One aspect of modern well-being that’s capturing attention is mindfulness. It’s not just a passing fad but a timeless wisdom that has journeyed from the East to the West over thousands of years. Now rebranded as “mindful living,” this philosophy can be seamlessly integrated into virtually every aspect of our lives. Even for menstrual cycles.
I was one of those girls who hated having periods and even didn’t let anyone talk about the issues. I was very sensitive to the changes that my cycles brought, yet, I am lucky enough to have found enough resources, at the reasonable age of 19, to seek and find my way through cyclical struggles. Now I am at peace with my periods, and all thanks to mindfulness. So, I’d like to share a few basics on mindfulness and periods.
How to Practice Basic Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, acknowledging and embracing our thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. Dealing with the cyclical ebbs and flows of my body (and soul), this practice became an anchor of tranquility for me.
To begin, find a quiet space and time where interruptions are minimal. Sit comfortably and take deep, slow breaths, focusing your attention on the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. Allow thoughts to come and go, recognizing them, but not holding on to them.
This simple exercise, practiced daily, creates a connection between mind and body, which can help navigate the unique challenges women may face. In the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, “To be whole is to be part; true voyage is return.” Mindfulness invites a return to ourselves, a unification that can be particularly grounding during those otherwise unsettling periods.
Transform the Cycle Into A Companion, Rather Than A Foe
Though we may naturally feel a connection to our cycles, the constraints of the modern world often prevent us from fully embracing this rhythm. The idea of seeking solace during menstruation and celebrating life during ovulation resonates deeply, yet our common calendar, governed by the Sun rather than the Moon, sometimes impedes this ideal alignment. Despite these challenges, there are tangible ways to foster harmony with our cycles.
Mindfulness serves as a gateway to this balance. Whether it’s through journaling or simply marking the days of your cycle on a calendar, these mindful practices can cultivate awareness. By taking note of the distinctions between the days of menstruation and ovulation, you’ll soon uncover the unique rhythm that defines you.
Here are a few other recommendations to enhance your awareness of your cycle:
Track Your Symptoms Daily: Apps and journals dedicated to tracking menstrual symptoms can provide insightful data. Dr. Lara Briden, a naturopathic doctor and author, often recommends tracking physical and emotional symptoms across the cycle to understand individual patterns.
Understand Your Hormonal Changes: Dr. John Studd has written extensively on hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Learning about these fluctuations can help in predicting moods, energy levels, and physical sensations, aiding in personal planning and self-care.
Practice Mindful Eating: Research by endocrinologists like Dr. Jerilynn Prior emphasizes how diet impacts the menstrual cycle. Mindful eating and focusing on a balanced diet with nutrients that support hormonal balance can foster a more harmonious cycle.
Engage in Regular Exercise Tailored to Your Cycle: Different phases of the menstrual cycle may call for different types of exercise. Studies have shown that aligning physical activity with hormonal fluctuations can enhance overall well-being. Dr. Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist, has advocated for this approach.
Seek Professional Guidance if Needed: Sometimes, imbalances or irregularities in the menstrual cycle may require professional medical insight. If you find your struggles unbearable or simply unpleasant, you might want to check with your doctor.
Embrace Relaxation Techniques: Meditation, yoga, or other relaxation practices tailored to different phases of the menstrual cycle can help in managing stress and emotional fluctuations. Authors like Dr. Claudia Welch have written about the integration of Eastern wisdom in managing menstrual health.
Educate Yourself Through Reliable Sources: Books like “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler offer comprehensive insights into understanding and managing your menstrual cycle. (Check Dr. Christiane Northup’s books and articles too!)
Connect with Supportive Communities: Sometimes, sharing experiences and learning from others can foster awareness and empowerment. Platforms and groups dedicated to menstrual health, backed by medical professionals and advocates, can be a valuable resource.
The Science Behind Menstrual Cycle Struggles and How Mindfulness Can Help
“Mindfulness isn’t about trying to change what’s happening, but rather changing your relationship to what’s happening.”
Now, let’s delve into how mindfulness can aid in easing the discomforts associated with your menstrual cycle.
Reduces Stress: Stress exacerbates menstrual discomfort. Mindfulness can help manage stress levels, thereby reducing the severity of period symptoms.
Alleviates Pain: Mindfulness has been shown to reduce pain intensity and unpleasantness. It can help manage the cramps and discomfort that often accompany periods.
Enhances Mood: Mindfulness can help combat the mood swings and emotional turmoil that are often a part of the menstrual cycle.
It’s important to note that mindfulness isn’t an instant cure or a quick fix. Instead, it’s a practice that requires consistency and patience. Remember, practicing mindfulness isn’t about achieving a state of eternal bliss or eradicating pain completely. It’s about fostering a healthier relationship with your body, understanding its signals, and responding in a way that promotes overall well-being — period pain included.
In embracing mindfulness, we empower ourselves to navigate the natural ebbs and flows of our bodies with grace and wisdom. By integrating these practices into our daily routines, we align with our unique rhythms, cultivating a harmonious connection with ourselves. As we continue this journey, the wisdom of the ages whispers to us, guiding us towards self-awareness and acceptance, transforming what was once a struggle into a dance with our own nature. The practice of mindfulness doesn’t just offer relief from physical discomfort; it opens doors to self-discovery and enriches our lives in unexpected ways.