By Cassie Johnston
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Anyone who has ever experienced a period knows that society tells us we’re supposed to feel one way about the fact that our body bleeds every month—dread.
We’re supposed to loathe it. We’re not supposed to talk about it. We’re supposed to skip our sugar pills so we don’t get it. And we sure as heck aren’t supposed to do something crazy like honor it. We’re supposed to pop in a tampon we hid in our shirt sleeve, slither into our white skinny jeans, and pretend like the whole thing isn’t happening. LA LA LA LA LA! Period? Who me? I don’t have a period! I don’t know what you’re talking about.
And that’s exactly the spot I lived in for 20 years of monthly periods (well, minus those months of pregnancy). I’d start my period, sigh with great displeasure at the inconvenience of it all, and power on, ignoring the fact that my body was BLEEDING FOR FIVE STRAIGHT DAYS. I was so petrified (subconsciously at first, and then consciously later) that my period would be used as ammunition against me (whaddup, patriarchy) that I pretended it wasn’t happening. Through the cramps, through the menstrual migraines, through the irrational tears—I just pretended like it wasn’t even there.
Until I didn’t anymore. Something about childbirth unlocked a pride in my body that I didn’t know I could have. Not just pride in my traditionally positive traits, but pride in everything about my body. Pride in the hairy places and wrinkly places and calloused places and stretch marked places and even pride over the fact that I had a period. It wasn’t that I felt superior because I had regular menstrual cycles, it was that I felt like all of my body deserved to be honored—even the parts that society tells me to hide away.
Thus began my journey to embrace my bleed. It started small at first—taking a bubble bath here or a nap there—and now it’s fleshed out into a full-bore period vacation each month.
I am eternally grateful to have a flexible schedule and supportive family that afford me the ability to spend at least one day during my period each month resting, relaxing, and reconnecting with my needs. I don’t cook. I don’t work. I don’t check my emails. I don’t even do much parenting. I sleep, I meditate, I read, I create, I take lots of baths, I drink lots of tea, I journal, I do lots of yin yoga, I listen to lots of emo music, I cry (a lot). I honor my body’s request to rest and release.
The crazy thing is that by honoring it, my body seems to be repaying me with fewer and less intense menstrual migraines, fewer cramps, and shorter, less heavy periods. And even crazier still, by turning my period into this time of rest and reflection, I actually look forward to it each month. It’s a blessing, a joy, a desperately needed break. I don’t ignore my period anymore—I embrace it with open arms.
I know this kind of intensive menstrual time-out isn’t even in the realm of possibility for a lot of people with periods, but today I wanted to offer you something that I think could fit into a lot of people’s lives—a bleed box. A bleed box is exactly what you think it is: a box filled with goodies to help you nurture yourself through your period. In the same way that hygge taught us all that winter isn’t something to endure, a bleed box can help you find the joy in your period.
Everyone’s bleed box is inherently personal, but when you’re thinking about filling it, think about what items will bring your comfort and joy during your period. Those items go in your bleed box.
Here is the list of what’s in mine, for example. Remember: I am a cis-woman with regular periods. My periods are uncomfortable, but not painful, and the arrival of my period is celebratory—I have no desire to get pregnant (nope, nope, nope) and my period is the first thing to go haywire when my body isn’t healthy. So getting my period regularly is good for my emotional health.
1. Period panties and menstrual cup: Switching to reusable menstrual products was one of the best moves I’ve ever made for my own health. My body is so much happier! I use period panties most days of my period and then use both my menstrual cup and the panties on my heaviest days.
2. Crystals: I love having crystals in my life. I don’t know if I necessarily believe fully in all the hype surrounding their healing properties, but I think they are beautiful, love the history surrounding their use, and figure they can’t hurt! I particularly like moonstone during my period. Moonstone is all about balancing feminine energy and embracing the goddess within.
3. Hot tea: My period (especially during winter) is all about being warm and cozy, and that means I drink a lot of this warming tea during my bleed. I’ve been loving this Moonease tea blend I picked up at a shop while traveling, but I also make my own blend that is similar to chai with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
4. Super soft red clothes and pajamas: I have a set of the softest red shirts, pants, and wraps that I keep in my bleed box—only to be worn during my period. I rarely wear red outside of my period, so putting these on feels like slipping into my superhero costume.
5. Moonstone pendant: I found this moon pendant while traveling, and it has a little bit of moonstone inside of it—I only wear it during my period. It’s beautiful, and I get compliments on it every month!
6. Scarf: A simple way to honor my period—by wearing this red vintage scarf I own. I tie it around my ponytail, wear it around my neck, or tie it on my bag. I get SO many compliments on this scarf, and no one knows I’m wearing it because I’m bleeding. Although I suppose the secret is out now! It makes me laugh because the big red polka dots look like blood dropping on a white scarf—sooooo not subtle.
7. Incense: I create a sacred space when I’m on my period (especially in the first few days), and part of that is filling the room with scents that bring me joy. I also like to surround myself with beautiful things, like this lotus incense holder.
8. Red moonstone mala: I get very meditative during my period, so I do a lot of mala meditations using this special mala I beaded—it only comes out during my period. The guru bead is unpolished moonstone with a moon goddess charm.
9. Magazines: I try to save up some of my favorite magazines each month for reading only during my period. It takes some serious willpower not to dig in beforehand, but it’s so worth it! It’s such a treat to zone out with some good magazines.
10. Rose candle: Something about my period makes me crave the scent of rose, so I love this super floral rose candle.
11. Red pen and journal: I journal every day, but I switch to a red pen when I’m bleeding. Not only does it feel like a nice, small way to honor my bleed, but it also helps me flip back to previous months and say “Ohhhh, that’s why I’m feeling that way, it’s a red day!” I can be so predictable.
12. A good book: I find about 40 new books each month I want to read, and each month, I pick the one that I absolutely want to read the most (that isn’t too intellectual), and place it in my bleed box to wait until my next period. As a reader, having a good book that is reserved for my period makes me look forward to it in and of itself!
13. Magnesium spray: As I mentioned above, I get (or used to get) wicked menstrual migraines. Magnesium helps. The second I feel a headache coming on, I spray some on my body to help.
14. Bath salts: I love a good bath all the time, but during my period, it feels like the best dang thing on the planet. I use lots of candles, lots of deep, introspective music, and some of these bath salts I specifically made for my bleed.
15. Essential oil roller: This blend is specially formulated for the new moon, and I love its cleansing scent during my period. I roll it on me constantly! It’s only available locally to me, but any good essential oil blend that makes you happy would work.
16. Watercolor set and pad: I’m naturally a pretty creative gal, but I find my creativity in overdrive during my period. My body is exhausted, so I don’t want to funnel that into work. Instead, I do a less pressure-filled creative activity. Lately, it’s been watercolors—I love the softness and brightness. But this swaps in and out depending on my mood!
17. Hot water bottle: This might be my favorite thing in my bleed box—a good old fashioned hot water bottle! Great for cramps or just general coziness. Just the simple act of taking the time to fill a hot water bottle and sit on the couch with it is such an important act of self-care.
18. Dark chocolate: Not to get all cliche, but isn’t chocolate the best part about having a period? I restock the box with new chocolate at the end of each period.
19. Hot cocoa: Basically combining two previous ideas into one! A nice, cozy hot cup of chocolate. This only goes in my bleed box during the cold weather months.
I know right now some of you are thinking—this sounds great if you’re a cis-gendered woman with regular periods, but what if your period is emotionally traumatic? Maybe you’re struggling with infertility and each period breaks your heart. Maybe having a regular period brings on intense body dysphoria. Maybe you have a history of sexual or emotional abuse that brings up traumatic feelings around your period. Maybe your periods are irregular. Maybe your periods are so painful you just want them to stop.
Then, I’d argue, you need to shower yourself in compassion even more during your period—and you can do that through a bleed box. It’s not about the period itself, it’s about carving out designated time each month to honor yourself and your body. My box was about honoring my period, but maybe your box is about honoring your heartbreak, uplifting your spirits, or nurturing your soul. The point of a bleed box is about giving yourself whatever you need during this very sensitive time each month—you’re the only person who can decide what you need. So, my friend, what do you need?
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love this post!
I love this. I too struggled for years with my periods. They were incredibly painful and overly emotional. They made me feel so out of control. But after my children, I had the same experience. It is a celebration of what I am. What my body can accomplish, and as I get older, I look at it as a celebration of my youth. There will be a day in the future that I will no longer have a period. This phase of my life will be over for good, so for now, while I’m young (I’ll be 36 in a little over a week), I want to honor this time for what it is, a symbol of the summer of my life. I love the idea of a bleed box (I had a postpartum box after my last baby and it was awesome) so I think I’ll be setting one up for myself! Thanks for the great ideas.
I’m way into this post! I only just started embracing my period within that past year and it’s made a world of a difference. A period is the only time our bodies are bleeding naturally and somehow it’s the most taboo time to talk about. This post makes me so happy!
I love that you honored yourself, but at the same time you gave honor and space to women who might struggle with their menses for whatever personal reason they have. This was really beautiful, thank you so much for putting it out into the world! <3
This is such a beautiful post! I haven’t had a true period in years – Nexplanon keeps mine to occasional spotting – but this made me (almost) nostalgic for mine! Thank you for reminding me to honor my body – it might not look like I wish it to and it might not always feel great, but it’s carried me this far and deserves compassion and appreciation because of that.
And THANK YOU for writing this in such an inclusive, intersectional manner. Periods are a reality for some many different kinds of people and it’s important that cis-women (myself included) remember that.
I love this idea! Thanks for the inspiration and the thoughtful post! I also really appreciate the care you took to be sensitive and inclusive to all individuals experiencing periods. I look forward to being more mindful and honoring my body during my next bleed.
Wow, thank you very much for including our Intuitive Candles in your “Bleed Box” . We hope you Light, Relax and Reveal your hidden gift! Please when you find your reveal post it up on our page.. would love to know what you find.
Well, I treat myself a little and don’t force working out during that time… so I consider that sort of like a box… I wish I could get out of other things, but that will have to do. Since I can’t use a cup (gave me UTIs which I never otherwise got), I have to change every ~2 hours so I go easy on myself in other aspects.
This is one of the best posts I have read in many, many years. I will be incorporating some of these ideas for myself and teach my very young girls to honor their bodies when they get older.
Thank you so much for this post, and for recognizing that everyone experiences the idea of menstruating differently depending on their identities and past experiences.
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