3min readHealth 13 November 2019
Okay, so the headline says it all.
There's been a movement building steam over the last ten years or so, that actively promotes the idea that women don't have to have periods, that they are unnecessary, burdensome – and if you're not going to have a baby, why not just "turn off your period?"
Well, for one, it's called "menopause," and two, Mother Nature built it into the magnificence of women's bodies. And thirdly, they do stop, naturally, when the time is right.
Are you kidding me? If you could see me, you'd see that I look like one of Daenerys Targaryen's "children." This topic enrages me, and I hope by the end of this article, you'll be angry, too. We need to use our anger as a force for change around women's reproductive rights.
Let's tackle this idea from the standpoint of women's reproductive health and our right to live in a world that actually makes space for, and honors, our biology and the rights inherent in being women.
With all due respect to those who espouse this concept, I strongly disagree with the idea. Medical science (and primarily the pharmaceutical industry) makes women's bodies an experimental playground for new drugs, and it's always around our hormones, which are a rich and complex landscape within our bodies. I also want to clarify that when I say medical science, I am not maligning doctors in particular. They are part of a system of miseducation that is at the root of why women's reproductive health is at risk. But there are many western doctors turning to integrative medicine and working to help women heal from this system.
From the time we are young girls, before our first period, we are taught to fear it, to be ashamed of our blood, and to see it as a nuisance. When we are lead down that path, it becomes what we accept as truth. We are not taught another perspective, one which teaches young women that our menstrual cycle is connected to our psyches and that it's one of the best tools for self-understanding and awareness we will ever know. This is one aspect of my own teachings that I am very passionate about, and those teachings have changed many women's lives in my 20 years of doing this important work.
Instead, we are taught to bond over the pain, the discomfort, the mess, the moodiness.
But what if we had been taught to see our periods as a monthly opportunity to commune with ourselves and to turn within, to see it as a monthly opportunity to evaluate our lives and to clean up the messes that aren't aligned with who we are, and who we want to be?
Many, many years ago I read a book called, "The Woman in the Body," which was eye-opening about how our society and its systems have built into its structures, via language and industry, the exclusion of women's biological processes as a positive attribute in our lives. We go to extreme lengths to uphold Patriarchal ideas that don't make room for women's biological processes, instead of creating a new system that is inclusive of our biology. It's only been fairly recent that women are being accommodated to breastfeed at work.
I believe that we need to make similar accommodations for women's needs during our menstrual cycles, and it's not from a place of being handicapped because of our biology. It's our right. What's been done to women to make us feel bad about our natural processes is as institutionalized as racism, and because of that, we cannot see it, but it affects our lives daily.
Turning off your period is a dangerous idea. When the medical community tells women it's safe to do so; I urge you not to listen. It's designed to sell pharmaceuticals and make money. Women's bodies are the cash cows of that industry. I implore you to dig deep and do your own research. Question everything you hear.
Let's talk a little bit about why it's dangerous. Using hormonal birth control (BC) in one form or another is the medium for stopping your period. These hormones have been labeled safe, but use your judgment if you've been on BC or know women who have had massive issues while taking it. Have you ever read the package insert literature about all of the potential side effects? If you haven't, you should educate yourself by doing so. This is one of my foundational tenets, that information is power, and most women are not educated enough about their bodies – so we turn that power over to "experts."
In my overall life, health and sexuality coaching with women, I've worked with many over the years who have been on various kinds of BC; patches, DepoProvera (one of the worst), IUDs with additional hormones, and across the board have heard all of them say how badly they feel using these methods. Once they have transitioned off of them, they have said how much better they've felt.
Menstrual cycles are a 100% natural part of our reproductive biology. And instead of endorsing an idea that we should stop our periods, we should focus instead on changing society's treatment of women and fostering acceptance of our cycles. Our cycles and our psyches are interconnected. We should be taught to respect this part of our lives as women and how to use it as a life-enhancing tool.
Women have periods for a reason. Via societal messages and the medical community's promotion of our periods as a problem, we make the period the villain instead of the systems built around women that make our lives stressful, which has an impact on how we experience our periods and whether they are painful or empowering.
What do you think would happen if the pharmaceutical industry came out with a new medication that stopped men from making sperm? That would end unwanted pregnancies and the abortion controversy in large part. How well do you think that would go over?
So why is it okay to mess with women's biology and our hormone balance?
After a year or more of using hormonal BC consistently, here's what stopping your period amounts to: chemically induced menopause. Menopause is a year without periods because ovulation stops. Suppressing ovulation is the mechanism behind stopping pregnancy but also your period. No ovulation, no period. Unless you have other medical conditions, this is generally a true statement. When a woman goes through menopause, it's a natural condition. The body goes through a process that is as natural as your period is. But when you use BC to suppress ovulation and to suppress your period, you are doing something else that is not healthy for your body. You are suppressing your body's natural production of progesterone, which is made primarily in ovulation. A small amount is made by the adrenal glands, but the largest production is via ovulation. When you suppress ovulation, you create health risks by suppressing progesterone production. Progesterone is known to be beneficial for breast health, cardiovascular health, nervous system health, brain function, mood, and many other things.
Do not confuse progestins, which are synthetic and not molecularly identical, with natural progesterone. Many women I've worked with will say, "But my BC has progesterone in it," and I have to explain that they are not the same, nor do they affect the body the same. Whereas progesterone is beneficial, progestins are not. They were created by the pharmaceutical industry to mimic progesterone, but they do not react in the body the same way.
Instead of wishing your period away, I suggest you step into another world, one where your cycle is a source of female power and wisdom, and where your premenstrual phase is not mainstream PMS, but what I call Powerful Monthly Sight. It's a window into what's not serving you in your life, and when you take the time to slow down, turn inward, and connect with you, that inner wisdom offers you life solutions. When you align with your cycle this way, it becomes a source of power.
I'm a self-taught passionate advocate for women's health, reproductive rights, and sexuality. I see our menstrual cycle as something to celebrate, rather than do away with. What I would love to do is to go into every business that would invite me in to evaluate and offer suggestions on how to change the work climate to accommodate the needs of women in ways that honor our biology.
I hope this article made you angry enough to dig deeper. Please educate yourself and listen to your own inner wisdom, which includes your body wisdom. It's time for women to rise up and say enough already and to reclaim the beauty, wisdom, and power that is built into our biology.
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In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.
At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.
Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.
These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.
More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.
What makes veterans valuable employees
Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:
It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.
The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.
Strategy, planning, and improv
Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.
With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.
When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.
Best practices in retention of veteran talent
Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.
Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.
The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.
Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.
The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.
Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.
Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.