This month, we collaborated with The Mindfulness Project (London Mindful). We spoke to Emily Mitchell, a qualified mindfulness teacher at The Mindfulness Project which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to sharing mindfulness with as many people as possible.
We asked her some questions about mindfulness and the role it plays with the menstrual cycle. Watch our live back if you missed out on it!
1. What is mindfulness and why is it important?
2. Do you think there's a direct correlation to the female cycle and mindfulness?
With greater mindfulness, comes greater awareness. A lot of mindfulness practice is re-finding our connection with the body or deepening this connection. And when we do this, we find that the body is full of sensations and information that can guide our decision-making and choices.
For example, we may sooner notice when we start to feel stressed through these body signals, and at that moment we can act to take care of ourselves, instead of finding ourselves in a full-blown stress response and having to do a lot more to recover.
When we apply this to the menstrual cycle, and even track our cycles, we notice how the body sensations and emotions change throughout the month. As the saying goes, with knowledge comes power.
We can tune into the body’s wisdom and notice when in our cycle we might need to rest or take things easier, and the weeks when we feel more confident and energised. We can also meet our changing states, and the challenges that can come with them, with greater understanding, acceptance, and compassion.
3. Would practicing mindfulness help, in your opinion, with regulating the female cycle or balancing it out?
Stress can impact the menstrual cycle. In my experience, stress can lengthen my cycle, lead to premenstrual low mood and more painful periods. Mindfulness has a good evidence-base for showing it can reduce stress and so in turn we could hypothesise that it will positively impact the cycle. I’ve found that to be the case in my experience.
4. What sort of practices do you think are helpful when it comes to handling pain, or other symptoms during the period cycle?
Having a regular mindfulness practice as a foundation can help us to meet challenging sensations/emotions with greater compassion, acceptance, and ease, which can often help take the edge of them and help them to be less overwhelming. In the moment, I find the Self-Compassion Break from the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course to be an extremely helpful practice:
Step 1: Acknowledge that this is a moment of difficulty, pain, suffering. You might even say to yourself ‘this hurts’ or ‘this is really hard right now’.
Step 2: Common Humanity. Remind yourself that everybody experiences difficulty sometimes. That you are not alone in this.
Step 3: Offer yourself kindness, compassion. This could be through some soothing touch like placing your hand on your heart or belly, giving yourself a hug. Or offering some gentle words or compassion and kindness to yourself.You can adapt the exact words, phrases and gestures to what works for you.
5. What do you mean by 'cycle awareness' and does that tie in with mindfulness?
Tracking and getting to know our cycle can be a powerful thing. Mindfulness supports this by increasing our self-awareness and connection with the body, so we can tune in to our experience. A suggestion would be to begin by writing down three words each day that represent how you are feeling and to do this for several months, and just be curious about any patterns you may notice.
For more information visit www.londonmindful.com.