Updated: May 15
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Not a wellness trend, but a way of life for evolving women.
In this modern era of greater self-awareness, inner healing and wellness hacks, it's no surprise that more and more women are learning how to navigate their menstrual cycle with increased awareness, compassion, mindfulness and openness than ever before. Mindful menstruation extends to mindful ovulation, and of course, a whole mindful cycle; made up of the menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal phases.
A woman's cycle is not linear. In fact, when in their natural and undisturbed state, the four phases all overlap and interconnect to create what I like to think of as a beautiful symphony of hormonal harmonies. A very poetic way of looking at it indeed, but all part of the process of learning to love (yes, love!) everything about it.
Many things can support a mindful and healthy menstrual cycle, but I’ll briefly focus on 3 major things in this post. Stress management, food as medicine, and the practice of Yoga.
“A woman in touch with the wisdom of her body is a woman that will heal the world” – Lauren Geersten @body_connection_coach
As a menstruating woman, how often do you really listen to your body? Do you know what is happening in your body and when, and what it needs to thrive through your cycle? Do you suffer from PMS or chronic disease related to hormonal health and your reproductive system? Have you accepted this as your ‘normal’? Do you notice patterns in your feelings, moods and energy levels throughout your cycle? Have you asked for support from your doctor and felt unheard?
We know that knowledge gives us power, and there’s an inherent wisdom within a woman’s body that has a power of its own. When you choose to embrace a mindful cycle, you begin to naturally unlock this wisdom, so all four phases of your cycle can unleash their own superpowers. There’s no resistance or suppression anymore, and you become accepting of the natural changes that happen throughout your wonderful - and quite amazing - cycle! You can make friends with and dance along with your feminine essence, and truly be free in your wholeness; mentally, physically, spiritually, energetically, emotionally and socially.
So, let's look at ways in which you can lean in to the changing phases and support them to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
In simple terms, how does stress impact your hormonal health?
When you are in a state of stress, your body prioritises this ‘survival’ system over everything else. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, serves a purpose in that it supports us in the ‘on-the-go’ state when we need to be productive. It wakes us up in the morning and increases blood sugar, which then enables your brain to be fuelled and alert. It is an essential hormone that we rely heavily on when things need to get done. So, it’s not all bad. However… some people live in a state of what is known as ‘chronic stress’. Think of that ‘on-the-go’ state, but all day, every day! When this becomes the ‘normal’ state, a person will be so used to it that they don’t realise they are in it. I come across this a lot with my face-to-face clients, where they will openly say it is their normal, and sometimes they have been in this state for their entire adult life, and then in later life there comes a very difficult menopausal stage. This is a separate topic for a future post, but right now if you are in a state of chronic stress or you regularly feel stressed and find it difficult to relax, let’s look at ways to manage this, and why it will help you and your symphony of hormones…
Are you someone that works after hours, takes work home with you, or thinks about work when you’re not in work? Does work make you feel stressed and under pressure? Do you dread work because of the way it makes you feel? Do you thrive in work and enjoy it, but struggle to let it go and be in the moment outside work? Do you have regular breaks during your working hours?
Are you a “yes!” person?
Why not set healthy boundaries in your working life to make things more balanced and manageable. This goes for being self-employed too! Although it can be challenging if you’re new to setting boundaries, honestly, they are the key to managing work stress, but you really need to be disciplined and consistent with them. You are the only one who knows where your own individual boundaries should be. And if you don’t have any, the chances are you’ll find yourself in moments of unnecessary stress. Boundaries are also important outside working life. Can you learn to say “no” when and if you need to? This really is empowering and will reduce your stress levels. It's never too late to set boundaries. It's a huge part of self-awareness and development.
If you anticipate and ruminate about what might happen in the near or distant future, “STOP” is a good simple mantra to say out loud or in your head when your mind wanders off into stories that make you feel stressed. Notice your jaw throughout the day. When it is tense, this is usually a sign of overthinking and mental tension. Focus on being more present and living in the here and now. Feel into the layers of your body and notice how much more relaxed your muscles are when you are present. Notice your breath flow with more ease. Use the awareness of your breath as an anchor to keep you grounded, soft, relaxed and in the moment. And there’s always that uplifting Bobby McFerrin song, Don’t Worry Be Happy… Sing along and counteract worry with joy! It works every time. Your singing voice is a self-healing tool that signals to your nervous system that you are safe.
Over exercising leads to excess cortisol and adrenaline. Stress management is very closely linked to exercise management. We need the right balance. It’s about finding what is right for your individual body. We are all different. To be in hormonal harmony, your body really wants to build and balance your reproductive hormones, so be mindful about your exercise regime and listen to your body. Perhaps choose light exercise such as Yoga and leisurely walks in the lead up to menstruation and during your period. Your body will thank you for it in more ways than one.
When your nervous system signals to the rest of your body that it is safe, only then will your reproductive system be able to function optimally. The production of the reproductive hormones will then be prioritised, and you will experience more ease throughout the cyclical changes that happen in your body. This ‘safe’ zone also triggers a rest and repair state that has many more benefits for the other systems of your body, and your overall health and wellbeing too.
Calming and soothing activities and practices like mindfulness, nature walks, meditation and generally relaxing really are another medicine for hormonal health. The issue we have is that we have never really been encouraged or conditioned to do these things and live at a slower pace, so now we must encourage ourselves. And this is real empowerment, as we get to decide what our body needs and when, and we put things in place to ensure these things are prioritised. Then eventually, they become a non-negotiable. Like any lifestyle change, it takes time for it to become engrained and a deep-rooted part of your ever-evolving self.
You are what you eat, right? This age-old saying really does ring true…
With the correct nutritional advice, you can use food as medicine to help you maintain a healthier cycle. For example, in the Luteal Phase which comes after ovulation, your body is building progesterone, and this peaks at around day 21 of a 28-day cycle. You can support this by eating progesterone stimulating foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies, wholegrains, beans, kale and spinach. During this time, oestrogen levels should be dropping and cruciferous vegetables can support this due to them containing certain phytochemicals that reduce oestrogen activity. When oestrogen is abnormally high, it can cause heavy and painful periods, fatigue, weight gain, fibroids and low mood.
Your gut health is intrinsically connected to the health of your cycle. I often find that women with chronic diseases of the reproductive system also have digestive issues. When we heal the gut, we can heal other areas of the body. After all, the food we digest is the fuel that becomes our cells, tissues and organs. The body is constantly renewing, repairing, healing and growing. The right food is as important as sleep, exercise and rest.
You can find out more about Nutrition for Hormonal Health in my free eBook (scroll to the bottom of the page and click 'sign up here'). This super informative eBook is an extract from the full Holistic Package available with the Your Mindful Monthly Cycle online program.
Yoga as a lifestyle rather than a one-off ‘practice’ can set you free and heal you in ways you never thought possible. In fact, a Yoga Lifestyle would incorporate all aspects of a mindful menstrual cycle as it is a holistic approach to living life. With this comes greater self-awareness, balance, harmony, health and vitality. You naturally want to eat well, rest well, move well and be well. Instead of wellness being something to work on, it becomes who you are. I’ll discuss this more in a future post, but feel free to add a comment if you feel drawn to this or you already benefit from a Yoga Lifestyle.
Yoga doesn’t have to be a very physical practice at all, but then it can be when and if it feels right. You can vary your yoga practice depending on where you are in your cycle, and certain postures and sequences bring specific benefits that can support you during each phase. During the follicular phase for example, there’ll be higher levels of testosterone and cortisol due to oestrogen being on the rise. This means you will have more energy and feel greater strength and stamina. It is during this time when strengthening exercises can feel really good, and you can take advantage of this by working your body in ways that build on your physical and mental strength. You can also move in ways that release the feel-good hormones which is the antidote to those excessive stress hormones. See how everything ends up linking together when we have more of a holistic approach to health?
I hope this has inspired you to love your cycle and learn more ways to embrace the changes that happen within your ever-changing, incredible body. Let me know if you ever get to experience that beautiful symphony of hormonal harmonies.
If you’d like to join Your Mindful Monthly Cycle, click here to view your package options. I've done all the research, studies, training and trialling, and all the important stuff is now in one accessible and enjoyable online program. This certainly has changed my life for the better, and I'm sure it will for you too!
You can try a FREE Yoga Class from the programme here
With love, Rebecca x