single, "Departure" from his newly released project.
It's a smart release that makes for a great single for his next album. The song's melody, which has a chord pattern similar to DJ Khaled and Rihanna's "Wild Thoughts" in certain portions and Ashanti's early 2000s smash "Foolish" in others, is catchier than its words. Though the message is clear: Fetty Wap trusted the wrong people, and despite all of his accomplishments and "good behavior," this has resulted in his downfall and inevitable departure from those in his original crew.
"project" - Zowie Kengocha
This song has the sense of a seductress luring you in with the promise of love and affection. And instead of taking a measured approach with every barrier up, you joyously disarm each act of protection in the hopes of feeling even a tiny bit of her professed devotion. Until today, I've never heard a song from Zowie Kengocha, a singer-songwriter raised in Nairobi, and born in New Jersey, but after I did, I wish I had heard from the artist sooner. However, as they say, I'm glad to have arrived later than never.
In her newest single for her forthcoming EP, Kengocha's voice is clear, clean, and seductive, as she gives listeners the impression of being enveloped in warmth while swaying in a lover's embrace.
This song is ideal to play for a new love since it describes the euphoric sensation that one has when one first falls in love and their sentiments are reciprocated. The track "project" is transparent and straightforward, adding to its charm that makes downloading this gem ideal for spending a beautiful evening with the one you fancy.
"Diversion" - Tamera
I really enjoy it when performers introduce their audience to other deserving musicians that they may not have otherwise heard of. R&B artist Mahalia presents her listeners to R&B singer Tamera in her most recent single. In the acoustic rendition of the more upbeat song "Diversion," Tamera declares a warning to her partner about the thoughtless and risky conduct she has noticed in their relationship. Primarily, she sings of how, after she sees the warning signs, his erratic and dubious conduct makes her suspicious and makes her battle between the urge to fall in love with him versus leaving him where he stands.
She understands that his actions are making her respond in a way that is consistent with her nature and how she has forgiven guys like him before. Though, based on her experience, she quickly acknowledges that he is nothing more than a diversion whose sole intention is to manipulate her emotions for his own amusement. The intriguing aspect of this song is Tamera's self-awareness, as she expresses discontent with the relationship. By the end of the song, listeners question why she hasn't "tapped out of the circus" she claims to be in when it is so clear that he doesn't mind making her look like a clown.
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Featured image via Cecily/Vevo