How To Ground Yourself During the Menstrual Phases
When I got my period at age 13, I was fortunate to have a mom who supported me, answered my questions, and explained everything. Even though I knew all about it, it was pretty horrifying as a kid. I assumed my period would appear red (as I later learned it sometimes does) like fresh blood, but the dried brown color and ruined underwear still freaked me out. So, like most people who menstruate or menstruated, I have a complicated relationship with this bodily function and cycle.
As an adult, my period began to feel like an inconvenience or a harbinger of something I didn’t want.
I always associated it with anxiety. While I tried to positively associate menstruation with Maiden-Mother-Moon phases involved in my spirituality, the anxiety was my first indication that my body just wasn’t conforming with that. As an adult, the anxiety was often about being late (because that could mean an unwanted pregnancy) or later about getting my period (because that meant that I was not pregnant when I was trying to be). It felt like my soul and my body were out of synch; it wasn’t giving me the signals I needed and I was constantly riddled with anxiety over it. When I wanted to and when I didn’t, I never got pregnant, likely due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a common medical condition that half my doctors still have to Google while they’re treating me.
Dealing with that stress is hard. Dealing with awful menstruation symptoms on top of all that is even worse. It’s hard to feel like your body doesn’t align with other areas of your life, or with your wishes or even what is convenient. It’s hard not to resent your body – and for those of us who have felt that way, it takes a lot of work to not blame the body for what it’s done or hasn’t done.
It requires thought and focus at a time when you may not wish to focus on your body.
Even if you don’t get a period due to oncoming menopause, skipping the last week of your pill for medical reasons as directed by your doctor, or because you’re taking estrogen for any reason, you may still experience menstrual phase.
Consider meditative techniques for one or more parts of your cycle. There is no hard rule to it other than that you should do what works best for you, even if that means using meditation for the one part of the cycle you struggle with, but not the others.
An important note: If at any point you feel that these meditations worsen your state or if you feel unstable, please seek help from a mental health professional. Menstruation can amplify emotions and experiences, and people often dismiss it because it’s normal and/or because it’s associated with a marginalized gender.
Meditation for Mood Changes
For most who experience menstruation, mood changes are an initial indication that the cycle has begun. Mood regulation can be more difficult during this time, which is why awareness and focus are important to helping you experience your cycle in a way that you want.
During this phase, you may want to feel more in control of your emotions than you are: and you can.
Select a grounding object. It can be something you use once, every cycle, or for other meditations as well. This should be an object that means something to you, such as a piece of jewelry inherited from someone you love.
Stare at the object and focus on the permanence of it. It may be helpful for you to set the ambiance of your room or intentionally choose your setting if you can, but it’s not mandatory. However, by choosing a space that enhances your focus, you are cueing your body and mind up for ritual focus time.
Consider three things as you look at the object:
- Why does this object remind me of my core being?
- What can this remind me of that will help me feel like I want to feel today?
- Where will I leave this object in case I need it in the future?
Your memories are your own. Your sensory perception of this meaningful object is as well. While you’re experiencing this phase, consider carrying the object with you in your purse or pocket (or wear it) so that you can access it whenever you need.
As a disabled cis woman, I’m all too familiar with the advice of most meditations and coaches. They instruct you to be aware of your body and to feel at one with it. When you’re in pain, sometimes the focus needs to instead be getting through the moment and avoiding the temptation to resent your body for doing this to you: ruining your plans, causing brain fog, or watching the household chores pile up while you’re unable to do them.
If you’re having bad cramps for any reason, you understand this especially well.
Do away with the desire to conform to any meditation that makes you experience negativity towards yourself. Instead, find an awareness of your pain, and if you feel comfortable with it, explore it.
For this exercise, think of a conflict you feel okay with exploring. It could be anything from a verbal fight over a text message to a large scale war in the present or past. Reflect upon how you were able to make decisions about what you wanted or would have wanted, but in reality, you could only change so much about the situation and outcome. You’re in charge of what you want, not what others do – or what your body does.
Envision the conflict within and know that it will only resolve on its own time.
Sleep and Tenderness
Are you especially tired and/or experiencing tenderness in your own body? Menstruation can cause this, and if you have other conditions that cause these symptoms, menstruation can exacerbate them.
For this meditation, you’ll want to focus on scent. Choose a scent that reminds you of sleep and relaxation. For many, that means a favorite candle, lavender, or even the smell of a book you read before bed. If you’re unable to smell (as some are due to COVID or other illnesses), consider using a tactile cue instead, such as the texture of your favorite blanket or the cover of your favorite book.
Go to a place such as your bed or a bath, where you feel safe. Bring the scent with you and have it near. Say the phrase: “It’s time for rest, and I am giving my body what it needs so it can complete the cycle.” Three times saying this phase works best for most, but it’s not required.
If you prefer, you may write this phrase down.
You can also symbolize changing into a new phase by doing something comfortable for your body. Does that bra enhance breast tenderness? Change or remove it. Do you need sleep? Wear your most comfortable pajamas. Does rubbing lotion on your skin help with the swelling? Do it – choose yourself, your body, and what it needs now.
Food as a Ritual: Give Your Body What It Needs
One of the worst experiences I’ve had with my body involved being on Weight Watchers while I’d get my period. I remember staying up until midnight so I could have a bite of bread or a morsel of chocolate without “breaking the rules.” In reality, the diet was breaking my rules: it made the assumption that my body needed the same thing at all times, and it did not. Like most people who menstruate, my body needs more energy and different types of food during my period.
I needed more iron (I like getting that in spinach) and more chocolate and caffeine. The chocolate craving is real, and despite what some diet program says, unless your doctor heavily advises otherwise, you should give in. Otherwise, you could end up like me, associating your period with a time of deprivation, where you are “not allowed” to give your body what it needs. This can look like planning for your favorite dessert if your cycle is regular, or just having a single square of that chocolate bar to satisfy your craving.
This is about giving your body permission to have what it needs!
You can do this through a small ritual, but if it helps, you can always make it more elaborate.
Let’s use tea as an example of a soothing food that solves a craving. (For me, caffeinated tea is a must when I’m experiencing my cycle.) Tea is a very common ritual among many cultures, but you don’t need an entire tea ceremony to nourish your body.
Set aside a space with nothing else on it, such as a table and chair. The only objects on the table should be associated with your tea (or whatever other food you want). For tea, this might include cream, sugar, or lemon. This is about you and the food, nothing else. Leave your phone behind.
As you consume your food, focus on the fact that you are giving yourself what you need, including the time it takes to prepare and consume it, whether that’s just a few minutes or an hour for a comfort food meal.
If you’ve got experiences like me, it may take several cycles to relearn that your period is not a time of deprivation when it comes to food, but a time for nourishment to keep your body going.
If you continue to experience major cravings, especially in conjunction with fatigue, talk to your doctor. You may have an iron deficiency, and you’ll have to take a medical route to get your body what it needs. This ritual can serve as a point of awareness for fatigue in this fashion as well.
For Irregular Menstrual Cycles
For those who have irregular mentstrual cycles, including people with medical conditions, peri-menopausal people, and those who are new to getting a period, there’s nothing wrong with you if your cycle doesn’t follow this order. These symptoms can appear regularly every month, occasionally, or not at all.
If you struggle with this, or with fertility related to your cycle, consider journaling about it and recording your feelings and meditations. This will not only help you process your feelings about your cycle (which are so typical to have, even though we don’t talk about it much in society!), but also serve as a record for your doctors if needed.
Regardless of our place in life, your menstruation will come to an end (whether that’s just until next moon, forever, or for an undetermined amount of time). When your period is complete, examine your feelings about it. Did it cause you stress? Did it give you time for yourself? Where did the stress and healing come from? Think about which stressors were internal (dealing with pain management, for example) versus which come from society (it’s “not appropriate” to tell your boss you’re calling out because of severe menstrual cramps).
Examining your relationship with menstruation and your body can help set you up for success. Know what you need for next time, and always do your best to adapt.
Tara M. Clapper is a freelance writer and inbound marketing expert currently serving on a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) council and as a member of a Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) with her full-time employer in the defense industry. With a background in entertainment, Tara monetized her blog, The Geek Initiative, for over a decade. This blog was focused on women in geek culture. Tara runs Storyteller Supply, a community at the intersection of witchy ritual and storytelling. As a disabled woman, Tara is passionate about healthcare advocacy and the power of decision-making when it comes to a person’s own body.
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