Mindful Menstruation: Self-Care for A Restorative Cycle

Noack_image_blog_TPAshley Noack

We lead full lives and our daily duties are constant. Imagine if you were to be relieved of your responsibilities completely for one day to take pleasure in doing nothing except to enjoy deep rest. Notice what impressions, thoughts, or feelings arise when you give yourself this gift. 

Now, imagine if you were to direct this thoughtfulness to your menstrual cycle. Do you experience pain? Joy? Does your back hurt? Do you feel nauseated? Perhaps you are unsure of how you feel.

It can be difficult to know how to care for ourselves if we do not understand or  have words with which to describe our experience.  Each menstrual cycle provides subtle and practical information about our overall health, and making note of what is specific for each of us is important. A person’s period can help reveal nutritional deficiencies, food intolerances, and the body’s response to stress; and can provide differential information about reproductive dis-ease. When we rest, we give ourselves the freedom to explore such potential insights and learn about our individuality in the process.

We can listen to the wisdom of menstrual rhythms with a few rest-promoting rituals that help us gain insight and teach us to care for hearts and minds as well as our bodies.  In fact, research has shown mindfulness-based practices are effective tools for pain management and even reduce the need for medication, such as Ibuprofen. Each person is so unique, and it may take time to find a mindful healing practice that works for you. Here are a few to explore:

    • Guided Imagery  Our thoughtful imaginings and internal visions can reveal clues to what brings us peace and helps us feel whole. We can then bring these visions into our daily lives as reminders of what’s important to us and our health.
    • Creating Art— Allowing your mind to drift and your hands to paint, build, or draw is soothing and self-expressive. This process may even reveal hidden dreams or self-reflections during this inward time.
    • Baths—A warm Epsom-salt bath with infused herbal oils combines heat, the muscle-relaxing action of magnesium, and your favorite calming plant allies. Lie back and breathe deeply.
    • Massage—Light massage around your lower belly, inner thighs and low back brings circulation and breaks up the products of inflammation. Herbally-infused oils (such as castor) and aromatic heat packs can be incorporated for extra relief.
    • Journaling—Writing allows us to make concrete notes of our process, track changes, and share these notes with caregivers.
    • Yoga—Light, gentle stretching promotes circulation and lymphatic flow, and encourages us to play with pain or discomfort by noticing which motions soothe and which aggravate.

You may be curious to find that your experience of health changes from one cycle to the next in small ways, and you may even discover what influences it once you begin a mindful menstrual practice. Such restful, integrative techniques can lead to personal discoveries that we are then able to offer as invaluable information to health care professionals, whose questioning help us to assess for possible disturbances.  Consider too, how having an increased awareness of one’s cycle can support vulnerable populations. Dysfunctional bleeding due to sexually transmitted infections (STI) and hormonal disturbance is most common in adolescents, who are only just beginning to familiarize themselves with their cycles. When we are empowered with knowledge about our bodies, we can provide information to our caregivers to form a more complete picture of our health that also accounts for our personal experience.

The better acquainted we can become with our individual cycles from month to month, the better we are able to understand and nourish our unique needs during our menses and beyond.

Resources:

Balick L, Elfner L, May J, Moore D. “Biofeedback treatment of dysmenorrhea.” Biofeedback and Self-Regulation 1982; 7 (4): 499–520.

Sasaki, Kirsten J, MD Associate, Advanced Gynecologic Surgery Institute  http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/953945-overview#a5