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May 28, 2020

Self-Care During Your Period: Why It’s OK to Go Easy on Yourself During That Time

Imagine an illness with 100 documented symptoms. You’d take it easy if you caught it, right? Well, that’s what half of us on planet Earth go through every month. Here, why self-care during your period is not so much a nice-to-have but a need-to-have.


For some women, the period comes and goes without leaving too much destruction in its wake. For many others, it’s like being run over by several trucks in quick succession. Not only do periods trigger a range of physical and psychological reactions (from flu-like symptoms to raging cramps), but for centuries those who identified as women* have been expected to function as if they don’t exist.


Thankfully, the explosion of research in the recent decade has revealed how complex periods are and how important it is to monitor and track your period. Rather than ascribing mood swings, fatigue, and depression to PMS and pasting a fake smile over your pain, I recommend using your period to take some time to evaluate and rest as much as possible.



Me on my period, except I look more like a dead fish. King’s Family



Whenever I watch Korean reality shows on beauty, I am intrigued by how many times women ask for skincare tips during their periods. No matter how ace your skincare game is, the hormonal changes in your body during menstruation often manifests on your skin. The takeaway I gain from these shows is that skincare and makeup should be used to conceal all signs of a period.


There’s nothing wrong with wanting to address period pimples. Or wanting to counteract grease attacks brought on by PMS. But rather than throwing products at your skin, I suggest adopting a kinder stance toward yourself during your period and addressing skin issues from within.



You’re allowed to lean on a loved one’s shoulder. Chocolate



The symptoms of your period


Consider that your body is dealing with any of the following: cramps, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, cravings, depression, nausea, dizziness, weakness, bleeding, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, muscle or joint pain, headaches, etc. I can go on and on because there are around a hundred symptoms during your period.


Pause for a moment while we ingest this: one hundred documented symptoms.


I’m not saying we experience all of these symptoms. But chances are high that you experience a combination of these symptoms. And instead of grimacing through the dark days, I suggest you use the time when symptoms are at their peak to go easy on yourself.



When our periods mean business. Stove League



Why self-care during your period matters


I personally have really difficult PMS and a debilitating first two days of the period. I can feel my cramps even after I’ve popped a painkiller. My body also decides to cosplay a slug. I remember that as a teacher in Korea, teaching multiple classes while on my period was one of the hardest experiences on the job. My fatigue and weakness meant I often had to sit in my chair and teach from there, to the bemusement of my young students.


Menstruation is still such a taboo that even taking things easier on those days feels like a transgression. Women have been known to call in sick rather than explain they’re having their period. Many work environments are not equipped to cater to menstruating women, although some companies have now started offering women optional “period leave.” Girls in some parts of the world often have to skip school because of the stigma associated with periods.





Self-care often gets a bad rap for advocating self-indulgence. However, self-care is smart, especially if it is mindful and orients around you making deliberate choices around your period that boost your mental and physical health. Author and nutritionist Amanda Laird, who wrote a whole book on periods, Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation, advocates for practicing body literacy by gathering information during your period and eating foods that reduce inflammation and make us feel better.


My Korean friends would often cancel social engagements while on their periods and use those days to rest if they didn’t have to go into work. Inspired by them, and by Laird, I curated a more mindful stance towards my periods. The tips I provide below have helped me greatly on my own period days and have drawn out the stress and anxiety I used to associate with them.



Self-care during your period: Work


See if you can “go slow” at work. This may mean not overloading yourself cognitively, or attending to those tasks that require less mental or physical input but are still necessary for “housekeeping” or staying on track. If you have a major deadline or are working on a huge project, try to work in bursts with rests for stretching and green tea. I recommend eating dark chocolate, kale, nuts, avocados and salmon — these foods tend to soothe the stomach and are both invigorating and nourishing.



self-care during your period
Take time to wear comfy sweaters and read all those novels you’ve stacked up. Romance is a Bonus Book



Self-care during your period: Home


Now is the time for takeout or a quick meal. Ask family or anyone around you to care for you by allowing you space or resting with you. I generally use my period as an excuse for Korean drama watching. As a postgraduate student, my days fly by in a series of projects and analytical work, so I often only get to watch Korean dramas when I’m sick.


Remember that never-ending list of symptoms a few paragraphs earlier? Having your period is akin to being sick. When you’re in physical pain and your feelings are having their own emotional breakdowns, it’s completely okay to indulge in Hyun Bin a Korean drama of your choice.



self-care during your period
Hyun Bin in Crash Landing on You



Self-care during your period: Skin


Every woman’s skin is different, but acne tends to flare up around the time of your period. I personally like to spot treat with pimple patches from COSRX. If you wear them at bedtime, come morning, they should have sucked all the gunk out. It’s very satisfying to peel off a patch and watch all the stuff ooze out of your pores. Since skin tends to get inflamed and sensitive during this time, I recommend skincare products that market themselves as cooling such as COSRX’s Hydrium Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel.


You may also be too tired during your period to do your normal skincare routine. I recommend using sleeping masks so you can wake up the next day with refreshed looking skin. One period-friendly Korean beauty product is Hanyul’s Pure Artemisia Watery Cream. It’s gentle and rehydrates your skin overnight.


If you do have time, break out those face masks. Try face masks that target redness or inflammation. COSRX One Step Green Hero Calming Pad not only calms your skin, they can also be used as face masks. I also recommend Mediheal’s tea tree sheet masks to keep breakouts at bay.





Generally, consider the adage “less is more” as helpful for your period. Rather than stressing out about your period pimples, direct your focus to a creative activity such as baking or making origami bookmarks. You’ll taste the pleasing glow of accomplishment rather than fall into obsessive worry about your period acne.



Don’t forget to reach out


You can also use this time to reach out to girlfriends with words of affirmation or making cards for no reason other than to show how much you appreciate them. Maybe it’s phoning your mother or aunt or elderly family member, maybe it’s baking cupcakes for your colleagues at the office. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture — even a short email will suffice. During this time I like to remember all the amazing women in my life. A small gesture of love can traverse huge distances.



self-care during your period
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo



*I use the term women to refer to those who self-identify as women, as I am aware that not everybody who menstruates may do so.



When not traveling and pestering people of varying ages and histories with impertinent questions for research purposes (yes, it’s legit), Becky indulges her passion for narrative by watching Korean dramas (she’s a certified sageuk addict). Her obsession with all things Asian began at the tender age of 5 when her parents moved to Taiwan for a year. Since then she’s travelled and lived in China, India, and South Korea, and spends her face-masking moments planning the next great Asian exploration.




Verified Expert

This is a great article. With all the cramps, bloating, and irritability, you deserve to relax. Ladies, go ahead and pamper yourself. Put on sheet masks, moisturize your skin and deep condition your hair. Try to eat healthy and drink loads of water. I cannot stress that enough! If you don't already, take hot showers during that time of the month and use a oil like Bioderma's Atoderm Shower Oil. Just massage it in when you are showering to soothe your muscles. You'll come out feeling calm and moisturized!


Verified Expert

Oh boy am I guilty of this! I used to be nonstop go go go but now I take my self care time super seriously...especially during that time. The minute I can feel my mood shifting or getting irritated a little more quickly than normal I go into proactive mode and slow myself down. Right now my favorite thing to do is take a hot shower with eucalyptus hanging from the shower head, put of loose comfy cloths and do some yoga and apply sheet masks. My current obsession is the Dr Oracle Diamond one. Its got actual... Read more


Verified Expert

self care during your period is SO IMPORTANT. the symptoms and flow of your period are determined by so many different factors-- the amount of time you're on your feet/working out every day/week, the type of food and drink you put in your body, genetics, and way more. Unfortunately for us women, we have no choice but to go through these pains and struggles for that one week every month! Take it easy, it's okay!


Verified Expert

Will it be cool if women can receive paid time off during that time of the month lol.


Verified Expert

This is speaking to me on a spiritual level. I deal with headaches, intense cramps, nausea, and fatigue. I like using a period app called Flo. It works perfectly for me when tracking my period. I usually drink some lemon and ginger tea while watching my favorite tv shows.


Verified Expert

This hit so close to home for me. I also struggle hard with my period. Debilitating cramps, brain fog, and bloating are my main issues. I always try to take it easy on those days, green tea with honey and heating pads are my best friends!


Verified Expert

I have found that using the app Clue helps me track my symptoms. You can log each day how you slept, what you are feeling, whether or not you exercised, etc. It's been helpful for me to see how my cycle progresses and actually helped me understand my moods and what to expect. I have also read that tracking your cycle n this way can help when your doctor is trying to help you with any medical issues. we are so complex as women and it's a beautiful thing but man it doesn't always feel that way. Great article.... Read more


Verified Expert

I use a similar app, but I'm afraid I'm not as diligent. I usually just use it to help predict when D-Day will hit! lol. Great tip, I think I will try to log more.


Verified Expert

I make sure to self care when I can. I usually treat myself to some herbal tea, chocolate , a heating pad and a nice face mask.For menstrual breakouts I act preemptively and treat with salicylic acid or other acne fighting ingredients. 


Verified Expert

its so important to have self care during those times. I always take out a sheet mask and pop it on my face and try to relax. You can't freak out as it may get worse when your stressed, staying hydrated not only from the inside but outside is as important.


Verified Expert

i love this ! especially for those of us (including myself) that struggle with an occasional period pimple which is so frustrating especially when you've been having such good skin days. ohh mother nature.. I like to think a face wask especially those days in that month will make everything better and I'm glad i don't stand alone lol