Do you, like many women, dread your monthly bleed? Or ignore it as far as possible then battle exhaustion and plummeting mood when it’s due? Does pain and heavy bleeding wreck your plans for days every month? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re not alone.

A recent study by the Victorian Women’s Trust of nearly 3,500 women and girls found that 42 per cent of those surveyed, in all age groups, either ‘disliked everything’ about periods or felt ‘its good and bad but mostly bad’. Among girls 12 to 18 this statistic jumped alarmingly to 70 per cent.

This data is published in About Bloody Time – the menstrual revolution we have to have, a new book that takes a deep dive into the biological integrity of the menstrual cycle, the nature, spread and impact of the menstrual taboo, as well as a powerful call to action to abolish it once and for all – the taboo that is, not periods.

While what will help individual women have an easier experience will be as diverse as women themselves, and may include specialist health practitioner support, the following tips offer a power of good.

Rest

You may not be able to stop everything for a week every month, but even in the busiest of lives some different behaviours can allow for a slower pace or more spaciousness. What’s one thing you could do differently? What can you put off until next week? Can you relax your standards to basic and simple for a few days?

Give yourself permission to drop a few balls, go at the pace of your body, go to bed earlier, do something creative or in nature, just because it feels good.

Words

What’s your menstrual mindset? Does it allow for kindness and compassion toward yourself if your experience of your period as less than optimal? Make a simple note of how you think and feel about it for a month or so and then consider if the words you use allow for self-care, and discovering and unfolding a new experience.

Language is powerful so if you’re after better periods play with new words to describe how this would be. Supported? Nourished? Relaxed? Inspired? Connected?

Curiosity

Pay a little extra attention to learn more about your own menstrual cycle. For instance, note symptoms on an app, journal your mood through the month or learn more about your cyclic biology: what role does each hormone play? Why do we menstruate? Look up the photography of Lennart Nilsson for beautiful images of a mature egg at the point of ovulation, waving fimbrae at the end of a fallopian tube and more.

Reflect on the nature of cycles – like the seasons, the day-night cycle, the lunar cycle, the breath – and how the rhythmic qualities of these can also be found in the menstrual cycle. How might this perspective help you find the natural qualities, strengths and rhythm of your own cycle?

Eat

Our understanding of food sensitivities and allergies is growing year by year, to the relief of multitudes. In many instances symptoms of these are exacerbated before and during menstruation for those who cycle, and discovering and attending to food sensitivities can certainly help.

More generally, a delicious, colourful diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit, good oils, legumes, nuts, and other quality protein, like fish, is brilliant for all kinds of menstrual problems, including acne, pain, depression and bloating. Reducing or eliminating coffee and sugar (sorry!) can also make a big difference to your menstrual experience, especially after ovulation until after menstruation. That said a little good quality dark chocolate can do wonders for cramps and mood — definitely worth keeping a medicinal dose on hand!

Move

What kind of movement can help you have happier periods, and what kind can make them worse? While individual preferences and experience certainly play a part, research suggests the following principles. Strong abdominal workouts while menstruating can increase cramping and menstrual difficulties. A few simple yoga poses can make a world of difference – ask a yoga teacher, google ‘yoga for *insert purpose*’ or see Sue Blanch’s Yoga and the Menstrual Cycle. If you’re into serious training, consider lighter exercise during your period – mixing it up can actually improve your overall performance.

If none of that is your thing, just know that regular enjoyable movement throughout your cycle can significantly reduce menstrual problems, and a walk in nature on the days of your bleed will lighten your load and lift your spirits.

Orgasm

If you’re up for partner or solo sex during your period orgasms can be great for reducing cramps and lifting mood, thanks to the natural endorphins and oxytocin released by your body. A leisurely, loving cuddle can provide a good hormone boost too.

Protection

If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your menstrual product preferences there are some great newish options that many women swear have made their periods easier and more enjoyable, not to mention cheaper. These include menstrual cups, period underwear and cloth pads. All of which also help reduce waste.

Support

Think about what doable help from your partner, your children, your work colleagues and your friends would make a difference to your menstrual experience. If this feels like a big ask, start small. Can you change some practical expectations and logistics? Can you prepare before your period starts? What about professional support? Have you put off getting help or don’t know who to ask? Do you wonder what’s normal in period pain or volume of blood? Do you feel anxious at the thought of talking about this very personal experience? Make a plan and take small steps.

Practice these tips for a month or two and see what changes. Then choose someone you trust to share your experiences and discoveries with. Notice how this feels and whether positive connection and more ideas flow from sharing and communicating about periods.

Jane Bennett is a menstrual educator and co-author of About Bloody Time: the menstrual revolution we have to have.