It’s day one of your period and–like clockwork–the bloating, cramps, and mood swings kick in. But gone are the days you’d suffer through said symptoms, just willing them to give you a break. We’re no longer accepting the narrative that we have to suffer, or that periods are inherently bad; instead, we know we can make dietary and lifestyle changes to balance your hormones, support your body’s natural cycles, and feel your best. So when cramps come on, you can sync to your cycle by loading up on protein and healthy fats and focusing on restorative, gentle movements throughout the day.
But can we be doing more to support the body during our period, and help ease the pain and annoyances caused by it? Enter: mindfulness. We tap into the practice to help get us through the day-to-day, and it should be no different with our periods. To get the full picture, I looked to Tanya Ambrose and Emily Brown, experts for holistic period care line, rhythm. Read on for their tips on how to use mindfulness in each phase of your menstrual cycle to boost your ability to go with the flow (literally).
What does mindfulness have to do with your period?
So you’re eating and working out according to each stage of your period, or maybe you’ve switched to cute period panties or given seed cycling a go. So why add another element to your monthly cycle? “Being more mindful of your menstruation is vital because your hormone levels change throughout your cycle,” Ambrose recommended. “Mindfulness is a way to honor your body’s needs during the different phases. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and breathing exercises help restore balance to your body, which will help alleviate pain and your mental attitude.” In other words, being aware of your body and everything you experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly—throughout your cycle gives you more agency over it.
On the flip side, not being conscious of your body’s ever-changing needs (which can also change hourly, daily, yearly, BTW) can wreak havoc on your body: “When we are out of sync with our bodies, we might push it too hard physically, emotionally, and mentally, resulting in hormonal and biochemistry imbalances (hello, insomnia, constant irritability, and adrenal fatigue),” Brown explained.
How to incorporate mindfulness for each phase of the cycle:
Your hormones are at their lowest, which means your energy levels leave much to be desired and your bed never looked more enticing. Allow your brain to rest and reflect. However, you may notice communication between your feelings side and analytical side is at an all-time high. So listen and honor your intuition, go inward, and chill the F out. Practice meditation, nurture yourself, and pile on the self-care.
During this phase, work towards creating a journaling habit. Try jotting down something significant that has occurred in your life or documenting how you feel about specific areas in your life (think: relationships, career, mental health) and what you can do to improve them. Finally, list out and reflect on 3-5 things you’re grateful for.
You probably feel like a whole new person as your period ends and you start to get your energy back. Although progesterone and testosterone levels are very low, your hormones are signaling to your brain to provide an open door for new things, beginnings, and creativity. Ask yourself what you want out of life and get creative when setting your intentions. If you’ve been itching to try out a different workout or check out the hip, new restaurant that just opened up nearby, you couldn’t ask for a better time! Lose yourself in a book or pop in your AirPods to tune into an inspiring and motivating podcast.
Your brain’s verbal and social centers are highly stimulated. Translation: Explore your communication abilities (be open and honest), work on relationships with others, and ask yourself who you can reach out to that would benefit from a deeper connection, whether they’re part of your work or inner circle. Go out and socialize, but keep in mind that it’s important to be intentional about who you connect with during this phase. Consider spending time with those closest to you who bring out the best in you. And when you do link up with others, live in the moment.
Welcome to the [insert your name] show. That’s right—this phase is all about you. Take care of yourself and do more of what feels right for you. Go ahead and binge-watch your favorite guilty pleasure show (Selling Sunset, anyone?), run a warm bath, read a book, or have a glass of wine, if that’s what speaks to you. Better yet, do them all! The key is to be consistent with loving yourself.
Your brain is at its peak when it comes to handling tasks and being detail-oriented. Take advantage of this stage by completing tasks and other projects you’ve been working on. Be prepared to set firm boundaries and learn to say “no,” speak up more, and pour into yourself. And just as the uterus sheds its lining during the week of your period, it’s time to release anything that’s no longer serving you, whether it be a job, people, habits, or beliefs.