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Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.
For as long as naturopathic doctor Cassandra Wilder can remember, she has been fascinated by the human body and wanted to have an impact on the world. But it wasn't until she experienced issues with painful and very irregular periods when she realized something was off about the women's healthcare system. "I was shocked to learn that there weren't any options presented to me beyond hormonal birth control," the now-28-year-old says. "Even at that young age, I remember that didn't sit right with me. Why wasn't I asked about my lifestyle? Why didn't we talk about other options? Why was this all that they could offer?"
Because of her experience, she went to college to study health, nutrition, and naturopathy (alternative medicine without the use of drugs), so that she could "bridge the huge gap in women's reproductive medicine," she explains. While Wilder was in school, her career and periods changed for the better. "I got to be my own guinea pig while in school to implement what I was learning and start to see changes in my own cyclical health," she recalls. "When I experienced my first painless and consistent period, I was ecstatic and knew I was onto something that more women needed to know about."
Now, Wilder is taking this knowledge and helping women balance their periods and harmonize their hormones in her practice. She offers one-on-one support, does informative Instagram Reels, and has a podcast, Cyclical, that focuses on "women's cyclical health and empowered entrepreneurship," she explains.
For this week's Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Wilder to learn more about her journey with her own hormonal imbalance, her go-to self-care rituals, and how she suggests other women can take care of their period health.
HelloGiggles (HG): How has your relationship with your period and hormones impacted your mental health?
Cassandra Wilder (CW): Understanding my cyclical nature and hormone patterns has given me huge compassion for my fluctuations through the month. I remember I used to feel so out of control and at the whim of my body when it came to my mood changes and grief. The more I learned about hormone health and the physiology of the body, the more I felt positive changes in this area. And now, I have far more grace for myself on the hard days because I have the understanding of our natural ebbs and flows and create space in my life to honor that.
HG: What do people get wrong about how hormones (or lack thereof) can affect mental health and periods?
CW: I think most of us simply learn nothing about hormones and therefore move through life never knowing what signs would indicate an imbalance. Hormone imbalances really can be at the root of most period problems and certainly mental health concerns as well. A hormone imbalance in cortisol, for example, may cause our periods to be delayed, exceptionally painful, or heavy. Cortisol can also disrupt natural progesterone balance and this may lead to extreme mood changes in the luteal phase of our menstrual cycle. As I tell my patients—it is all connected.
HG: What physical activities have you been doing lately to help balance your hormones and have a healthier period?
CW: Physically, I've been coming back to the basics. Sleep has been a huge priority for me in recent months—I never thought I'd be the type of person to be in bed by 10 p.m.! It's felt so replenishing for me, though. I've also been syncing my exercise routines with my menstrual cycle to avoid any depletion in my system. I add in more vigorous exercises to my follicular and ovulation window and more strength training and rest into my luteal and period window.
HG: As a naturopathic doctor, how do you suggest others physically connect with their bodies when they're having a hard time doing so?
CW: I think the best starting point is to look at your body and symptoms with fresh eyes. Instead of seeing your body with anger or frustration, see your symptoms as simple messengers from the body. Period pain, irregular cycles, hormones imbalances etc. are simply how your body speaks to you to draw your attention to where it needs help. From this mindset, it's far easier to support your body because you're coming from a place of genuine love and care.
HG: What form of community care have you been gravitating toward lately? And how do you believe it has impacted you?
CW: I recently had the incredible opportunity to speak at The Truth About Women's Hormones Summit and it was incredible to see thousands of women gain access for free to life-changing information. Accessibility is so important, and I love continuing to find avenues like this that provide people with excellent researched help for their hormone and cyclical struggles.
HG: How do you suggest other doctors support people who get periods with hormonal or menstrual issues?
CW: I believe it has to start with changing how we listen to women in the medical setting. What could happen if patients felt heard by their doctors? What if doctors did personalize everything to the individual patient? What if we provided both medical tools and a compassionate place for people to be heard? That's where I think the transformation will begin.
HG: Are there any products you've been gravitating toward lately during your self-care routine?
CW: Social media free time is my new recommended tool for everyone! While it may not sound as luxurious as a bath, I find this is an absolutely essential form of self-care for me.
HG: What are some self-care practices that have been bringing you the most joy?
CW: I find such joy with slow mornings before I turn my phone on and get sucked into all the distractions. My mornings are quiet with some yoga while my puppy sits on the yoga mat with me as the sun rises. It is so healing.
HG: How do you think self-care looks different for someone with menstrual or hormonal issues?
CW: Sometimes people struggling with their hormones and periods need to do less. While we may think to bulk up our schedule with extra things to do, self-care may actually be removing things from your calendar and simply being.